29 June 2009
Logano makes history at Loudon
Another rainstorm. Another first-time winner.
With 28 laps remaining in Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, rain stopped the race and made a winner of rookie Joey Logano, much as it had done for David Reutimann in the Coca-Cola 600 in May.
Sliced Bread - Logano's nickname, as in the best thing since - may have been soggy at the finish, but he had enough fuel left in his tank to make it to the end of pit road when NASCAR red-flagged the Sprint Cup race after lap 273.
Logano became the youngest winner in series history at 19 years, one month, four days, more than a year sooner than Kyle Busch, who went to victory lane at California in 2005 at 20 years, four months, two days.
Stretching his fuel mileage to the limit, Logano stayed on the track and prayed that a large storm that had appeared on the radar would arrive at the 1.058-mile racetrack before he ran out of gas. After NASCAR threw a yellow flag for rain on lap 267, Logano still had to complete six circuits under caution before the race was stopped.
Shortly thereafter, NASCAR called the race and declared Logano the winner.
Jeff Gordon, who thought he had won the race with quick work in the pits under green on lap 235, instead finished second. Kurt Busch, who won last year's rain-shortened Lenox 301, ran third, followed by Reutimann and Cup points leader Tony Stewart, who saw his advantage shrink to 69 points over second-place Gordon.
Ironically, it was Logano's flat tyre and a spin on Llap 182 that gave crew chief Greg Zipadelli the opportunity to make the winning call. Logano lost a lap during the incident but got it back as the “lucky dog” (free-pass car) after Scott Speed's wreck in turn one on lap 190. Logano brought his car to pit road for tyres and fuel under caution on lap 193 while the leaders stayed out to retain track position.
“We overcame a lot,” Logano said. “We had a left rear cut down right before we made that last long green-flag run (72 laps before the final caution) and had to overcome that. When that happened, I thought we were done. I thought the day just went bad.
“But we just made the right move at the end. We went for it, and I was just lucky enough to be in the seat.”
Knowing Logano was short on fuel, Gordon tried to run the rookie out of gas during the final six caution laps. Logano would shut off the engine of his #20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and coast, only to have Gordon pull up beside him to keep pace with the pace car.
“I was just running pace-car speed, and it allowed me to get to the outside of him and make him start his engine and use some fuel, and he didn't like that,” Gordon said. “So he moved up so I couldn't get to the outside, so I just went to the inside.
“I didn't want to push him, and I didn't want to back off, because that was our only shot — for him to run out of fuel.”
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