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Joey Logano (right) and crew chief Greg Zippadelli (left) just before the start of the race that would become their
first win together...
Logano Wins Rain-Shortened Race to Become Youngest Cup Victor
LOUDON, N. H. -- Sometimes, the sun shines even though it's raining.
Ask young Joey Logano. A late-race rainstorm stopped the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 after 273 of the scheduled 301 laps, giving Logano his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.
The 19-year-old rookie, who turned 19 on May 24, was probably the only happy driver when NASCAR announced the race official, but veterans of the sport would quickly tell the youngster to enjoy his win because "there's no telling how long it might be before he wins another one."
Crew chief Greg Zipadelli, Logano's mentor and crew chief on the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota, a veteran of this sport's tremendous emotional peaks and valleys, probably told his rosy-cheeked driver, "You take em any way you can get 'em, kid."
Even though Logano never challenged any of the race leaders, he raced his way back into contention after a blown tire (pictured below) and an untimely pit stop put him a lap down.
He eventually was the "Lucky Dog," which put him back on the lead lap and in position to gamble on fuel mileage as reports of impending rain rolled through the pit area like tumbleweeds.
Actually, Logano's car was the last in a group of cars who rolled the dice on fuel. Ryan Newman was the leader with some 50 laps to go but had to pit.
Bobby Labonte had a turn out front before his thirsty Ask.com Ford asked for fuel.
Logano's victory makes him the youngest driver ever to win a Sprint Cup race. That in itself came as no surprise to fans at this one-mile oval a couple hours from Boston. This track is Logano's "home" track since he grew up not too far from here in Middletown, Conn.
He has been pegged as the "next" Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson with his past success in other NASCAR series. He won the championship in the developmental Camping World East Series in 2007 and moved to the Nationwide Series last year, where he has won three times.
He has struggled at times this season but has also shown signs of tremendous potential. Sunday's win was a windfall of luck, which follows the wind and the rain from time to time.
Jeff Gordon was second after running up front all afternoon, and Kurt Busch was next.
They were followed by David Reutimann, Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Sam Hornish Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne.
Casey Mears was 11th and Juan Pablo Montoya was 12th, just ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Mark Martin.
An overcast New England sky cast an ominous shadow over the 43-car starting field for Sunday's race. The crowd of over 100,000 had the same thoughts as the drivers... would the New England weather allow the race to be run? As the field took the green flag, they were racing against another green, the rainy green of weather radar that lurked off the coast as a potential threat.
Gordon jumped out front early for the lead and then the older Busch Brother, Kurt, took the top spot. Greg Biffle passed Gordon for second, and Johnson was fourth. They were followed by Newman, Carl Edwards, Stewart, Montoya, the younger Busch brother, Kyle, and Reutimann.
Patrick Carpentier hit the retaining wall in turn two at lap 15 to bring out the first caution of the afternoon. Busch maintained the lead on the restart at lap 19. Two laps later, Jamie McMurray lost control between turns two and three and slammed the outside retaining wall. Gordon was ahead on the restart at lap 25 this time around.
They made just three laps this time before AJ Allmendinger spun in turn three. It was the third caution period in just a few laps, but the laps that were run were dandies.
Under NASCAR's new double-file, shootout-style restart procedure, Gordon, Busch, Biffle, Montoya and others were two-abreast around the track.
Gordon still led when the race resumed at lap 31, but Busch quickly went back out front.
NASCAR added a competition caution at lap 47 to allow the teams to check tire wear. A hard rain Saturday night washed away the rubber put down during several preliminary races.
On the restart at lap 50, Johnson took the lead for the first time with teammate Gordon next and young Busch third, then brother Kurt, Martin, Biffle, Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Matt Kenseth.
Another caution slowed the field when Michael Waltrip was turned by Scott Speed at lap 59.
Johnson led on the restart at lap 64. He moved ahead of teammate Gordon by about one second, but at this point in the race, he certainly appeared to be the dominant car.
Another caution fell at the halfway point of the race, 151 laps completed of the 301 to be run, and a few drops of rain showed up on windshields. Johnson had led to this point, but both Gordon and Kurt Busch took two tires to beat Johnson back on the track while he took four tires.
The race started again on lap 157 with Gordon in front. He was followed by Busch, Johnson, Stewart, Earnhardt, Kyle Busch, Truex, Edwards, Martin and Reutimann.
Unofficial Race Results click here
Unofficial Driver Point Standings click here
NASCAR Newcast - Race Recap click here
Green Flag Fast Facts
The Race: LENOX Industrial Tools 301
The Date: Sunday, June 28
The Track: New Hampshire Motor Speedway; 1.058-mile oval
The Time: 3 p.m. AT
The Distance: 318.46 miles/301 laps
TV: TNT, 1:30 p.m. AT
Radio: PRN and Sirius Satellite
2008 Polesitter: Patrick Carpentier
2008 Winner: Kurt Busch
Schedule: local track time > Friday—Practice, noon-1:30 p.m.; Qualifying, 3:10 p.m. Saturday—Practice, 9-9:50 a.m.; Final practice, 11:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m.
Year-To-Date Results & Point Standings click here
Practice, Qualifying, Starting Lineup & More...
Tony Stewart (left) talks with crew chief Darian Grubb in the New Hampshire garage Friday before qualifying for Sunday's race
was rained out - putting Stewart on the pole position by virtue of his point lead. Stewart will be in a backup car Sunday after wrecking his primary car
during practice Friday - but will not need to go to the rear of the field to start the race since qualifying had not yet taken place, and since
his team put the original engine in the backup car...
Complete Starting Lineup click here
*Does not reflect adjustments that may be made prior to the race start because of the cars that need to go
to the rear of the field due to engine and/or transmission changes or practice wrecks...
- ‘Race To The Chase’ Begins At New Hampshire Motor Speedway...The battle for Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup eligibility is heating up, which means two things:
One — the thermometer says it’s summer;
Two — it’s time to head to New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
This Sunday’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301 kicks off the “Race to the Chase,” the 10-race stretch that leads to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
The Race to the Chase begins amid Granite State greenery and ends on a September Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway — Race No. 26 and the cutoff point for Chase eligibility.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams then return to New Hampshire the following week to begin the Chase, in which the top 12 drivers (following Richmond) battle for the series title during the season’s final 10 races.
The mix of tracks in the Race to the Chase presents a worthy challenge. Drivers begin with New Hampshire’s flat, tricky one-mile oval and proceed, in order, to Daytona International Speedway’s high-banked 2.5-mile surface, Chicagoland Speedway’s 1.5-mile tri-oval, Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.5-mile tradition, Pocono Raceway’s triangular 2.5-mile layout, the season’s second road-course event at Watkins Glen International, Michigan International Speedway’s 2-mile oval, Bristol Motor Speedway’s high-banked half-mile, Atlanta Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile tri-oval and finally, Richmond’s .75-mile venue.
Atlanta is the only track new to the 2009 Race to the Chase; its second event of the season now takes place on Labor Day weekend.
First, however, a deceptively difficult New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“It’s a little bit unique and it’s one that makes us work hard, that’s for sure,” said 2003 series champion Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford), who’s seeking his first victory there.
- Data Tabs Stewart As The Driver To Beat...As the Race to the Chase begins, two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart (No. 14 Old Spice Chevrolet) leads the series standings heading into Sunday’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301.
If statistics hold firm, he may occupy that position when the Race to the Chase ends at Richmond.
That’s according to NASCAR Loop Data from 2005 through the current season at the 10 tracks featured in the Race to the Chase.
Per that Loop Data, Stewart owns the top Driver Rating (106.1).
He also claims the top Average Running Position (10.545) and the second-best Average Finish (12.5) behind Jeff Gordon’s (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) 12.2.
Stewart (75.3) again trails only Gordon (76.5) in Percentage of Laps in the Top 15.
Gordon, the four-time series champion, is right there statistically with Stewart.
Second in the standings (he trails Stewart by 84 points), Gordon leads all of the current top 15 drivers with 35 wins, 114 top fives and 164 top 10s in 266 career starts in the 10 tracks that make up the Race to the Chase. He also has the top average start (9.7), the highest percentage of laps led (12.2) and a top average of 136.3 points scored. Stewart ranks second in average number of points scored (134.8) in events at the 10 tracks included in the Race to the Chase.
Reigning and three-time series champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Chevrolet) has the third-highest driver rating at Race to the Chase venues — 130.8.
- A Different Year For Defending New Hampshire Winner Kurt Busch...Ask Kurt Busch which year he prefers — 2008 or 2009 — and he’ll pounce on the latter.
The defending winner of Sunday’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301, Busch is faring better in present times. Although he reveled in last June’s victory, it was one of the few bright spots in a season that saw him miss the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, plus finish an uncharacteristic 18th in the final standings.
A quick recap: Thanks to good fuel mileage and a timely final pit stop, Busch had surged to the lead when NASCAR officials called the race at Lap 284 of the scheduled 300 because of an approaching thunderstorm.
The celebration came in an empty garage building amid a lightning-spiked downpour, but Busch said his team earned every moment.
“When everybody pitted with, I don't know, 30 laps to go — when I was told, ‘You're in the lead, there's 26 laps to go’ — that's the most motivation a driver could ever ask for,” Busch said, “because you want to hold it off and bring it home for your team.
“So we were gonna have our work cut out for us. I felt we could have held off some the guys right behind us, and our pit strategy worked out perfect.”
Busch’s fourth season at Penske Racing appears to be working out, too. A year ago he was 22nd in the standings, trailing then-leader and brother Kyle Busch by 804 points, and 12th place — the final eligible spot for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup — by 288 points.
This year, Busch is fourth, 280 points behind leader Tony Stewart. He has one win — at Atlanta Motor Speedway — plus four top fives and eight top 10s. Busch also led the standings for one week, following the eighth race of the season, at Phoenix International Raceway.
- Regan Smith (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet), the 2008 Raybestos Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, will make his 50th career start Sunday if he qualifies for the LENOX Industrial Tools 301.
- Kahne, Newman Doing “Double-Duty”...Two NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers will participate in this weekend’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at New Hampshire.
Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman have entered Saturday’s New England 100, scheduled for a 1 p.m. ET start. Audio for the race will be streamed live on NASCARHomeTracks.com.
Newman, who made his modified debut last September at New Hampshire (he won the pole for that event) will drive the No. 7 Aggressive Hydaulics Chevrolet Modified.
Kahne will drive the No. 96 Mohawk Northeast/N.E. Race Fuels Chevrolet Modified.
“Any racer will tell you that when they get the chance to race, they are going to,” Newman said, “so I’m looking forward to getting back into the modified at New Hampshire this weekend. I have good equipment, and I have some more experience in the car, so I am excited about Saturday’s race.”
Kahne’s team is overseen by veteran NASCAR Sprint Cup crew chief and new team owner Tommy Baldwin, who grew up the son of modified legend Tom Baldwin.
Kahne also plans to compete in the September modified event at New Hampshire, plus the NASCAR Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tours’ August events at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“I love to race, so any chance that I have to drive a different type of car is a cool opportunity,” Kahne said. “The modified race at New Hampshire is always competitive. Those guys run pretty hard and it is going to be fun to be part of it.”
- Infield Improvements At New Hampshire...Teams and fans present this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway will benefit from several significant renovations to the infield.
Track officials and workers reconfigured the infield to gain additional usable space — expanded from one-and-half acres to nearly seven.
New, black chain-link fencing now defines the space, and a redesigned Victory Lane awaits the winner of Sunday’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301.
Construction took two months, but planning has been underway for nearly 18 months, since Speedway Motorsports Inc., Chairman and CEO Bruton Smith purchased the facility from the Bahre family in 2008.
Also ready for competition will be 3,400 feet of new and enhanced safety fencing along the grandstand sides of the 1.058-mile track.
The lower portion is reinforced with six strands of 5/8-inch, high-strength cable, while the upper portion consists of sixteen strands of 3/8-inch cable. Arch posts raise the overall height of the safety fence to over 21 feet.
Track President Jerry Gappens said this specific project wasn’t related to Carl Edwards’ April accident at Talladega Superspeedway.
“Bruton Smith, our chairman, put this project on the top of our priority list for 2009 facility improvements,” Gappens said, “utilizing the improved technology and engineering used at other SMI facilities and installing it here.”
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