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Logano on pole for 2012 season finale
17 November 2012
Joey Logano will start from pole position for the second time in 2012 after he managed to pip Marcos Ambrose to the top spot by one eighth of a second on the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway, in qualifying on Friday for Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 Sprint Cup season finale.
"It's a really good weekend so far" beamed Logano, the last man out in the 47-car session. "That's awesome to get the pole like that. The guys worked their butts off. We got one more."
It's also the last pole he'll get with Joe Gibbs Racing, as he leaves the team at the end of the season to make way for Matt Kenseth. "They did their part and I did my part, and it came out perfect. I appreciate it. My last run with them — so it's awesome to get a pole for them again," he said. "I've been working with them since I was 15 years old so it's really neat to get them a pole here at Homestead."
Logano made no bones about how hard they'd run at getting pole position for this weekend, admitting that they'd concentrated on speed in the sole practice session available to them earlier on Friday.
"We only made a couple runs today. We really focused on qualifying trim today. We got tomorrow to really focus on our race trim stuff," he explained. "Goal number one is to win the race no matter what. No matter where we go, no matter who else is on the race track, no matter what is going on, it's all about winning."
Logano isn't going to get anything distract him from that goal, although inevitably there were questions about the fall-out from the late wreck last weekend at Phoenix when he had been taken out of a strong top five finish by running into a wreck caused hen Jeff Gordon deliberately retaliated against Clint Bowyer ahead of him.
"Really, that stuff doesn't matter," he insisted, although he admitted that the incident has left a simmering breach between him and Gordon. “I reached out for an apology and didn't get one. - and got hung up on," he revealed, before adding: "But he did text me, and I'm sure we'll meet up at some point. We're going to be able to go out and figure it out. We're big boys.
Gordon also admitted that the midweek phone call had not been a success. "You know, I'm not one that calls right away. I like things to kind of settle down," Gordon explained. "I'd really rather do face-to-face. But he called me and so I called him back, and I can't say it went exactly very well. I reached out to him again to try to get together with him here at the track, and I have not been able to speak with him."
The other man involved in the Phoenix fracas, Clint Bowyer, was ducking questions about the whole incident this weekend. The late wreck wiped out his remaining hopes of still featuring in the Chase for the 2012 Sprint Cup championship coming into Homestead-Miami: even though he'll start from sixth place on the grid on Sunday, Bowyer is now mathematically out of the running for the title.
Once he leaves JGR, Logano will be heading to his new race seat at Penske Racing in the #22 driven over the past 12 months by Kurt Busch, AJ Allmendinger and Sam Hornish Jr. - and it looks like he'll be team mate to the reigning Cup champion, assuming things go to plan this weekend for Brad Keselowski, who leads Jimmie Johnson by 20pts coming into this weekend's title decider.
It's started well for Keselowski, who qualified in third place on Friday comfortably ahead of Jimmie Johnson, who could only manage tenth place on the starting grid.
"I totally expected him to out-qualify us, to be quite honest," said Keselowski, explaining that this had been the case in qualifying at similar recent mile and a half tracks including Chicagoland and Texas Motor Speedway. "I was going to be fine with that. At least we were prepared for the worst and that's not what happened, so I guess we're okay."
“Obviously, this is what you want to do .. you want to qualify well," he added, although he admitted: ""Other than pit stall selection, it's kind of a moot point, in a sense."
Johnson had been busy playing mind games on Keselowski in the build up to this weekend's race, and he admitted that he wished he could have started a little further up the grid to keep applying the pressure to the #2.
"I'd love to have him right there by me when we start the race and put the pressure on him," he said after qualifying. "The best pressure I could put on him would be winning the pole, but we didn't do that.
"I'll find a way to make it good for me if I can," he continued. "We'll get a good pit stall on pit road and go into race trim [Saturday] and make sure we've got our race car right."
As well as Logano, Ambrose and Keselowski, the top ten for the start of Sunday's race will also feature Carl Edwards, Aric Almirola, Michael Waltrip Racing team mates Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Mark Martin ahead of Johnson.
“I'm pretty pleased to be up front tonight," said second-place man Ambrose. "We haven't been great the last 10 weeks in qualifying, so it feels good to be up here.
"But I've got all the respect in the world for Brad Keselowski and all he does and what he stands for," the Australian added. "If I can be a friend to him on Sunday – I know I might have stolen the spotlight off of him in qualifying – but I'll be his friend out there on Sunday."
Proving that Ambrose's form was no fluke, his Richard Petty Motorsport team mate Aric Almirola took fifth place - although he reckoned he could have done even better. "It was good, but it's one of those laps that when you're done you're just like, 'Dang it,' because you could have been that much better to get the pole.
"I think our cars are gonna be great in the race," Almirola added. "I really feel good about it. I feel like our car in race trim will be really good, so I'm just excited about it and really proud of everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports."
While Bowyer wasn't talking to anyone much about anything, Truex was admitting that he's hoped for better than seventh on the grid after pushing Logano hard at the top of the timesheets in the earlier practice session.
"It was okay. We were obviously wanting more. We were great in practice and just missed our air pressure a little bit there for the conditions with it cooling off," he explained. "When you're that good in practice you kind of talk yourselves out of changing too much. We just missed it a little bit there on the air pressure and the car didn't have enough grip and just didn't come in good enough."
Kyle Busch was similarly underwhelmed with eighth place for the start of Sunday's race: "It was alright. Just disappointed we didn't get more out of it, but that's all she wrote. Our qualifying times have been better. It sort of seems to be going our way."
And while he also admitted that he had "missed it there a little bit," the ever-present veteran of the field Mark Martin was still counting his good fortunes with another top ten qualifying spot in 2012: "I'm so blessed to get to drive these race cars. They're so good. I could've put together a little bit better lap than that."
After Johnson in tenth place there are three former Chase contenders - Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle - starting right behind, with Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing's Jamie McMurray in 14th ahead of Hendrick Motorsports duo Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Last week's winner at Phoenix Kevin Harvick starts from 23rd place, while reigning Cup champion Tony Stewart slumped to 35th spot in what's proved a lacklustre follow-up to his title-winning season in 2011.
Denny Hamlin had a disastrous qualifying set-up and slumped to 41st place on the grid - and only made it in on car owner points, as he would have been outside the top 43 on speed alone. Instead, the four cars that failed to make the grid for Sunday's race were Reed Sorenson, Stephen Leicht, Jason Leffler and Joe Nemecheck.
"Whoa!!! Bad miscalculation of travels in qualifying," Hamlin admitted later in a Twitter posting. "Gonna be fun passing 42 cars in the race."
Hamlin will have two practice sessions on Saturday to get the car up to scratch in race trim ahead of the final NASCAR race of 2012, which will be held at the same time that the F1 championship returns to the US at the Circuit of Americas in Austin, Texas.