Logano wins Pocono 400

Joey Logano celebrates with a burnout after reaching the finish line first.
Joey Logano celebrates with a burnout after reaching the finish line first. (   TODD WARSHAW / Getty Images)
Posted: June 12, 2012

LONG POND, Pa. - Nearly three years after a downpour produced Joey Logano's first career Sprint Cup win, NASCAR's one-time wunderkind got a chance to take the checkered flag "the right way" on Sunday at Pocono Raceway.

By utilizing a bump-and-run on leader Mark Martin in the third turn with a little more than four laps remaining in the Pocono 400, Logano regained the lead and pulled away from the field to take the checkered flag by several car-lengths (0.997 seconds).

After the two made contact in Turn 3 on Lap 156, Logano's No. 20 Toyota slid inside of Martin's No. 55 Camry at the start/finish line, then went ahead to stay with a gutsy dive through Turn 1.

"I knew my car was better than his," Logano said, tears welling in his eyes after he became Pocono's youngest winner at 22 years, 17 days.

"The brake package on this thing was awesome; I was able to outbreak guys going into Turn 1 all day," Logano explained. "Making sure I cleared [Martin] was very important, then to get through [Turn] 2 and put some distance between us was a remarkable feeling. It's a surreal moment."

When reminded of his initial win - in a rain-shortened New Hampshire race in June 2009 - Logano said, "It's just awesome to finally get to Victory Lane the right way."

Logano had shattered the track qualifying record (172.533 m.p.h.) with a 179.598-m.p.h. run Saturday, and along with leading for a career-high 48 laps, he became the first Sprint Cup pole-sitter to win in 31 races.

But ideal weather conditions and the speedway's superfast, recently repaved racing surface were not enough for Logano to lock up the track race record. Slowed by seven caution periods that covered 35 laps, the winner had an average speed of 131.004 m.p.h. - well short of the 145.384-m.p.h. standard that Jeff Gordon posted here last June.

By picking up his second victory in 125 starts, Logano also may have bought some job security with Joe Gibbs Racing.

To hush rumors of a shift to a lesser team, Logano had to beat one of his biggest boosters. Martin once referred to Logano as the greatest thing since sliced bread.

"I've always known since I saw him drive at 11 years old that he could be a Cup champion," Martin said. "He's kind of been in a stall in his career or in his progression in the Cup Series, but it looks like the last couple of weeks that maybe that's starting to turn."

Not that Martin was particularly happy with his seventh runner-up finish at Pocono - or how it happened.

"I'd call that a bump and run," Martin said of Logano's late-race maneuver. "It has been acceptable in racing for a long time, but it's not how I would have done it. Certainly, if I had a fast-enough car, he would have gotten a return" bump.

Logano and Martin led an all-out Toyota assault that included Denny Hamlin in fifth place and Clint Bowyer in sixth.

Tony Stewart finished a distant third in the No. 14 Chevrolet, and Jimmie Johnson battled back from a lap down to take fourth.

The bow-tie brigade's strong showing included Dale Earnhardt Jr. leading the second-most laps (36). But a late-race fuel stop set the No. 88 back in the field, and a valiant charge to the finish netted Junior only an eighth-place finish.

"We might have won the race or we might have run third" without pitting, Earnhardt said. "But it was the right call for us at this time. I ran out of gas here one year, and that pissed me off so bad that it was hard to recover from, mentally, for the next couple of weeks."

Earnhardt left Pocono in a much better frame of mind this time, and second in the driver standings - 10 points behind Matt Kenseth.

Kenseth was in the highest-finishing Ford, taking seventh, while Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle finished 24th to topple from first to third in the standings.

The Sprint Cup Series moves on to Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, with a return date to Pocono set for the Pennsylvania 400 on Aug. 5.

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