Sunday, June 10, 2012

Gibbs Garage: Joey Logano wins Pocono 400 for second career Sprint Cup victory

Joey Logano with the checkered flag after he wins the Pocono 400
Credit: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images
It appears that Joey Logano’s tire testing at the newly repaved Pocono back in April has reaped dividends in June. Three years after his first and only Sprint Cup win, Joey Logano took the checkered flag at Pocono. The victory marks Logano’s second career Sprint Cup win for Joe Gibbs Racing and his second trip to Victory Lane in two weeks, after his NNS win last weekend at Dover.

The No. 20 Home Depot Toyota started on the pole and led the first 16 laps, then had a close call on pit road when their tire changer was forced to jump over the hood. Logano ran steady in the top six for the majority of the race. After pitting with about 35 to go, Logano took only two tires and won the race off pit road to restart in first position.

When the next caution came out for Kasey Kahne hitting the wall, Logano stayed out, even though crew chief Jason Ratcliff estimated they were probably about a lap short on fuel. On the restart with 17 to go, Mark Martin almost pulled ahead, but Logano kept the lead. But after another caution, Logano dropped to second when Martin was successful in grabbing the lead on that restart. With 4 to go, Martin wiggled just a little, and Logano was able to get by him and retake the lead and the checkers.

An emotional Logano barely held his composure in Victory Lane when asked about folks who say he doesn’t deserve a Cup ride. Logano, who is in a contract year, said he hopes this win quiets his critics.

Since Logano's first win came after a rain-shortened event, he said in a post-race press conference: “To get a victory, it meant so much, and pulling the Home Depot car into victory lane at a Sprint Cup race and winning it the right way was just an amazing, amazing feeling that you can't replicate and you can't explain what it means.”

Historically, Pocono is a great track for Denny Hamlin, with his impressive record of four wins, seven top fives, eight top 10s and two poles. With the repave, Hamlin felt it changed his chances at the track. “If I had a 100 percent advantage, it’s probably down to 15 percent now,” he said before the race.

After starting fifth, Hamlin avoided the wreck on Lap one of the race, but got into Carl Edwards, causing a tire rub on the No. 99’s left rear. He restarted 27th after the caution and slowly picked off positions for the next few laps. Hamlin stayed out on the second caution and ended up in third, then passed Jamie McMurray to take the lead around Lap 23. After green flag pit stops, he dropped back to 30th but was able to work back up to the front to lead a second time for a total of 21 laps led.

About 65 laps in, Hamlin ran out of gas, but coasted back to his pit stall for fuel and tires. As he exited pit road, a caution came out, so he ended up 26th as the second car one lap down. He got the lap back by taking the wave around on the next caution, and ran mid-pack for the next chunk of the race. A two-tire call gained the No. 11 FedEx Toyota track position as he came off pit road in tenth, then worked his way up finish fifth.
The No 18 M&M's Toyota in the garage
Credit: Geoff Burke / Getty Images

Pocono is one of the few tracks where Kyle Busch has never won, although he finished second in the last two races at the Tricky Triangle. But the win didn’t come today, as Busch’s day ended early due to engine failure for the second week in a row. Busch started the race in fourth but lost sports early on, then ran in the top ten until around lap 40. After kissing the wall, then getting a penalty for being too fast exiting pit road, Busch dropped to 21st place. He had worked his way back up to 15th when the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota began smoking and he had to take it to the garage. Busch finished 30th.

Points standings for the JGR drivers after Pocono:
Denny Hamlin – 4th
Kyle Busch – 12th (-3)
Joey Logano – 15th (+1)

Beth Bence Reinke writes "Gibbs Garage," Joe Gibbs Racing Sprint Cup team recaps, for the 2012 season. Her Skirts and Scuffs column, “Faith on the Frontstretch,” explores the role of faith in motorsports. Beth is the author of Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a devotional book geared toward female NASCAR fans. Follow Beth on Twitter at @bbreinke or reach her at