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Joey Logano wins Nationwide race at Fontana

Joey Logano crosses the start/finish line after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Royal Purple 300 auto race, Saturday, March 24, 2012, in Fontana, Calif. Joey Logano crosses the start/finish line after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Royal Purple 300 auto race, Saturday, March 24, 2012, in Fontana, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Graythen, Pool)
By Greg Beacham
AP Sports Writer / March 24, 2012
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FONTANA, Calif.—Joey Logano kept Joe Gibbs firmly entrenched in Victory Lane at Auto Club Speedway.

Logano won the Nationwide Series race Saturday, holding off Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Brad Keselowski in an entertaining finish to Joe Gibbs Racing's eighth consecutive Nationwide win at the track.

The youngest winner in Nationwide history three years ago now has 10 victories at the ripe old age of 21. Logano is the first Sprint Cup Series driver to win a Nationwide race this season, claiming his second career win at Fontana.

After starting from the pole, Logano reclaimed the lead after a restart with 12 laps to go before staying in front of a tight pack that left all of the leaders talking about the thrill of racing.

"They had plenty of shots at me," Logano said. "The restarts were hairy. I was good for a few laps, then I would fall off, and then my car would come back. And then it was awesome. ... It's good to finally be back in victory lane, man. It means a lot to win these things."

Logano was determined to get the win for Gibbs, who has run only winners here since Feb. 2008. Toyota's headquarters also are nearby in Long Beach and Costa Mesa.

"It's important to keep a streak going," Logano said. "You don't want to be the guy that didn't win it and broke the streak. To keep a streak going like that, that's important for our whole company."

Gibbs is particularly proud of the streak at a track with personal significance. Although he's best known for his accomplishments in NASCAR and with the Washington Redskins, the coach has spent much of his life in Southern California, graduating from high school in nearby Santa Fe Springs, attending San Diego State and working as an assistant to Don Coryell with the Chargers.

"It means a lot," Gibbs said. "I don't know how that (streak) happened. These things are so hard to win. We spent years and years just trying to win a race. It's a credit to all the guys. We got a hardworking bunch of guys that we put together, and we also do a lot of it in our (Sprint) Cup operation. It's really a credit to the Nationwide shop. I really appreciate those guys."

Stenhouse finished second, and Keselowski was third. Brian Scott was followed by rookie Austin Dillon, Brad Sweet, Kenny Wallace and Kyle Busch.

"It was a fun day," Stenhouse said. "The race track was really racy. I hope we put on a good show."

Elliott Sadler finished ninth, and he still leads Stenhouse by 18 points atop the Nationwide standings.

After leading 119 laps before his fourth-place Nationwide finish at Bristol last week, Logano led eight times for 92 laps at Fontana, never running lower than third. The leaders sometimes ran three across on the wide track, thrilling fans and entertaining the drivers -- including Logano, who felt like he was "chopping wood" behind the wheel.

"I don't know who wouldn't like watching that race. It was amazing," said Adam Stevens, Logano's crew chief. "So many lead changes. It really put it in the drivers' hands where you could move around and change the lap time. Joey, he's a master of that. That's what impressed me the most, is just the little tiny adjustments that these drivers can make and change the lap times on their cars."

Danica Patrick dropped out with engine trouble and finished 35th, the latest disappointing result for the high-profile driver in her first full season on the Nationwide circuit. Her radiator was punctured by debris.

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