Saturday, May 5, 2012

Joey Logano scores first win at Talledega, second win of the season


Joey Logano still hanging on to the steering wheel in Victory Lane
Photo by Tyler Barrick/Getty Images
Joey Logano made it through double overtime and drove the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Gamestop/Max Payne Toyota past Kyle Busch to take the win at Talladega Superspeedway Saturday. The NASCAR Nationswide Series Aaron’s 312 lived up to the hype with lap after lap of nerves stretched to the snapping point. And that was just the fans, who held their collective breath for probably at least the last 100 laps of what turned out to be a curious blend of pack and tandem racing punctuated by moments of sheer terror.

The unforgiving nature of restrictor-plate racing was shown with terrifying clarity when yellow flag number six flew at Lap 115 for a Danny Efland and Mike Wallace spin in Turn 4, setting up a green-white-checkered finish. On the restart, Michael Annett got a push up the middle lane but the hole closed too quickly for him to make it through. The resulting melee involving at least half-a-dozen cars put the race under red flag while the safety crew extracted Eric McClure from the No. 14 Hefty/Reynolds Wrap Toyota after it had been punted straight into the inside wall, crushing the SAFER barrier with the force of the impact. Airlifted from the track, McClure reportedly was alert and speaking with medical personnel both when he was removed from the vehicle and when he reached the hospital.

Even the cool-down lap created controversy when Danica Patrick tapped Sam Hornish Jr. from behind, causing him to hit the wall. Hornish appeared to pinch Patrick into the outside wall. Patrick retaliated. NASCAR did not call either driver to the hauler for a post-race chat so it’s not likely either will face any official reprimand for the incident.

The storylines for the Aaron’s 312 started rolling well before the green flag flew. Qualifying rained out so the teams lined up by points. The black No. 3 car started a race at Talladega for the first time since Dale Earnhardt's passing, but it wasn't driven by either his son Dale Jr. or grandson Jeffrey, who were both in the the race. The two Earnhardts only briefly raced together. The No. 3 Advocar Chevy, driven by Austin Dillon, did lead twice for two laps each time.

Both the Busch brothers and the Wallace brothers (Mike and Kenny) played roles in the day's action, drafting with various partners, hoping for a good showing. Elliott Sadler and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were in a heated battle for the championship. Both avoided major issues, though Sadler sustained damage when he bumped his drafting partner Mike Bliss off the track at Lap 107.  Stenhouse Jr. finished third, Sadler fought his way to a tenth-place finish and gave the points lead to Stenhouse Jr.

NASCAR's package to break up the tandem racing resulted in cooling issues for almost all the teams, with Johanna Long the first casualty of the day. The No. 70 Foretravel Motorcoach Chevy went out on Lap 18, bringing out one of only seven cautions that flew during the race. The red-flag period lasted 19 minutes.

The suspense-filled race included 37 lead changes among 18 drivers. Following Logano and Kyle Busch across the finish line were Stenhouse Jr., Cole Whitt, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, James Buescher, Justin Allgaier, Kenny Wallace and Elliot Sadler.

Complete finishing order:

1 Joey Logano
2 Kyle Busch
3 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
4 Cole Whitt *
5 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
6 Kurt Busch
7 James Buescher
8 Justin Allgaier
9 Kenny Wallace
10 Elliott Sadler
11 Ryan Truex
12 Sam Hornish Jr.
13 Danica Patrick
14 Erik Darnell
15 John Wes Townley
16 Danny Efland
17 Austin Dillon *
18 Mike Bliss
19 Joe Nemechek
20 Brad Keselowski
21 Timmy Hill
22 Kevin Harvick
23 Michael Annett
24 Tayler Malsam
25 Jeffrey Earnhardt
26 Robert Richardson Jr.
27 Eric McClure
28 Mike Wallace
29 Jeremy Clements
30 Josh Richards
31 T.J. Bell
32 Tim Andrews
33 Brad Sweet *
34 Jason Bowles *
35 Morgan Shepherd
36 Brian Scott
37 Johanna Long *
38 Mike Harmon
39 Jeff Green
40 Josh Wise
41 Chase Miller
42 Scott Speed
43 Kevin Lepage

Complete points standings:

1   Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
2   Elliott Sadler
3   Austin Dillon
4   Sam Hornish, Jr.
5   Cole Whitt
6   Michael Annett
7   Justin Allgaier
8   Mike Bliss
9   Joe Nemechek
10   Danica Patrick
11   Tayler Malsam
12   Trevor Bayne
13   Mike Wallace
14   Jeremy Clements
15   Jason Bowles
16   Eric McClure
17   Brian Scott
18   Kenny Wallace
19   Erik Darnell
20   T.J. Bell
21   Johanna Long
22   Benny Gordon
23   Blake Koch
24   Ryan Truex
25   Robert Richardson
26   Danny Efland
27   Joey Gase
28   Tim Schendel
29   Timmy Hill
30   Morgan Shepherd
31   Casey Roderick
32   Kyle Fowler
33   Brad Sweet
34   Daryl Harr
35   Kevin Lepage
36   Jamie Dick
37   Jeffrey Earnhardt
38   Ryan Blaney
39   Steve Arpin
40   Steve Wallace
41   Chase Miller
42   Kelly Bires
43   Travis Pastrana
44   David Green
45   Tim Andrews
46   Mike Harmon
47   Jeff Green
48   Tanner Berryhill
49   Josh Richards
50   Brad Teague

The next NASCAR Nationwide Series race will run May 11th at Darlington. The "VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200" starts at 7:15 PM on ESPN2. 

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