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NWS: Logano overcomes contact for Fontana win
11 October 2009
Resurrecting his hopes after sustaining early damage to his #20 Toyota, polesitter Joey Logano won Saturday's Copart 300, an event he described as 'the most fun race I've ever had in my life'.
For others, particularly Nationwide Series points leader Kyle Busch and his relief driver, Denny Hamlin, the race at two-mile Auto Club Speedway was anything but a barrel of laughs.
Taking over for Busch after 39 laps - because of a case of the 'flu that wouldn't let up - Hamlin collided with Greg Biffle off turn four while fighting for the lead on lap 141, exited the race with an irreparable car and was credited with a 31st-place finish.
The accident put a substantial dent in Busch's points lead over third-place finisher Carl Edwards, who now trails Busch by 155 points with five races left in the season. Brad Keselowski, who rallied from a slow restart on a green-white-chequered finish that took the race two laps beyond its scheduled distance, finished fifth and is third in points, 227 behind Busch.
Logano rallied from 25th position after Biffle forced him into the backstretch wall while passing for the lead on lap 50 of 152.
"I didn't think we had a shot at it after Biffle decided to put us in the wall," said Logano, who pulled away from runner-up Brian Vickers after the final restart on lap 151. "Apparently, that was the only way he thought he could beat us, but you can't put this #20 team down.
"We never quit, kept digging all day. I definitely didn't think we had a shot at it. It was just amazing. That was the most fun race I ever had in my life. I went through a point there where [I said to myself] 'I don't have a shot at this' to 'try to salvage a top ten out of it' to bringing home a W."
Though 19-year old Logano got his second straight Nationwide win, his fifth this season and the sixth of his brief career, the race ended in controversy, with Logano's father, Tom, confronting Biffle as the driver sat in his car on pit-road.
"Oh yeah, I saw him flip me off, yeah," Biffle said in a radio interview with PRN's Steve Richards, "They've got short memories, you know? They don't remember last week [at Kansas] when they smashed my left front fender in. See? It's all about theirselves - and it's not always about you. He was lucky that he had time to fix it. I got mine smashed in on the last run of the day. I didn't have time to fix mine. I fell back and finished wherever I did."
NASCAR pulled Logano Sr's hard card after the incident, meaning that he will have to stand in line for a paper credential until NASCAR deems otherwise.
NASCAR spokesperson Ramsey Poston also revealed that the sanctioning body is looking into Biffle's radio transmissions from the race. A lap before Biffle nudged Logano into the wall, he reportedly threatened to do so. Dave Rogers, Logano's crew chief, referred to the radio chatter after the race.
"It's just terrible that you transport two cars all the way across the country to come out and have a good, clean race, and a driver brags on his radio that the #20 car better have casters, because I'm going to fence him - and then pulls up and fences us.
"I'm sure NASCAR will review the tape and the audio. During the race, I went down and talked to a NASCAR official, and I said 'this isn't right - he's bragging about it'. And then he does it. And, at that point, the message is conveyed. It's a shame that people race like that, but it is what it is."
Kevin Harvick ran fourth Saturday, and rookie Michael Annett came home sixth, his best result in his 30 Nationwide starts.
Busch's flu symptoms worsened during Saturday's Sprint Cup practice, prompting the driver change under the first caution of the race, on lap 39.
"It's just temperature," Busch said after the switch with Hamlin, "When I get in the car and I get hot, I start not being able to see exactly straight. The car was really good, though. Unfortunately, I didn't feel it was in my best interest or the team's best interest to win this race to keep going. More laps and getting hotter in the seat probably would have diminished my performance a little."
Busch was confident he'd be back in the seat of his #18 Toyota for Sunday's Pepsi 500 Sprint Cup race.
"Another problem is wanting to get out today in order to compete in the full 500 miles tomorrow," he said, "Fortunately, today, we've got Denny Hamlin, who's a great relief driver that can drive for me. I can try to go back now and rest up, cool down to try to get this fever under control and be ready for [Sunday]."
Asked if he had a relief driver lined up just in case, Busch admitted 'not yet - I think I can do it'.
by Reid Spencer / Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service