Friday, September 12, 2008
Rain cancels qualifying; move to No. 96 puts phenom Logano in first Cup race
LOUDON, N.H. -- Rain washed out NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying for the second straight week. This time, though, Joey Logano gets to race.
A week ago at Richmond the rainout left the 18-year-old phenom out of the lineup and frustrated because he was entered in a fourth Joe Gibbs Racing car that had no owner points. This week, Logano is entered in the No. 96 Hall of Fame Racing entry that is in the top 35.
That gave Logano a guaranteed starting spot in Sunday's Sylvania 300.
"It's nice to be in the 96 now and at least be in the race," he said Friday, minutes after NASCAR officially canceled time trials. "Obviously, if we came back here with the [No.] 02, we'd have been going home again. Thank goodness we're not."
Although there is a lot of excitement about Logano getting his first shot at racing in Cup, most of the focus this week is centered on the start of the 10-race Chase for the Cup.
The field for Sunday's race was set by points, meaning all 12 of them will be up front for the start. Series leader Kyle Busch will start from the pole, with runner-up Carl Edwards alongside and two-time reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson, winner of two straight races, and fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. in row two.
Logano will start 40th in the 43-car field, but the youngster may well play a part in the Chase, testing some parts and pieces for Gibbs teammates Busch, Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin. And, despite the number change, Logano is driving the same Toyota that was entered at Richmond.
"I'm sure there's a few things on there," Logano said, grinning. "I'm not sure what it is, yet. We put some different stuff on there for Richmond. I'm sure we came back with the same stuff again.
"We're here to race. We're here to win, you know. But, at the same time, we're going to learn as much as we can for those guys. They're in a bigger deal than we are right now, you know."
Logano, the most anticipated newcomer since Jeff Gordon began his Cup career in 1992, had to wait until he turned 18 in May to run his first Nationwide event. Since then he has raced 12 times, with two poles, one victory and nine top-10 finishes.
But Logano, who grew up in Middletown, Conn., about a three-hour drive from here, has been anxiously awaiting his shot at the elite Cup series, especially since being tabbed to replace two-time Cup champion Stewart in the No. 20 Gibbs entry in 2009.
"I'm waiting for it to get started," he said Friday. "I'm looking forward to [practice] tomorrow, really. I think we've got some things we were going to try and, hopefully, get this [car] a lot better. That's what I'm looking forward to right now and, after that, we'll think about Sunday."