Logano Celebrates in Sonoma

SONOMA, Calif. –  Joey Logano held off David Gilliland in a battle of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers with NASCAR K&N Pro Series West roots to win the Thunder Valley Casino Resort 200 at Infineon Raceway on Saturday.

It was the second series win for Logano, who won his NASCAR debut in the West race at Phoenix International Raceway in 2007. Gilliland, the 2004 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Rookie of the Year, has three series wins including at Sonoma in 2007.

Logano led a race-high 28 laps in his Joe Gibbs Racing entry. He started from outside the front row and paced the first 19 laps, before stopping for fuel. Unlike many of his competitors, who also took on fuel at about the same time, Logano opted to make a second pit stop for a fresh set of tires during a subsequent caution. He charged from 19th to steadily move through the field and took the lead from Gilliland in Turn 4 on Lap 56 of the 64-lap race.

A caution with five laps to go erased Logano’s lead of over one second and set up the final two-lap dash to the checkered flag. The 21-year-old from Middletown, Conn., took the victory by a margin of 1.343 seconds.

“Our strategy was a little different than a lot of those guys that were up front there at the end of the race,” Logano said. “We decided to get our fuel first, just like everyone else. But a lot of guys stayed out on the same tires the whole time. We decided to take four tires. It put us back toward the back, but we knew we had a good enough car to work our way back up there. We got a couple of bruises on the car, but that’s okay. That’s part of it out here.”

The damage to his No. 18 FleetLocate.com Toyota did change the handling of the car, Logano admitted.

“Coming down to the end, my fender was knocked in,” he said. “My car was quite a bit tighter, especially for the high-speed stuff. We lost a lot of down-force. But we still had our new tires. Racing there with David (Gilliland) was a lot of fun. We had the car to do it and we did everything we were supposed to do.”

This marked Logano’s third time to compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West event at Infineon. He finished 32nd in 2007, dropping out with mechanical trouble, and 17th in 2009, after being bumped from first on the final lap.

Logano and Gilliland were able to avoid much of the rough and tumble action that left more than a few fenders rumpled in the 41-car field. Eric Holmes came away with third, after a last-lap tangle with David Mayhew. Point leader Greg Pursley was fourth, followed by Brian Wong. Completing the top 10 were Jim Inglebright, Moses Smith, Johnny Borneman, Dale Quarterley, and Todd Souza.

Brandon Davis, who won his first career series Coors Light Pole Award in qualifying, shadowed Logano in the early stages of the event – but retired after 18 laps with engine trouble.

Pursley extended his lead to 215 over Smith and 258 over Holmes. Pursley has 1,080 points, with Smith at 865 and his Bill McAnally Racing teammate Holmes at 822. Brett Thompson is fourth with 804 and Luis Martinez Jr. has 797. Rounding out the top 10 are Mayhew at 792, Michael Self at 771, Daryl Harr at 725, Dylan Kwasniewski at 663 and Ryan Philpott at 656.

The Thunder Valley Casino Resort 200 will air on SPEED on Thursday, July 14 at 6 p.m. ET

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West returns to the track Saturday, July 2 for the Southern California Toyota Dealers 200 presented by King Taco at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.).