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How the Gateway Cup Race Was Won and Lost

It was a total Penske effort that sent Joey Logano by Kyle Busch on the final restart.


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There were various points over the final 35 laps that both Joey Logano and Kyle Busch felt like they were in control of the Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway.

They both lost it multiple times before Logano ultimately won it.

First came the restart with 34 laps to go when Busch and Logano cleared Erik Jones, all on just two laps fresher tires than several contenders behind them with four under their cars. Logano immediately dived under Busch and took the lead with 33 to go.

Logano was driving away, Busch under siege from a hard charging Ryan Blaney, but a caution for a Cole Custer spin put everything back under question again. Logano and spotter Coleman Pressley had a decision to make:

"What lane do you think, Coleman"
"Gut says top to get a push from Blaney."
"Yeah, but I'm sure I know what Kyle would do if we go into 1."
"Do what you think is best."
"He won the last restart on the bottom. Wrapped it."
"Yeah he got a good push."

Logano took the bottom and Kyle Busch simply drove away with momentum from the high side. Logano stuck with Busch but just couldn’t get enough clean air on his nose to make the winning pass. The Penske No. 22 very well could have closed out, but the complexion of the race changed again when Kevin Harvick suffered a tire failure and drilled the wall.

"I'd go for the top here," spotter Tony Hirscham told Busch.

It worked last time after all, but this time Logano drove it hard into Turn 1, but the de facto slider didn’t stick, and Busch crossed him over. Now Busch drove in equally hard and stuck less than Logano. That opened the door for a crossover from Logano, who drove away to his second points paying win of the season.

"He knew the slide job was coming," Logano said. "He knows me pretty well, and he crossed me back. Then I kind of figured it was coming back at me. If I'm willing to do it, he is going to be willing to do it.

"I just kind of saw it coming and crossed him back and was able to clear him by two, three car lengths off of four to take the while flag. That was kind of the deciding factor.

"If we came off that corner side-by-side still, I don't know what the finish would have looked like. But once I was able to clear him two, three car lengths, I felt like, okay, just normal lap here, and I'll be all right."

And it was.

Unbeknownst to Logano, Busch actually slipped his tires again in the next corner after his slider gone awry. The tires were just cooked.

"Not even close. Did you see me about wreck off of (Turn) 4..." Busch said. "Our car just took too long to come in. Better on the long run. Better up top. Top is not good to fire off on, but great job by the Snickers guys. Again, we stayed in the running all day long and fought hard and thought maybe we could, but that was it."

Busch said he probably needed a bigger push from his older brother Kurt behind him to not turn into a battle of slide jobs.

"I was going to put my hand out the window and signal to Kurt to push me along and Joey was half a car back out my window trying to see it, so the hand signal was going to be irrelevant, so I didn’t do it, which kind of made Kurt too far back," Kyle said. "Got into Turn 1 by myself and was too far back. When you are the guy on the inside, you just flush the guy on the outside and it’s over. I got a crossover though but threw it into 3 too far. It chattered all four tires. Just didn’t have any grip to get off the corner well enough to be on his outside, so I don’t know."

For his part, Kurt said it was a matter of brotherly miscommunication that cost the family a win on Sunday afternoon.

"I thought there was going to be a hand signal on when it was going to be go time, and I was going to push the hell out of the 18," Kurt said. "We did the whole brother miscommunication. We should have won that. There should have been a Toyota in Victory Lane, a Busch in Victory Lane. Logano, he didn’t do anything smart – we just messed up on getting the launch."

Team Penske Vice Chairman Walt Czarnecki credited Blaney for sending Logano to victory lane.

"I want do give a shout-out to Ryan Blaney for what he did for his teammate," Czarnecki said. "It was a great team win today for Team Penske, and I think Ryan demonstrated that with that push on that last start. I want to make sure that he got the recognition for what he did."

But even with the strongest push, Logano needed to execute and the win was the result of a total team Penske effort across the driver, his spotter and his teammate.

And it was enough to overcome in this battle between champions.

"We all have notebooks on each other, mental notebooks, of knowing the way each other races and what's probably coming our way," Logano said of Busch.

"You try to think about all the stuff, but you don't really know what the play is going to be until you get there sometimes. You think of all the different things, and you just have to do one thing at a time. Restart, execute the restart, and get into turn one with an advantage. We were able to do that.

Then it's, ‘what's the next play here?’ Well, it's making sure you get to the top side. You make sure you clear them. After that it's kind of you just go back to racing at that point. Coleman did a great job at clearing me when it mattered the most, but also giving me the information I needed to cross him back."