Not Joey Logano. Instead of relaxing on the final off-weekend for the Sprint Cup Series, he decided to race in Sunday's NASCAR Nationwide Series STP 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.
It was a wise move on Logano's part, as he took the lead on the final restart and led the final 15 laps to win his second NNS race of the season. His other win was June 1 at Dover International Speedway.
"I was okay doing nothing on the off-weekend, but you can't say no to RP (team owner Roger Penske)," Logano said with a laugh. "At the start of the race, I thought we had a thirdplace car, but we made some adjustments and got it a lot better.
Race leader Sam Hornish Jr. and Penkse Racing teammate Logano battled hard on the final restart, with Logano finally storming past Hornish coming out of Turn 2 on Lap 186 and never looked back.
"That was a big momentum switch for us after two bad races last weekend at New Hampshire," Logano said. "We're looking forward to getting to Indianapolis next weekend, we'll be running both races and hopefully we can get some momentum from this win going forward there."
Hornish finished second, followed by Austin Dillon, Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers.
"We would have liked to win, but you can't complain too much with it being a 1-2 Penske finish, it was a really good thing," Hornish said.
More importantly for Hornish, he regained the lead in the Nationwide Series points standings, passing former leader Regan Smith. Hornish now leads Smith by seven points.
"We've gone from being 58 points behind after Michigan to seven ahead," Hornish said. "What we do now is try to figure out where to go from here."
Sadler dominated early in the race from the Coors Light Pole, but struggled at the end. Still, finishing fourth was a shot in the arm, especially after being wrecked out late in last Saturday's NNS race at New Hampshire.
"(We) should have been in victory lane, but I tried to be too greedy and keep my car too low and it bit us there at the end," Sadler said. "We’ll have to take what it gave us, fourth-place and we’ll go on to Indy.”
The only driver in the top 10 who changed position in the standings was Allgaier, who dropped from fourth to fifth in the standings.
Sixth through 10th in the race were Parker Kligerman, Trevor Bayne, Justin Allgaier, Brad Sweet and Matt Crafton.
When Mike Bliss lost a tire on Lap 171 of the scheduled 200-lap event, all leaders pitted on the next lap, all taking four tires.
Sadler exited the pits in the lead, followed by Hornish, Logano, Dillon and Allgaier. Vickers, however, suffered a slow pit stop and dropped four spots to eighth.
Four laps later, Sadler overdrove a corner and fell from the lead to fourth, followed quickly by a caution on Lap 179 when the motor in Reed Sorenson's car blew up, spewing oil on the track.
Hornish won the pole in qualifying Sunday morning, his first pole of the season, with Sadler alongside him on the front row. Also of note was Travis Pastrana, who started fifth, his third top-five qualifying effort in his last four starts.
Hornish dominated in the early part of the race until he pitted on Lap 49 after a caution for Harrison Rhodes' car. Hornish was penalized for entering pit road too fast and, even though he exited in second place, the penalty dropped him back to 20th place on the restart.
But there was some consolation in that Hornish's teammate, Logano, managed to take the lead shortly after the restart.
Sadler held the lead at the halfway point (100 laps), but a slow pit stop a few laps later seriously cost Sadler and he dropped back to second as Austin Dillon took the lead.
Pastrana's good start didn't quite finish that way as he suffered a tire issue on Lap 114 that sent his car careening into the wall, bringing out the fourth caution of the race.
Points leader Regan Smith was involved in a solo spin into the infield grass on Lap 128, bringing out the caution, but his Chevrolet suffered minimal damage. Smith was running 12th at the time.
Kyle Larson did not pit, choosing to stay out on old tires and took the lead on the restart on Lap 134, but quickly paid for that decision, dropping 10 spots to 11th in the next eight laps.
Of the four qualifiers in the Dash 4 Cash race-within-a-race promotion – Michael Annett, Brian Vickers, Brian Scott and Austin Dillon – it was Dillon who captured the $100,000 top prize for the second straight week and heading into the final Dash race Saturday at Indianapolis.
It was the third of four races in the Dash 4 Cash. Elliott Sadler won the first event at Daytona three weeks ago
"We had a good run," Dillon said, adding with a chuckle. "That check goes to my grandfather (Richard Childress)."
Recalling rich history of NASCAR racing at the Brickyard
Reid Spencer — NASCAR Wire Service
Although this year marks the running of the 20th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, my early memories of NASCAR at the Brickyard predate Jeff Gordon's inaugural 1994 victory by more than two years.
In 1992, long before social media and universal access to the Internet facilitated the instantaneous spread of information, word began to leak of an impending NASCAR tire test at Indy. NASCAR aficionados were excited at the prospect. Open-wheel purists were incensed that stock cars might invade the hallowed ground previously reserved for IndyCars.
Many wondered if NASCAR vehicles could actually negotiate the flat 2.5-mile speedway with squared-off corners. On June 22-23, 1992, they had the answer, when an elite group of nine NASCAR drivers took to the asphalt at the Brickyard.
Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, Davey Allison, Bill Elliott, Darrell Waltrip, Ricky Rudd, Ernie Irvan, Mark Martin and Kyle Petty all participated in the June tire test at the Brickyard. On the second day, Elliott posted the top speed of 168.767 mph, lending credence to the notion that the NASCAR Sprint Cup cars not only could handle the Brickyard but could also stage an exciting race there.
Two years later, Gordon won the first NASCAR race ever staged at the big track, beating Brett Bodine to the checkers by .53 seconds. A year later, Earnhardt led the final 28 laps and held off Rusty Wallace by .37 seconds to add what already had become one of NASCAR's marquee events to his resume.
My lasting memory of Earnhardt at Indianapolis, however, is not a celebration of victory. Rather, it's the most difficult move Earnhardt ever made in a race car -- climbing out from behind the wheel during the 2006 race.
A week earlier at Talladega, Earnhardt had suffered a broken collar bone and a dislocated sternum. Despite the intense pain caused by his injuries, Earnhardt vowed to start the Brickyard 400 and did so. After six laps, with tears welling in his eyes, Earnhardt turned the legendary No. 3 Chevrolet over to Mike Skinner, who brought the car home in 15th place.
Afterwards, race winner Dale Jarrett and his crew established the tradition of kissing the yard of bricks at the start/finish line.
The 1997 race was special, too, with Rudd pulling off an unlikely win as an owner/driver in the No. 10 Ford, beating Bobby Labonte to the finish by a scant .183 seconds.
For me, perhaps the most indelible Brickyard memory involves the 2006 race, which was a defining moment in Jimmie Johnson's career. Early in the race, Johnson fell off the lead lap after blowing a left front tire.
By Lap 117, Johnson was not only back on the lead lap but in the lead, and he went on to win the event en route to his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. If any race epitomized the No. 48 team's resilience and utter calm under extreme pressure, the 2006 Brickyard 400 was it.
Those traits became the hallmarks of Johnson's run of five straight titles.
I remember the 2007 race more for what happened afterward — winner Tony Stewart and his crew climbing the frontstretch fence.
I remember the tire fiasco of 2008, when NASCAR Sprint Cup cars couldn't run full speed for more than 10 laps without risking a blowout. That race, however, led to yeoman testing at the Brickyard, through which Goodyear developed a new chemistry for its tire compounds to the ultimate benefit of NASCAR racing. Tires haven't been an issue at the Brickyard since that race.
I remember Martin, the pole winner, chasing Johnson to the finish for the final 24 laps in 2009, a harbinger of the battle those two drivers would stage in the Chase. I also remember Juan Pablo Montoya's heartache when a pit road speeding penalty derailed his dominant car, which had spent 116 laps in the lead.
I remember 2010 for Jamie McMurray's emotional win, which also completed a trifecta for team owner Chip Ganassi. Early that year, Ganassi cars had won both the Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona (GRAND-AM) and the Indianapolis 500 (Indy- Car). McMurray had also won the Daytona 500 in February, making 2010 the most successful and memorable in Ganassi's long history in motorsports.
I remember 2011 for the unlikely victory of Paul Menard, who grew up with his eyes on Indy. Menard became the fourth first-time winner that season and made Richard Childress the only owner to field winning Brickyard 400 cars for three different drivers.
I remember the 2012 event for Johnson's absolute dominance. The driver of the No. 48 Chevy won in a blowout after leading 99 of the 160 laps. A lopsided win, however has been the exception rather than the rule at the Brickyard.
In fact, whether it's the mystique of Indy or the unique configuration of the track, the Brickyard always produces its share of surprises.
In less than a week, we'll find out what the 20th renewal of the race will bring.