Under the Spotlight: Logano Wins Pole, Says Momentum Has Gone Unnoticed

Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
During qualifying for Sunday’s Good Sam RV Insurance 500 at Pocono Raceway, Joey Logano became the youngest pole winner at the 2.5-mile track.

Logano, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota for JGR, led the first 16 of 200 laps and found himself in the lead before rain caused the race to come to a halt just after the halfway point. He remained toward the front of the pack for the entire race, until 11 laps to go when he was forced to pit under green-flag conditions.

The No. 20 began to quickly lose positions in the field, causing the team to suspect that a tire had gone down. During the green-flag pit stop, the team discovered the culprit – a cut to the right-rear tire. Logano and the Home Depot team were forced to settle for a 26th-place finish, despite having a top-5 car.

“We did all we could,” said crew chief Greg Zipadelli following Sunday’s disappointing finish. “We sat on the pole, we led a bunch of laps and had a very respectful top-five Home Depot car. I think this was one of our better performances in the last two and a half years so I’m not going to hang my head and over something that we can’t control. If it was something that we did and made a bad call it would be different than that. We had a solid weekend and I want to walk out of here with a good attitude and keep that momentum that we’ve had in the last six to eight weeks going.”

Logano’s top performance in Saturday’s qualifying session undoubtedly came as a surprise to many.

Since his debut in the Sprint Cup Series, Logano holds just one victory in 96 races. Unable to deliver on the expectations that were set for him, Joe Gibbs Racing began to look at Carl Edwards as a possibility to takeover driving duties for the No. 20 Toyota for JGR.

After Edwards announced he would remain with his current team at Roush Fenway Racing, Logano no longer had to focus on saving his job, but rather focus on changing the way people view him - as someone who hasn't lived up to the hype that surrounded his debut in NASCAR at the young age of 18.

The fact of the matter is, Logano has had a successful season this year, although it has seemed to go unnoticed. Perhaps a much deserved victory in Sunday’s race at Pocono would have drawn more attention to this success – becoming not only the youngest pole winner at Pocono, but also just the fourth Sprint Cup driver this season to nab a pole and a win in the same weekend.

The pole at Pocono was just the third in Logano’s career, but the second in six weeks this season (the first was at Sonoma in June). He also had 11 top-10 starts and six top-10 finishes this season. During his first full Cup Series season, Logano earned nine top 10s including his first win, which came at his hometown track of New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

It quickly became clear why he had been given the nickname “Sliced Bread,” but in a sport where victories and consistency mean everything, Logano seems to be a forgettable player compared to heavy-hitters like teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.

During Sunday’s race at Pocono, Logano started in front of his teammates and had the car and potential to outrun them as well.

Logano sat 29th in the driver standings earlier in the season, but after a series of solid finishes, he quickly found himself sitting in 19th prior to this week with the possibility of earning himself a wild card spot in the Chase.

“I don’t know if everyone’s realized how good we’ve been doing,” Logano said. “We’ve been building a lot of momentum.”

After Sunday’s race, he dropped one spot in the standings to 20th with just five races remaining before the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Logano and his team have reason to be optimistic about keeping their momentum rolling. Of the upcoming five races, all but one career-finish have been in the top-20s, with two in the top 10, the best of which was a 7th place at Michigan in 2009.

This is the record of a team with the potential to win and of a driver who proved this weekend that he can not only live up to his nickname, but contend with the best of them, including his own JGR teammates.

Kristina LaFountain's columns for Skirts and Scuffs include Red Bull Rundown, Under the Spotlight and Racing Toward a Cause. She is also a contributor for Speedway Media. You can follow Kristina on Twitter at @klafounta.
Under the Spotlight: Logano Wins Pole, Says Momentum Has Gone Unnoticed Under the Spotlight: Logano Wins Pole, Says Momentum Has Gone Unnoticed Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 Rating: 5