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Joey Logano may only be 19, but he and crew chief Greg Zipadelli outfoxed Jeff Gordon and the veterans

Just like old times for Greg Zipadelli and his crew...just with the new kid on the block, Joey Logano (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Tony Stewart made it to victory lane here Sunday, but it was to congratulate Joey Logano, the kid who replaced him at the wheel of Greg Zipadelli's cars after Stewart's 10 years at Joe Gibbs'.
     The rainy finish?
   "You can't control the weather," Zipadelli said. "The only thing we can do is try to play it to our hand."
    In the final miles under yellow, before NASCAR threw the red and stopped the game, eventually calling it a day at 5:30 p.m., Jeff Gordon was trying to pressure Logano into using as much gas as possible.
   "I was coasting as long as I could, shutting the motor off… and Jeff was going to make me fire that thing up and burn as much as fuel as I can," Logano said. "But you just keep set in your mind that's what you have to do."
    "I'm happy for Zippy and Joey and all the guys on that team," Stewart, the NASCAR tour points leader, said. "You take 'em any way you can get 'em – And that's as much as a strategy as shocks and springs and everything else.
    "They still had to work to get themselves in that position, so they did a good job."
    "That" was a gambling call by Zipadelli not to pit Logano near the end of the race when the leaders all did routine green flag stops in the final 35 miles. Rain was coming, and when it would hit, nobody could know.

That victory lobster looks like about a 10-pounder (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)

   "I told Joey 'Ten years down the road nobody's going to know how this win came," Stewart said. "But the thing is they still had to earn it. 
    "For them, it makes up for the one we lost here last year because of rain."
   Stewart and Zipadelli dominated last summer's run here, but fell victim to rain.
   This season Stewart, with a new team he owns, has been sharp nearly every week. This Sunday though "we were just a little off.
   "But we had sparks of brilliance. So we can't be too disappointed."
   The other guy in victory lane was quite surprised to be there. "I never thought I would be the one," Logano said. 
   "Rain bit us in Charlotte; we had the same opportunity to do this and we didn't do it. This was the opportunity we had, and we didn't have anything to lose.
    "Obviously it's not the way you want to win your first race -- in the rain. But 20 years down the road when you look in the record books, no one will know the difference."
    Still, it really wasn't that much of a fluke, because Logano and Zipadelli finally started clicking in late April and they've been solid ever since. Not bad for a driver just turned 19, with only 20 Cup races under his belt…and severely limited by NASCAR's no testing policy.
    While NASCAR this season is barring teams from testing at Cup tour tracks, in a cost-cutting move, that doesn't keep teams from flying to non-NASCAR tracks to test. And that, rivals say, is why the Rick Hendrick bunch, including Stewart and Ryan Newman, is doing so well – because they are apparently testing a heck of a lot more than rivals. In fact, it has been proposed that NASCAR toughen up its no-testing rules.
   So Logano is seeing most of these Cup tracks for the first time on race weekend. He made his Cup debut here last fall.
   "We didn't take off as good as we needed to," Logano said of Sunday's run. "I think it's just me still lost out there trying to figure out where I need to be."
   A cut tire left him in a hole, and he need two Lucky Dog passes and a 'wave-around' to get back in the game.
   This season, Logano concedes, has been "tough, believe me, real tough.
   "Last year in the Nationwide series I had some good runs.  Did I run where I thought I needed to?  No; it just took time. 
   "Now over there, I think I know what it takes. And from what we did in the beginning of the season to now, we are running a lot better."
    Gibbs says he has been impressed with Logano's quick learning: "For about the last seven weeks we have come back from some real tough things.  At Sonoma, a road race, not having been there in a COT, qualifying 12th, battling all day up front…and then getting a late wreck, going all the way to the back and battling back to 19th…that, to me, means a lot."

   Good ol' number 20 wins again (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)

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