NASCAR – Joey Logano is the Fastest of the Record Breakers and Takes the Pole in Pocono

Joey Logano set the pace that 36 other drivers after him could not break. Setting a new record at Pocono that has stood since 2004.

36 different drivers were fast enough to break the record for the fastest qualifying lap at Pocono yesterday afternoon.  Kasey Kahne held the previous record of 172.533 mph at the track back in 2004, but when the 10th driver out smashed the record by a full 7 miles an hour everyone stood up and took note.  Joey Logano was the man who did it, and then waited as 36 more drivers went out to beat his time. Even though he had just broken the qualifying record for the Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR, Joey felt as if he had left some speed out on the track when he slid it on some speedy dry through turn 1.

“The track was dirty,” Logano said. “When I went out there and got to that trouble spot, I got loose a little bit and didn’t get to the bottom as well as I wanted to. So I felt like I left a tenth and a half [of a second] or so right there, but I felt like I nailed [Turns] 2 and 3 pretty well.

“I was hoping it would be in the top five, and it ended up being good enough.

Carl Edwards will start in second on the outside of row 1

Carl Edwards will start on the outside of row one in second place.  He was asked about his feelings about the speed out there on the track.  The day had started overcast and cloudy and finished in the sunshine, and most thought that the speeds would have improved throughout the afternoon.  Edwards was at a loss for an explanation.

“I think it’s really hard to determine what makes this track faster right now,” Edwards said. “I don’t know if being a little warmer makes it faster. I thought, as we went on and that speedy-dry and the groove got cleaned off, that people would go a lot faster, so it’s a surprise to me.”

Paul Menard will be starting in the 3rd spot and the Joe Gibbs teammates of Logano round out the top 5 with Kyle Busch in 4th and Denny Hamlin in 5th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is having his best season in points in the past 10 years qualified in 8th after having the 3rd fastest car in first practice.  His speeds had fallen off in the second practice but when push came to shove he went out and left everything on the track with a speed of 177.939 MPH.

Tony Stewart sounded up beat about his chances despite a 22nd place qualifying effort.

Tony Stewart, NASCAR’s current reigning Sprint Cup Champion has had some troubles on the track after getting off to his best season start ever.  Winning 2 of the first 6 races Stewart has been inconsistent since then.  His results in practice had him sounding up beat despite his 22nd place qualifying effort.

“Yeah, not bad so far,” he said after his No. 14 Chevrolet was eighth of 44 race cars. “We didn’t do any qualifying runs [in testing Thursday], so I’m pretty happy with the way that the day started here. I think our race pace is fairly reasonable. We’re still trying to figure out things to do to keep it good for a long run. But for the most part, we’re pretty happy with it so far.”

 

NASCAR – Hamlin Takes the Pole For California – Knaus Still Penalized But Johnson’s Points Restored

Danny Hamlin captures the pole for the second time at Fontana and the 10th of his Career.

Denny Hamlin watched his teammates Joey Logano and Kyle Busch each take the provisional pole ahead of him, studied the line they took around the track, and opted to go his own way.  Watching his teammates and most of the field take the high line, he took the low line after thinking that the wind may cause him some speed loss.  Opting for the bottom line proved to be the best decision he could have made getting him around the 2 mile track in just 38.626 seconds (186.403 mph) to claim his second Coors Light pole award at Fontana and the 10th of his career.

“Everyone had a different way of doing it,” Hamlin said. “It seemed like there were some guys who were five lanes up and some who just worked their way down. We were one of the few cars that ran all the way on the bottom.”

“That’s where we practiced, and I didn’t want to change that. I’d done all my qualifying runs early in the day and practiced race runs on the bottom. Really, I think I would have been less efficient running the top, even though it might have been faster. My safest route was to take the bottom, and I just took what it gave us.”

Mark Martin will start 3rd on the grid after tying Kyle Busch in speed. The tie was decided by points position from the 2011 season.

Kyle Busch and Mark Martin tied for the next position with a speed of 185.534 mph, with Kyle Busch getting the advantage because of his higher points finish from the 2011 season.

“I’ve never run 1 and 2 up in the third lane like that,” Busch said. “I think Joey kind of started the trend there, and a lot of people picked up it and started running some really good times. And lo, and behold, one of the only guys that runs the bottom — Denny — beats you.”

Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne also tied for 4th spot  (185.510 mph) with Biffle getting the same advantage for points position from the 2011 season.

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Kevin harvick comes into Fontana as the defending champion at this track.  Sitting second in points and having finished 11th or better in the first 4 races, Harvick sees this as a chance to show that his team is also still able to contend for a Championship this year.

Crew Chief Shane Wilson plans to use this weekend to work out the kinks.

“We just have to work out some kinks,” crew chief Shane Wilson said. “You’re trying to perform at the highest level, so you’re always going to nitpick yourself and try to do it better than the 99 [car of Carl Edwards] or the 14 [car of Tony Stewart]. You’re always driving to be better. That never stops.”

Kevin Harvick hopes to turn his season around at Auto Club Speedway

“Our deal is, we’re not new together,” Wilson said. “We’ve raced together in the past, and we’re friends, and we work for the same company. It’s not like we’re coming in from a different company. You had meetings and know what the other people are thinking. I feel like that’s one of the reasons they did it, because there wasn’t going to be a long period like that. We’re more working on our notebook with Kevin … and getting used to a few little things with his car here. All in all, that’s already right where it needs to be.”

“That was our goal coming into the year, to get our car speed up,” Wilson said. “Calling the races and me and him working together is gong to come pretty quick, because me and him have worked together in the past. Him and Gil obviously had a good thing going, but we’ve done what we wanted to do so far as far as getting our cars faster, where we’re competitive and can race with the guys we’re going to need to at the end of the year. It’s a long season, but we’re still trying to accomplish that goal of getting our cars faster, and we feel like we’re hitting on it so far. We’ve got to keep it up.”

Harvick agrees.

“I think all the guys on the team would say we aren’t really crisp, I guess you would say, as far as the first four weeks,” Harvick said. “I haven’t done everything right from the driver’s seat. We’ve made some mistakes in all areas, I would say. Once we feel like we’re in a rhythm, and have all the bugs and kinks worked out of everything, I think it will be even better. The good thing about it is the speed has been in the car at every race track we’ve been to, and that’s really what we were looking for. Speed in the race cars. We can fix and tweak the small things outside of that. It’s been pretty comfortable so far, and hopefully we can keep it rolling and make it better every week.”

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Jimmie Johnson had his points penalty from the Daytona 500 reversed this week. Chad Knaus fine of $100 000 still remains but he will not be suspended from the pit box.

Jimmie Johnson breathed a huge sigh of relief this week when a NASCAR appointed arbitrator overturned some of the penalties levied after Crew Chief Chad Knaus was caught bringing illegal equipment to the track.  The C-Posts in question were removed from the car before the car was set to the templates and that has been the main reason for the appeal, and the reason which allowed for the overturning of the driver and owner points.

“I don’t feel vindicated, because I feel like everything should have been overturned,” Johnson said Friday. “I’m pleased that things went away, but I don’t feel vindicated.”

NASCAR however, feels that their process has still been vindicated with the fines issues to Knaus still remaining.

“When we chose John Middlebrook as our Chief Appellate Officer, we chose him based on our experiences with him for several years, and his pragmatic approach to business, and his relationships with race teams and with NASCAR,” Helton said. “The reasons that we chose the current Chief Appellate Officer haven’t changed. Our opinion and our belief in our Chief Appellate Officer haven’t changed.”

“I think the decision made this week upholds what’s right and wrong when it comes to the inspection process and the things of the car,” Helton said, “because there were elements of the penalty that were upheld relative to parts of the car that did not conform to the rules.”

“The elements of the penalty that were upheld indicate that the inspection process, or the inspectors, did their job correctly,” NASCAR president Mike Helton said Friday at Auto Club Speedway. “I think the debate over the decision this week was more about the decision after that point and how we reacted to it, and that’s as much a bureaucratic decision as it is a competition decision. So we believe very strongly in our inspection process, and are very proud of it, so the inspection process is status quo as we go forward.”

NASCAR – Toyota Sits 1,2,3 With Logano on The Pole

Joey Logano posing with a fan during the driver's intro parade at Texas Motorspeedway in April – Image courtesy of JDTImages.ca

Joey Logano is sitting pretty to start the race in Pocono tomorrow for the Good Sam RV Insurance 500.  Taking the lead mid way through the knock out qualifying round, Logano’s time of   52.309 seconds at a speed of 172.055 mph was good enough to hold off the rest of the 20 qualifiers who ran after he did.  This is Joey’s second pole of the season and the third of his career in Sprint Cup, all of that time with Joe Gibbs Racing.  With all the speculation this week around where Carl Edwards was going, I’m sure that Joey is glad to know he is secure now at JGR in the #20 car as Edwards re-signed with Roush, ending speculation that he would be leaving in favor of an offer from JGR and Toyota to run the #20 car in the 2012 season.

Kasey Kahne will once again start from the second spot on the grid in his #4 Red Bull Toyota followed by Martin Truex Jr. in the #56 Michael Waltrip Racing NAPA car lining Toyota up for a 1,2,3 start for tomorrow’s race.  Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch round out the rest of the top 5.

Carl Edwards – Image courtesy of JDTImages.ca

Speculation around Carl Edwards finally ended this week with the announcement that Carl will be staying with Roush Racing in the #99 Ford for the foreseeable future.

“I sincerely appreciate the amazing opportunity that Jack Roush has given me in this sport and am honored to race for him,” Edwards said. “As an organization, Roush Fenway provides the resources I need to win, and as a driver, that’s the most important thing. We’re having a fun season on the race track as we’re leading the points and in great position for the Chase. That’s the result of a lot of hard work from the men and women at Roush Fenway, Ford Motor Company and Roush Yates Engines. I really enjoy competing with this group and looking forward to continuing that relationship into the future.”

Jack Roush, owner of Roush Racing,  was equally excited in his announcement about Edwards remaining with his racing team.

“Carl Edwards has achieved a level of success on and off track that would put him at the top of the list for any race team,” said Roush. “Carl and the No. 99 team are having a terrific season again this year, and we’re thrilled that our relationship will continue for many more.”

“We saw great potential in Carl a decade ago, and it’s been a thrill to watch him grow into one of the sports’ premier drivers behind the wheel of the No. 99,” added Roush. “We didn’t take our past success for granted when we sat down with Carl to talk about his future. As an organization, we approach each week with an intense focus on being successful in the race to come. Carl’s position atop the points is a testament to that diligence.”

The other drama in the garage this weekend was all about Brad Kesolowski and his crash during testing at  Road Atlanta.  He was awake and alert and tweeting away shortly after the crash and had this to say in one of his tweets.

“Looks like I’ll be OK to race this weekend,” he tweeted. “Blue deuce, not so much. I’ll keep u posted.”

In a short meeting with the media Brad was able to expand on how he is feeling and what challenges he will face during the race at Pocono.

“Both feet are tore up pretty good,” Keselowski said. “But certainly I’m still able to do what I want to do. I’m not gonna get out (of the car) on Sunday — I don’t care how much it hurts me.”

“(The brace) makes my foot move as one with my leg, which makes it a lot easier,” Keselowski said. “But then again you can’t really use the ball of your foot to modulate the brake pedal, and getting through Turns 2 and 3 here really requires a lot of finesse with the brake pedal, so (the brace)  makes it a little more complicated.”

“You come to Pocono and Turn 1 is pretty fast,” Keselowski said. “I ran over something and cut down a left rear tire. Glad to bring the Blue Deuce, at least in one piece on the race track. Other than the tires, we’ve got no damage.”

“Drivers have been calling about getting into my car,” Keselowski said. “But I’m not getting out. This is our life. This is what I do. I drive race cars for a living. And the second someone else gets in there, you just got replaced.

“And you fight so hard to find your seat, your spot and your way in this sport, that you’re not going to let somebody else replace you.”

Brad Kesolowski sits 21st in points right now, only 12 points behind Juan Pablo Montoya, and is close enough to make a wild card spot in the chase if he can get himself back into the top 20.

Dale Earnhardt Jr qualified 19th behind Teammate Jimmie Johnson who sits in 18th.  Tony Stewart had a terrible qualifying run landing himself in 28th on the grid, 3 positions ahead of Jeff Gordon, the winner from the spring race this year at Pocono,  who also had a bad run landing himself in 31st.

NASCAR – Stewart Haas Team Finish The Way They Started, 1-2

Ryan Newman – Images courtesy of JDTImages.ca

Team owner Tony Stewart met Race Winner Ryan Newman in Victory Lane with the biggest smile we’ve seen on his face all season long.  Newman makes the 13th different driver to snag in win in the 19th race of the season, and with only 7 races to go before the chase it could not have happened at a better time for the driver of the #39 Army car.  With sponsorship once again on the line, putting a W in the win column will go a long way to re-securing this sponsor for next year as well.  The Army has supported the No. 39 car since the Stewart-Haas Racing organization debuted at Daytona in 2009.

While other teams were slowing down and conserving fuel to make it to the end, Newman and Stewart were running flat out giving the fans a race at the end of the Lennox Industrial Tools 301 in Loudon New Hampshire.  So what did Newman have to say to all the nay sayers who said he couldn’t back up his qualifying effort with a win?

“We backed up what everybody said we couldn’t back up, and that was our qualifying effort on Friday,” Newman said. “We put it on ‘em today. We don’t put it on ‘em every weekend, so we need to relish this moment and figure out what we did right so we can keep doing it.”

”This is huge for our team, even bigger for our organization,” Newman said. ”It puts us in a lot better position that’s for sure.”

Moving up one position from 9th to 8th Newman can breathe a little easier with only 7 races to go before the points get reset for the chase as he moves into a better position to be locked in to the top 10 at the end of the regular season.

But how did he feel with his boss breathing down his next for the final few laps of the race?

“I’d rather have Stewart behind me than anybody else,” Newman said. “I have a lot of respect for him. I know the way he races. If we were side by side coming to the checkered, we’d have smoke coming off the fenders . . . We’re not going to crash each other, but that’s the kind of guys we are.

“Looking in the mirror seeing that Mobil 1 Chevy was music in my ears. I know he’s going to respect me, respect our situation. It never came down to it, but I’m glad that it didn’t, but he was one I didn’t mind seeing in my mirror.”

Tony Stewart – Image courtesy of JDTImages.ca

Stewart was all smiles during the interview session after the race.  A smile that has been missing for much of the season as the team has had some really bad luck in 2011 so far.  Tied for 10th in points with Denny Hamlin, but marked as 11th since Denny has a win, Stewart also moved towards a better points finish and improved his chances for locking in a chase spot before seasons end.

”It’s no secret we’ve been struggling this year,” Stewart said. ”But it really shows me the depth of the people we got in our organization. It’s been one of the weirdest years as far as weird things and bad luck happening to both of us.”

“I think hindsight being 20/20, I don’t mind running second and having Ryan win the race versus us winning the race and him running out of fuel,” Stewart said. “This is a much more gratifying weekend for me.

“I was happy, period. I mean, you know when you’re in that situation as an organization; it can’t get any better than that. I can promise you, I didn’t leave anything out there. That was as hard as I could run till the end. I couldn’t get the rest of the way. I couldn’t get any further than that.”

“This was the perfect weekend to have Ryan on the pole and us on the front row and to sit here and get our first, first and second finish — it’s just an awesome day for Stewart-Haas Racing,” Stewart said. “These cars have been good, we just needed one weekend where we didn’t have something stupid go wrong and it happened for both of us.”

Stewart had special praise for his crew chief, Darian Grubb.

“They told him yesterday he’s got pneumonia,” Stewart said. “He’s battling through a weekend like this, never missed a beat on the box today.”

Denny Hamlin – Image courtesy of JDTImages.ca

Denny Hamlin finished 3rd and was wishing he had the fuel to run flat out like the 2 guys he was chasing.  After surviving some big issues of his own and recovering from a race low position of 31st, Hamlin has to ease back at the end to conserve fuel and finish the race before he ran out.

”As bad as I wanted to go up there and race those guys, I had to make the smart move and finish the race,” Hamlin said.

“We had to do some different kind of strategy to get the kind of day we wanted,” Hamlin said. “We fought for track position all day. We knew our car was good, but we had absolutely no track position. So we had to do what we had to do — and that was save fuel.

“It’s tough when you want to run a guy like  Ryan  down there at the end, but you’ve got your crew chief screaming at you that you’ve got to slow down and save fuel. I was doing it the whole last run, so I’d be interested to see how much [fuel] we have left. If we can see where we’re at with that, maybe next time I’m in a situation like that we can run a little bit harder.”

Joey Logano finished 4th, but it was Jimmie Johnson’s comments after his 5th place finish that made a lot of people see that there are some cracks in the armor of the defending 5 Time Consecutive Champion.

Jimmie Johnson – Image courtesy of JDTImages.ca

“We started off with a bad qualifying effort on Friday, and we paid the price for that on pit road and in track position at the start,” said Johnson. “Then with the 42 [car driven by Montoya], I don’t think the three times he’s wrecked me it’s been intentional. But he’s out of mulligans. I’ve had enough of, ‘Hey, I’m sorry you’re spun out.’ It’s happened way too often, so hopefully we can get that corrected.

“We just didn’t have speed. It was frustrating,” Johnson said. “We would run some good laps and from a fuel standpoint, the balance was good — but we were slow. And that’s the worst kind of deficit you can have. If there is a dramatic loose or tight condition, it’s easy. You just go to work.

“This started toward the end of the Chase last year. We’d run as hard as we could and just didn’t have the speed.  Well, you look at the result and there’s nothing to complain about there. We made up a lot of points on guys that were ahead of us [Sunday],” said Johnson,now sitting second in the point standings, seven behind Carl Edwards who has retaken the lead. “But if you look at the journey and plotted a chart of where we started to where we finished, that thing’s all over the place — and we can’t have that. I’m in harm’s way week in and week out, trying to get to the front.  And when it comes to the Chase, you need to dodge all those wild situations as often as possible. Qualifying poorly and having bad things happen that affect your track position are not the path to a championship.”