Logano, three others trying to squeeze in two races

Joey Logano, who won last year at Pocono, volunteered to drive for Penske Racing in Iowa on Saturday. AP
Joey Logano, who won last year at Pocono, volunteered to drive for Penske Racing in Iowa on Saturday. AP
Posted: June 08, 2013

Three states and just shy of 1,000 miles separate Iowa Speedway from Pocono Raceway. Most NASCAR drivers this weekend will choose to race at just one: the Nationwide race in Iowa or the Party in the Poconos 400 Sprint Cup race at Pocono.

But Joey Logano, Joe Nemechek, and two others plan to race in both states with a turnaround of just hours. It's a grueling haul that will require several flights as the drivers try to practice, qualify, and race at each track.

For example, Logano initially planned to start Friday at Pocono for practice and qualifying before flying to Iowa later in the day for a practice. But rain forced the cancellation of all activities Friday, including qualifying and practice at Pocono. On Saturday, he'll be back at Pocono for more practice before flying to Iowa for qualifying and the race and then race Sunday at Pocono.

"Does this race, going to Iowa, make perfect sense to run? No, it doesn't," Logano said with a laugh as the rain fell Friday. "I'm not going to lie about that."

Logano won last year at Pocono, but his team, Penske Racing, also needed a driver for its No. 22 car in Iowa this year. Logano volunteered.

Nemechek's situation is different. Nemechek owns NEMCO Motorsports, a significantly smaller operation than Penske. Nemechek can use all the races and exposure he can get, and he has pulled the double circuit in the past.

"We've been trying to keep our Nationwide team going along with our Cup team," Nemechek said. "We pick up very limited sponsorship, and we're trying to keep the car locked in the points. You just go on and on down the list, but it keeps getting harder and harder every year to do it."

Nemechek and his team were still solidifying the logistics of the weekend as late as Thursday. Unlike Penske, which can shuttle Logano on its own planes, Nemechek had to rely on sponsor Herbal Mist teas to arrange transportation. As a result, Nemechek had driver Kevin Lepage practice his car at Iowa on Friday while he remained at Pocono for qualifying there.

NASCAR typically holds its Nationwide and Sprint Cup races at the same track each weekend, but there are a few exceptions. Nemechek and several others made hauls between Iowa and Pocono last year.

Landon Cassill and J.J. Yeley are the other two drivers entered in both races this year.

The rain at Pocono increased the uncertainty of the weekend plans as drivers waited out the delay. The cancellation of qualifying means owner points will determine starting position, so Jimmie Johnson will automatically sit on the pole for the 400-mile race.

The timing of each race leaves little time for sleep. Saturday's race in Iowa starts at 8 p.m. and Sunday's race starts at 1 p.m. Last year, Nemechek said, his team landed in Pocono Sunday morning at 1 or 2 a.m.

"You're tired on Sunday. That's no question," Nemechek said.

Contact Zach Helfand at zhelfand@philly.com. Follow on Twitter @zhelfand.

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