Sunday, June 28, 2009
Logano wins for 1st time in 20 starts
LOUDON, N.H. -- There were questions about the judgment of team owner Joe Gibbs when he decided to replace departing two-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart with a 19-year-old rookie this season.
Even a rookie considered a phenom.
The former NFL coach, head of Joe Gibbs Racing, admitted Sunday he tried not to put too many expectations on the talented, but woefully inexperienced Joey Logano.
"We were really looking for just constant improvement, and that's really what we've seen," Gibbs said after Logano became the youngest driver in the history of the Sprint Cup Series to win a race, taking the rain-shortened Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
"The last seven, eight races we've battled back from some real tough things," Gibbs added.
Sunday was no exception as the precocious teenager overcame a crash and a lost lap, then saved just enough fuel to earn his first Cup victory in only his 20th start.
Logano, not even allowed to begin his NASCAR career until he turned 18 in May 2008, added his latest victory to three wins in the second tier Nationwide Series.
"Well, I figured out this sport is a rollercoaster," Logano said when asked how tough his learning curve has been. "I go up and down, up and down, up and down. ... One week you can win and the next week you can be 43rd."
The youngster was among a group of drivers who moved to the front of the field after getting out of sequence on fuel stops. He took the lead when Ryan Newman, trying to stay on track as long as possible with rain threatening, ran out of gas on Lap 264 in the event scheduled to go 301 laps.
Four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon moved into second and was steadily cutting into the lead as Logano, with a nearly empty gas tank, conserved as much fuel as possible. But the rain began falling three laps later.
The competitors ran six slow laps under caution before NASCAR put out a red flag in hopes of drying the track. But the rain began falling harder and the race was called after 273 laps.
"I was, like, 'The day just went bad, just try to finish it off and get as best finish we can,' and we made the right move at the end," Logano said.
The youngster gave most of the credit to crew chief Greg Zipadelli, who worked with Stewart throughout the 10 years he spent at JGR and stayed with the team when Stewart left to become an owner-driver.