Saturday, July 2, 2011

Logano Escapes Turn 4 Melee To Win At Daytona

Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR

By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

(July 1, 2011)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—Joey Logano didn't lead Friday night's Subway Jalapeno 250 until the final half mile, but that was all the 21-year-old driver of the No. 20 Toyota needed to notch his first victory at Daytona International Speedway.

As the action in Turn 4 on the final lap unfolded behind him, Logano surged into the lead and held off a charge from Jason Leffler to win his first Nationwide Series race of the season and the ninth of his career.

Logano took the checkered flag as many of the cars that had led into the final turn—including those of Danica Patrick, Aric Almirola, Tony Stewart and Elliott Sadler—wrecked behind him.

Leffler ran second followed by series points leader Reed Sorenson, who also claimed a $100,000 prize as the highest finisher among four drivers eligible for Nationwide's Dash 4 Cash program.

Kyle Busch came home fourth, Justin Allgaier fifth and Michael Annett sixth. Kenny Wallace skated through the infield grass and took the checkered flag in seventh position, ahead of the wrecked cars of Sadler, Almirola and Patrick, which slid across the finish line in positions 7-10, respectively.

Logano got a push from Busch to hold off Leffler as the cars approached the stripe. He finished .040 seconds ahead of the runner-up.

"Any time we've hooked up like that we've been pretty successful," Logano said of his pairing with Busch, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate. "Usually, I'm the guy that's finished second—unfortunately—but this time I am the winner, so I'm pretty pumped up about that. This is a huge win for me for a lot of reasons."

Struggles in the Sprint Cup Series and whispers that his job might be in jeopardy haven't escaped Logano's notice, but he has tried to keep those concerns in the background.

"Those aren't things that make the car go faster," Logano said in explaining why he can't afford to worry about them.

The lead-lap cars made their final pit stops under caution for Clint Bowyer's hard Lap 80 crash into the backstretch wall off the bumper of teammate/owner Kevin Harvick. Patrick and Almirola were dicing with Sadler and Stewart for the lead positions when caution flew for the sixth time on Lap 90.

On a Lap 94 restart, Sadler led Stewart, Patrick and Almirola to the green flag. Patrick was in the mix to the end, but after getting separated from Almirola briefly on Lap 99 of 100, she dropped back before trying to work her way through traffic with Almirola pushing. The JR Motorsports tandem got a run to the outside through the final two corners but tangled with Mike Wallace and Sadler off the last turn.

Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

"Very small holes that I was taking," Patrick said of the last-lap run. "That's pretty much what I saw. Man, it looked like Mike Wallace was a like fish out of water there at the end … it was just a cluster."
Note: After a hard crash in Turn 1 on Lap 44, Eric McClure, driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet, was taken to the infield care center, then to a local hospital for further evaluation. McClure had walked away from the wreck.

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