11 June 2012
Logano pushes Martin aside for Pocono win
Joey Logano became that rarest of things in recent times in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition: a polesitter able to go on and claim the race win itself in Sunday's Pocono 400.
Joey Logano proved himself the master of the triangles, as he converted pole position at the uniquely shaped Pocono Raceway 2.5-mile "oval" to a win - and a victory over one of the sport's most enduring and experienced competitors at that in the shape of Mark Martin, albeit in slightly controversial circumstances.
Between them, the two men had dominated all the practice and qualifying sessions leading into Sunday's race, although when it came to the green flag Logano was joined on the front row of the grid by Carl Edwards.
Edwards' race did not go to plan, however, when he was involved in contact with Logano's Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Denny Hamlin going into the very first turn of the race, shortly before Landon Cassill, AJ Allmendinger and Martin Truex Jr. all got involved in an incident behind them after Cassill got sideways, moved down and collected Truex.
Edwards and Hamlin had to go to pit road for repairs under the ensuing caution and Edwards also got a penalty for not lining up properly at the restart, during which Logano pulled away from Paul Menard and Dale Earnhardt Jr. But the race was back under caution six laps later after when JJ Yeley, Reed Sorenson and Tony Raines all managed to wreck against the wall in turn 3, triggering a new yellow that replaced the competition caution previously scheduled for lap 20 for teams to be able to check tyre wear on the brand new asphalt surface at the raceway.
Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin opted to stay out and assumed the lead of the race ahead of Logano and Earnhardt, and it was Hamlin who quickly passed McMurray on the lowside for the lead and started to pull out a comfortable safety margin over the field which he kept until he (and McMurray and Keselowski) came in for their deferred pit stops a dozen laps later.
That left Earnhardt in the lead ahead of Logano, Jeff Gordon and Marcos Ambrose, and they stayed in place until their own turn for pit stops another dozen or so laps down the line. That saw another flurry of pit road speeding penalties fly, in an afternoon that would end up seeing NASCAR issue a record high 22 penalties during the course of the afternoon, the vast majority being for speeding on pit exit.
"Cars were speeding," Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president for competition said when asked about the sheer volume of penalties imposed. He denied that it was a result of NASCAR's equipment being miscalibrated and said that it had been down to team or driver misjudgement.
"You go through that time to time," said Pemberton. "Maybe going off last year's notes and short-cutting what you do. I don't know. It's up to the race team."
The repaving of Pocono since the last Cup outing here had changed the layout of the timing lines down pit lane that calculates a car's speed based on how quickly the car passes over each point. This layout is available to teams for reference so that they can tell how fast they can get away with running between each line.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
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