Photo: Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Team Penske Duel, Bizarre Explosion Highlights Watkins Glen Xfinity Race

By David Morgan, NASCAR Contributor

Heading into Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen, all eyes were on the Team Penske cars to see if they could break the Joe Gibbs Racing stranglehold on the 2016 season and return to victory lane for the first time since late 2015 at Texas.

After landing both team cars on the front row, both Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski proved they would be the cars to beat throughout the day. Logano took off in the lead when the green flag flew with Keselowski in tow, leading the first 16 laps of the race.

Though others would take their shot at trying to get past Logano into the lead, Logano and his No. 12 team would always find their way back to the race lead. Logano would wind up leading 67 of the 82 laps on the day and the finish looked like it would come down to a thrilling duel between the Team Penske teammates, but a mechanical issue on Keselowski’s car with less than 10 laps to go ended those hopes as Logano easily went on to win the race. The win was Logano’s third straight at Watkins Glen and sets up the chance for Logano to pull off the weekend sweep once again.

“It was far from easy. What a great Snap-On Ford Mustang. It was awesome for this 12 team to come together. It is a bunch of guys and girls we put together at the shop to have some fun and we come up here to Watkins Glen and it is a lot of fun to win at this racetrack. Brad gave me a run for my money that is for sure. He was just as fast as me, maybe faster. I never ran so many qualifying laps inside the car. I was running as hard as I possibly could and I wasn’t sure if my car would last running that hard but she held together just long enough. I couldn’t be more proud to be here in Victory Lane. This is big for Team Penske and the XFINITY side of things. Great to get a win for them. I am proud to drive the Snap-on Mustang today and ready for tomorrow,” said Logano.

After discovering a broken track bar mount on Keselowski’s car, the team retired with three laps to go, turning a nearly guaranteed top-two finish into a 24th place finish.

“It looked like a bad weld broke. I don’t know what to say about that. You can’t win races in the garage,” said Keselowski.

“Joey and I were both really fast and if either one of us got in the lead it was obvious we were going to drive away. That is something to be really proud of. We had very fast Ford Mustangs today and congrats to Joey on the win. It is good for the program to see Team Penske get in Victory Lane today. I wish it could have been us, but I am happy for Joey and all those guys.”

While Logano and Keselowski were having a thrilling duel up front in the closing laps, the final caution of the day on lap 60 also raised some eyebrows.

Trying to get his car slowed in the bypass to the inner loop, Derrike Cope’s No. 70 Chevrolet bizarrely exploded as the car rolled to a stop, sending the hood flying up and black smoke billowing from the engine compartment. Cope would be OK, but the bizarre nature of the explosion with no definitive cause led NASCAR to impound the car so that they could investigate the incident more in depth.

Below is a video of the explosion that left everyone scratching their heads.

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.

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