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Saturday, August 6, 2011
Updated: August 7, 12:00 PM ET
Hamlin needs it; does Logano have it?

By K. Lee Davis
ESPN.com

LONG POND, Pa. -- Random racing thoughts as a leaden sky hangs over Pocono Raceway.


Joey Logano won the pole for Sunday's Good Sam RV Insurance 500 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN) at Pocono with a lap of 172.055 mph that held up under the onslaught of 20 other drivers behind him. It was the second pole for Logano this season -- he scored the top spot at Sonoma -- and the third of his career.

"It surprised me," Logano told ESPN's Dave Burns on pit road. "Two poles this year at two places I've never really qualified well at … that was great."

So, is Logano breathing easier now that the Carl Edwards sweepstakes is over?

You may recall it was Logano supposedly on the hot seat if Edwards came over to join Joe Gibbs Racing. Speculation was Edwards would take the Home Depot sponsorship away from Logano's No. 20 car, leaving Logano and his program in limbo.

"It's in the back of your mind," Logano said. "Obviously, it's not in your mind when you're out there racing and you get in a race car. That is your time to just say, 'The heck with what everyone is saying.' You are just driving.

"That's nice, but when you're watching TV and you are seeing little things come up on the screen and this and that, it's like, how do you not think about that because it's right there in front of you? But, at the same time, it's like I said before, if your owners are behind you and saying it's all rumors, what do you have to worry about, really?"

So it looks like all is well between "Sliced Bread" and JGR, and if Saturday is any indication, he may make the most of it.


No other driver could use a good day at Pocono more than Logano's teammate, Denny Hamlin.

Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin knows he has a great chance to solidify his place in the Chase with a win at Pocono.

Hamlin, a four-time winner here, is 11th in the standings and has a win, so he's in the Chase … for now.

But he is on the feather edge over these next six races, and there wouldn't be a bigger disappointment this season than if Hamlin missed the Chase a year after he contended for the title all the way to the final race.

Is he looking at Pocono as a big opportunity to solidify his standing?

"Yeah, definitely," he said Friday. "We're in the spot now obviously where we feel like we would really like to have a second win to kind of lock ourselves in. We feel like it would be a safe assumption. But, we've got to get back to consistency as well, so it's a tough balance. Obviously, reliability has been a big issue with our stuff here lately so we're just trying to work through all of that and get it better."

Hamlin, whose lone 2011 win came at Michigan, will start sixth in the race.


There may be some things wrong with NASCAR -- let's be honest, when did we ever think there wasn't something we didn't like in this sport? -- but Pocono Raceway and its 500-mile races aren't part of any real problem.

Yes, many of you home viewers think the races are too long. Yes, many of you home viewers think there isn't enough side-by-side racing. But for the fans at the track, this place and its races are almost perfect.

You have to realize that what fans want to see on TV and what fans want to see when they are at the track is often two different things. When you pay hard-earned money to see a race, the longer, the better for most.

The folks who run this track, direct its traffic and operate its concession stands are friendly, helpful and among the best in the business. Ticket and food prices are such that a family can actually come here without missing a mortgage payment.

And as one track executive once told me, "I could not care less what the TV ratings are. I need people in seats."

And they have put people in seats here at Pocono year after year.

Dr. Joseph Mattioli, 86, made the surprise announcement Friday to step down from day-to-day operations, ending a nearly 40-year run of managing a track he and wife Rose started with $48 in their pockets. It now has an estimated worth in the $600 million range.

Joseph Mattioli
Joseph Mattioli opened Pocono Raceway in 1972 and has steadily improved it over the years, here sitting in front of the solar farm finished in 2010.

The Mattiolis have long been considered among the classiest people in NASCAR. Three of their grandchildren now will handle the bulk of the track's business, with grandson Brandon Igdalsky adding the CEO title to the track president one he already had.

As for the racing here and, for that matter, everywhere, Dale Earnhardt Jr. summed it up Friday when asked what could be done to make the racing better at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"Everything kind of evolves around what the show is like," he said. "I don't really know, even if we could race like hell, some races aren't just going to be as exciting as others. That's just the way it's going to be."

Yes, and that's the way it should be.

And so is Pocono.


Carl Edwards and team owner Jack Roush said Friday that Edwards re-signing with Roush Fenway Racing was not about money.

Roush and Edwards said it was about giving Edwards the best possible chance now and in the future to win a title.

Let me see if I have this straight. Edwards is first in the standings, has one win (and he also won the All-Star Race, which doesn't pay points) this season, so being competitive doesn't look like it was a real issue.

On the other hand, Edwards is practically the face of Ford in NASCAR and he's a sponsor's -- and team owner's -- dream.

Yeah, it was probably about the money … for all parties involved.


Tweet of the day

Our friend @jeff_gluck had this one-liner this morning:

In other news, the remainder of @TravisPastrana's 2011 #NASCAR season will be sponsored by Boost Immobile. (I kid, I kid.)

In case you missed it, Pastrana announced his Nationwide Series debut will be delayed until 2012 in the wake of his motorcycle accident at the X Games. His flop in the Best Trick competition left him with a broken right ankle and foot. He had surgery Wednesday and has to keep the ankle in a cast for a month and then keep it immobilized for another month.

Honorable mention for Tweet of the day goes to buddy @tomjensen100, who recommended "Tricky Triangle" as the drinking-game phrase during Pocono race broadcasts this weekend. Hope your drink of choice is a soft one, otherwise …


Don't forget about Racing Live! Pocono on ESPN.com starting at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday. We'll have the usual cast of characters (led by me) to dissect every aspect of the race, pop culture, the debt crisis and credit downgrade and the best food near your local track. And, yes, we will have our own drinking game.

K. Lee Davis is a motorsports editor for ESPN.com. He can be reached at kevin.davis@espn.com.