Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Joey Logano! Another NASCAR surprise.....

  Crew chief Greg Zipadelli (L) had the perfect strategy for rookie winner Joey Logano (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Joey Logano, the 19-year-old rookie picked by Joe Gibbs to take Tony Stewart's championship-caliber ride this season, pulled the surprise Sunday, catching the rain just perfectly and using his final drops of fuel so judiciously to win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup race – at Jeff Gordon's expense.
   With the race winding down, and rain coming fast, drivers began pitting lap after lap with about 35 miles to go. And Greg Zipadelli, Logano's crew chief, gambled on keeping Logano out on the track until the very end, which gave Logano the victory in the Lenox 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, when NASCAR called the race because of rain after 273 of the 301 laps.
   Gordon had the best car most of the day, but rain cost him.
   Logano, the kid with the Richard Petty grin, carries himself with a good attitude, perhaps surprising considering all the hoopla surrounding him for so many years now…and considering that some have said he's in over his head in this car, put Sunday succinctly: "I guess I'd rather be lucky than good.
   "We didn't have the car to win…."

  Tony Stewart (R) congratulates the kid who replaced him on Greg Zipadelli's team (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
But Logano is now the youngest Cup winner in NASCAR history (taking that away from Kyle Busch), barely a year after he made his NASCAR debut, on the Nationwide series. This was just Logano's 20th career Cup start; his first was here last fall.
   "I thought we had it," Gordon said when he saw the rain coming late, just after he'd made his final pit stop, under green. "I didn't even know Joey was still out there. Give 'em credit, that was a gutsy call.
   "It doesn't matter how you win them. I thought for sure he would run out; I tried to push him as hard as I could on those laps under the yellow.
   "You'd rather get beat by the guys you've been racing all day, instead of a guy winning it on fuel mileage. But they played it just right.
    "We were terrible on the restarts, but other than that we had the best car."
    So if this were the first race of the championship chase – and New Hampshire Motor Speedway is where the NASCAR title run will kick off in just nine weeks  – then what did we learn here in Sunday's Lenox 301? That Rick Hendrick's teams are still the class of the sport, dominating the race.
     Dodge's Kurt Busch was the man who appeared to have the best shot at beating Gordon, and on restarts he got Gordon's goat nearly every time: "When you inject those double-file restarts into our game, it changes the whole game," Busch said.
   "Yes, I stepped over the line a few times, but we can laugh about it now. It's a clean sport."
   Gordon came up after the race and gave Busch a playful poke, with a laugh. "It almost got a little ugly there, but we knew whoever got out front had an advantage," Gordon said.
   "This track really challenged the double-file restarts," Kurt Busch said. "It's just a slick track, and you need five or six laps to get going."
   Logano's win, the Gordon-Kurt Busch duels, and the tricky double-file restarts were the hallmarks of the race.
   However one of the big stories here this weekend has been the gloomy, sometimes angry, mood throughout the garage.
   Tense and nervous? That's a mild way to describe the mood in the NASCAR garage right now, with crewmen and drivers increasingly worried about their jobs, in light of the weak economy, and rumors swirling around so many teams and sponsorships.
  Team owners are very tense and nervous too, even snappish, in reaction, about crewmen who may be getting both worried and disgruntled….and clearly not that happy.
   One top crewman, like many worried about keeping his job, looked at the economic situation this way: "These drivers are making about $8 million a year…so if they'd take a cut to $6 million a year, us crewmen wouldn't have to be so worried about losing our jobs."
   "Tense? Everyone in this garage is tense about things, and if someone tells you they're not, they're lying," another crewman said.
   And some NASCAR officials appear tense and nervous and upset about all this too, particularly when pressed about the future of the Truck tour.  NASCAR executives sharply rebuke anyone questioning the Truck series -- the struggles by those teams, the withdrawal of Detroit sponsorship, questions about the marketing strength of the current series sponsor, questions about the expense of fielding a full-time Truck operation – and insist it will be business as usual for the Trucks again next season.
    However one top crewman considering the Truck series' woes, quipped, with gallows humor, "If they throw a party and nobody comes, is it still a party?"
   On the other side of things, NASCAR's new double-file restart rule looks like a very positive move by the sanctioning body – for the fans, if not for the drivers, who got riled up at times Sunday.
    Restarts proved an issue at times, particularly between Gordon and Kurt Busch. Then on one restart Dale Earnhardt Jr. spun his tires, triggering a chain-reaction that took out Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers.
   Truex was not happy with Kyle Busch for the restart incident which took him out: "But I was just staying in line, doing what I could do to get going, and obviously you can't pass before the start-finish line. And I guess Kyle just decided he didn't want to lift, so I was just an innocent victim today.
   "We've had a tough season, you know? It's been tough, and this don't help much.
   "Kyle just lost his head, like he usually does when something bad happens. If people decide they aren't going to lift when the guy in front spins his tires, what are you going to do? People get checked up, and you just have to chill out and wait until you can race them. There was no reason for it. Our car is torn up, and I'm ticked off."
   Vickers wasn't happy either: I got hit from behind, the side and the front. Then I hit the wall. I saw the replay and looked like Kyle was just completely impatient. Very normal.
   "If you wreck somebody on the straightaway, you should be black-flagged for it. That's the second week in a row that stupidity has cost us a race, and it's frustrating.
   "I guess everybody just learns to expect Kyle doing something stupid. Stupid is forever."
   Busch triggered a crash last weekend at Sonoma.

Joey Logano's day was at times ragged (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Burton, one of three Richard Childress drivers knocked out, tried to put a positive spin on things, even though the bad luck continues for that operation: "You're right, it really has been one heck of a year. I'm really disappointed with the day…but we ran really well.
    "I'm really proud of how we ran; we were really competitive. Given the right track position, I think we were as fast as anybody -- and that's what I'm going to take from it.
    "We didn't do anything wrong. We didn't cause a wreck; we got into a wreck.
    "I don't even know what happened, but it really doesn't matter."
   The early out cost Burton and Harvick dearly in the points, in their struggle to make the championship playoff cut: "We needed a real good finish for the points… but we needed a good run," Burton said. "If we run well enough, the points will take care of themselves.
    "There's still plenty of time. Nine races (till the cut) is an eternity in this sport.
    "We still can do it. It's going to be hard, but we can do it."
    Burton said he couldn't blame NASCAR's new double-file restart rule for the melee: "Everything you do has a positive and a negative. You hope there are more positives than negatives.
    "There's no question the double-file restarts are going to make more excitement, make more aggressive racing.
     "And when you have more aggressive racing and more excitement, you're going to have more wrecks. That's just how it is.
    "But we've wrecked here on single-file restarts too."

Joey Logano, the kid with the million-dollar-smile (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)




Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com