Logano's late move pays off
LONG POND - Sprint Cup driver Joey Logano's future for next season is still in doubt, as he currently doesn't have a deal in place with Joe Gibbs racing. However, it's what Logano has now done in the present that might sure up his situation for 2013.
Logano took on a newly surfaced and fast Pocono Raceway Sunday afternoon and conquered the tricky triangle coming away with his first Sprint Cup win of the season and second of his career.
Logano, who was on the pole, was among the fastest drivers all week at Pocono. He led a race and career high 48 laps and never dropped lower than sixth on the day.
"It was just an amazing weekend," said Logano. "Right off the truck, our Home Depot car had a lot of speed, and Jason (Ratcliff) and all the boys did a really good job with the test, trying to learn things, not getting off track of what we knew worked for us, but still try things and not forget about it."
The race came down to Logano and Sprint Cup veteran Mark Martin. Martin has been good at Pocono, but has never won there. He has 34 top-10 finishes in 51 starts at the rack and has been a runner-up seven times.
Martin used a restart on lap 153 to get by Logano, but Martin got loose off turn three giving Logano the opportunity to close in on Martin through the straight away. Heading into turn one Logano nudged Martin and made the pass for the lead, staying there till the checkered flag waved.
"Mark was getting better, every restart he was getting a little better, and he got me the last one." said Logano. "I said to myself, I'm giving one away here. I thought about taking the outside, and I thought, the bottom has worked every restart before that."
"He was driving away a little bit and then he made a mistake off of three, and I was able to have a big run coming to him there. Went into one and I tried to out-brake him, and he was protecting the bottom, I was trying to stick my nose in there, and we got really close, and I'm not even sure if we touched each other or not, but I know I got him air loose at least and was able to slide up underneath him and clear him by the time he got off of one."
Besides Logano's win the other big story on the afternoon was the pit road speeding infractions that were dealt out to a host of drivers. All in all there were a record 22 pit road speeding penalties handed out. The problem area seemed to be in zone 10, which is the zone at the end of pit road before exiting onto the track.
"Well, one of my engineers thankfully looked into it and determined that it was the last section on pit road where guys were getting caught, which is common," said Logano's crew chief Jason Ratcliff. "I mean, guys get all the way to the end and they can see that yellow line and they're like, I can pick it up a little early. So I think it was in section 10 where most of the penalties were coming from."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. continued his string of top 10 finishes on Sunday. His eighth place finish at Pocono was his 10th top 10 finish in his last 11 point races. Earnhardt Jr. had the most dominant racecar for much of the day, but decided to pit for fuel after Kasey Kahne hit the wall in turn two on lap 138. He was in third at the time and was closing in on the leaders of Martin and Logano. The move sent Jr. back to 17th, where he eventually climbed up to eighth. The strategy didn't pay off for Earnhardt Jr. as there was another caution that followed that enabled the other drivers who had not pitted the opportunity to save fuel.
"We just didn't want to run out of gas," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I didn't know the caution flags were going to be so long and they were long enough to help them guys make it on fuel. We're not taking those kinds of chances just yet."
Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five.
Matt Kenseth moved up a spot in the points to take the point lead and Dale Earnhardt Jr. moved up a spot to second and trails Kenseth by 10 points. Previous point leader Greg Biffle slipped two spots to third position.
The Nascar Sprint Cup Series will head to Michigan this Sunday for the Quicken Loans 400. Michigan International Speedway has also been repaved as well, which will make it back-to-back weeks where teams will have to adjust to new track conditions.