Sunday, July 8, 2012

Gibbs Garage: Logano bounces back to 4th place finish at Daytona, teammates caught in final melee

The No. 18 Interstate All Battery Camry
Photo by Boris at http://facebook.com/joegibbsracing 
If you tuned in to the Coke Zero 400 with 20 to go, you would have seen Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch running up front in second and third, respectively, with Joey Logano lagging in 17th spot. But in typical Daytona fashion, a multi-car crash with eight to go reversed the outcome for the three JGR teammates. The race resulted in frustration for Busch and Hamlin and a boon for Logano.

Hamlin and Busch ended the night about where they started, in the twenties, while Logano slipped through the chaos to snare a top-five finish.

Denny Hamlin sat out the Nationwide race this weekend, opting to rest his injured back so he’d be ready for the Cup event. He started 24th on Saturday night and finished 25th, four laps down. After fighting a loose racecar for the first few laps, Hamlin dropped back toward the rear of the pack. After his second pit stop, Hamlin began moving forward and was up to 11th place by Lap 90. At that point, he was involved in the incident that brought out the second caution.

It happened when Kurt Busch squeezed between two lines of cars, attempting to create a middle line, and caused a wreck. Hamlin got clipped from behind by Juan Pablo Montoya, got way loose on the apron and with sparks flying, made an amazing save. After initial concern about the splitter and left rear of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota, both were deemed to be okay. Hamlin stayed out during the caution with the rest of the top-10 cars to keep track position.

Hamlin remained in the top ten through the multi-car crash on Lap 125, lining up fourth for the restart. He jumped up to second, and was able to remain there through the fourth caution, for a single car spin. Then the wreck with eight to go did him in. Greg Biffle came down into Hamlin’s right front fender and as Hamlin tried to move to the bottom, he clipped the nose of teammate Kyle Busch. Hamlin got turned and ricocheted into other cars, sustaining multiple hits before stopping in the infield.

After the race, Hamlin described the incident: “It looked like the 16 (Greg Biffle) -- like he came down and got the right-front fender and I was already loose anyway. After that, you’re just a ping pong ball at that point. I have to thank the whole team for sticking by us this weekend. We’ll go to Loudon and try to win there.”

When asked about the effects of the impacts on his back, Hamlin said, “I’m alright. None of the hits were too bad except for the last one in the right-side door.”

He elaborated further: “I was fine -- I could have done without it, that’s for sure. I’ll be 100 percent by next weekend for sure. I have made great strides every day in getting better and I know that once I get to Loudon next weekend, we will be good to go. Just looking forward to getting to some of these race tracks where you have control over your own destiny.”

Kyle Busch rolled off in 23rd spot, but moved up to the top ten early. After a brief problem with the radio, Kyle had a smooth night, staying in the top ten for most of the event. Under the second caution, Busch stayed out with the leaders, then led twice for six laps before and after the caution caused by a big wreck on Lap 125. After winning the race off pit road during that third caution, Busch was passed by Matt Kenseth and Hamlin and ran third. With 11 to go, Busch ran second with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. pushing him, but was caught up in the late multi-car melee. On the final lap and running a couple laps down, Busch got behind teammate Joey Logano to give him a push to a top-five finish. But Busch and the No. 18 Interstate All Battery Center Camry limped home in 24th.

Busch Tweeted his frustration: “Really? Again! Suggestions on how to get some good luck please!” He added, “Ran smart, clean race; upfront all nite to b wrecked w 5 to go. Not really surprised right now.”

Joey Logano started the Coke Zero 400 in 20th, and fought a loose racecar early on. After adjustments during multiple pit stops, he ran midpack for almost 100 laps. The No. 20 Dollar General Toyota was running up front when Logano got hit from behind in the Lap 125 accident. The impact spun him through the infield grass and the car sustained sheet metal damage and broke a radiator fan. The crew made repairs on subsequent pit stops, working to cool the engine, with Logano running behind, trying to gain back track position.

Logano was far enough back to miss the wreck occurring with eight to go, so he moved up to 11th on the restart. In a last ditch noble move, Kyle Busch pushed Logano up to 8th spot just before the final “big one” ensued. The unsung hero of the night was Logano’s spotter, Rocky Ryan, who guided him through the scattering cars to secure the fourth place finish.

Logano said: “We got luckier than probably where we should have finished. I’ll take it for sure and it puts us in the wild card spot right now so that’s exciting to have a shot for that right now. We still have a few weeks to go so we have to keep this going and stay sharp.”

After Daytona, Busch and Logano hold the wild card spots. 

Points standings:
Denny Hamlin – 7th (-2)
Kyle Busch – 12th
Joey Logano – 14th (+2)
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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 bbreinke@skirtsandScuffs.com

2 comments :

Little Joey was born on 3rd base but thinks he hit a triple.

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