Logano To Kentucky With Consecutive Wins, Chip On Shoulder
Joey Logano (#20 GameStop Toyota) doesn’t give the impression that he’s a tough guy. He’s 20 years old with a tall, lean, wiry build. He has a big smile and laughs a lot. But don’t let that description fool you. He’s plenty tough, especially when it comes to racing. And especially when it comes to racing at Kentucky Speedway. Logano is the only driver to have multiple NASCAR Nationwide Series wins at the1.5-mile track. He claimed his first NASCAR national series win at Kentucky — from the pole — in 2008. That victory, in only his third start, also made him the youngest winner in series history. He’s got a series-best 137.3 Driver Rating at Kentucky. Last year, he successfully defended that victory, again from the pole. Needless to say, he was a happy guy. Coming into Saturday night’s Meijer 300, however, Logano may have more edge than candor. And that could be bad news for his fellow competitors. Logano’s NASCAR Sprint Cup outing at Pocono Raceway last Sunday resulted in a post-race display not yet seen from the native of Middletown, Conn. Following a late-race incident with Kevin Harvick that took him out of a probable top-five finish, Logano charged to confront Harvick on pit road. He was very animated during his verbal joust with the two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and current NASCAR Sprint Cup standings leader. That’s not the only chip on his shoulder. Despite leading the series with three poles, along with five top fives (including two runner-up finishes) and eight top 10s, Logano has yet to win this season. Harvick, who won the inaugural series race at Kentucky in 2001, isn’t entered in Saturday’s event.
Kentucky: Home Of Young Drivers, Veteran Results
The annual rite of summer known as ‘stand-alone season’ is a chance for NASCAR Nationwide Series only regulars and new names to make their moves in the standings and marks as drivers. And if last week’s results at Nashville Superspeedway were any indication, Saturday night’s race could keep alive Kentucky Speedway’s reputation for producing new winners. The young winners at Kentucky from 2006-08, respectively, all earned their first career NASCAR national series victories: David Gilliland (age 30 at the time of his win), Stephen Leicht (20) and Joey Logano (18). Now, other youngsters like Brad Coleman (#18 Sandvick Toyota), 22, Tayler Malsam (#10 Braun Racing Toyota), 21, and Coleman Pressley (#88 Rightway GPS Chevy), 21, have their shots. They’ve all stepped in solid rides with Joe Gibbs Racing, Braun Racing and JR Motorsports, respectively. Coleman – who finished a close second to Leicht at Kentucky in 2007 – was sixth at Nashville while Malsam (in his series debut) was 11th and Pressley,12th. That finish was Pressley’s career-best result. There are others who may also be primed for a breakout run at Kentucky. Justin Allgaier (#12 Verizon Wireless Dodge), 24, won the Coors Light pole last week at Nashville and led 58 laps, his career best. He’s the lone series-only regular with a win (Bristol Motor Speedway) and a pole this year. He placed fifth in this race last season, and also has nine combined starts in ARCA and Camping World Truck Series races at Kentucky. He has three top fives and four top 10s among those results. Michael Annett (#15 Pilot Travel Centers Toyota), 23, has finished in the top 10 in each of the three races he’s run at Kentucky, in three different series. He was seventh in the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series race, second in the 2008 NASCAR Camping World Truck race and ninth that year in an ARCA event held at the track. Scott Lagasse Jr. (#43 Baker Curb Racing Ford) won an ASA race in 2004 in the closest margin of victory in track history (.014 seconds), and was fourth in the same 2008 ARCA race in which Annett ran.
Could Kentucky Prove To Be A Winner For Wimmer?
Waste not, want not. Statistically, that’s been Scott Wimmer’s (#27 Red Man Moist Snuff Ford) 2010 motto. Wimmer has taken advantage of the few opportunities he’s been given this year. He’s been in four NASCAR Nationwide Series races this season, and has excelled in each of them. Two starts came in the #7 JR Motorsports Chevy, at Bristol and the first Nashville race. Both were top-10 runs. The last two came in the #27 Ford, at Talladega Superspeedway and last week at Nashville. Neither finishes were in the top 10, but both could have been. At Talladega, he finished 12th and led a lap. At Nashville, his finish was nowhere near indicative of his performance. He placed 21st, but had an Average Running Position of 13.9 and his Driver Rating of 80.8 was tied for 15th-best. Overall this season, Wimmer has a Driver Rating of 89.4, an Average Running Position of 12.1, 41 Laps Led, 21 Fastest Laps Run, a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 69.3% and a Pass Differential (passes minus times passed) of plus-71. He gets a fifth opportunity this week, again in the #27 Ford for Baker Curb Racing. If history is any guide, he’ll nab his third top 10 – and maybe even his first top five – of the season. Wimmer has finished in the top five in four of his last five Kentucky races. He was the runner-up there in 2008, scoring an impressive Driver Rating of 117.3, an Average Running Position of 5.2 and running all 200 laps among the top 15. Last season at Kentucky, Wimmer finished 16th, and improved throughout. He started 30th, by midway was 18th, and with 20 to go, was 17th. That was in the #40 Key Motorsports Chevy. Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005 (a span of three Kentucky races for Wimmer), he has a Driver Rating of 96.6, an Average Running Position of 11.5, 12 Fastest Laps Run and a Pass Differential of plus-25.
Can Bliss “Punish” His Kentucky Opposition Like His Boss?
When Mike Bliss makes his second start of the season in the # 33 Kevin Harvick Inc.Chevy at Kentucky in place of team co-owner Kevin Harvick, it marks the start of a new chapter in the relationship between Harvick and Bliss at the track. Bliss finished fifth last week at Nashville in his first race in Harvick’s #33. But the first time he drove one of Harvick’s cars, the outcome wasn’t as positive. During the 2001 season, when Harvick was doing his first round of fulltime double duty for Richard Childress Racing, Bliss was his backup and substitute driver while Harvick traveled between Pocono and Kentucky. But during practice at Kentucky, the usually solid Bliss wrecked Harvick’s primary car, forcing the team to a backup. When then-crew chief Todd Berrier told Harvick he’d be driving a backup, Harvick put on his best “What? Me worry?” stance and told Berrier he was going to ‘punish’ the opposition. And punish he did. With no practice in the backup car, Harvick qualified 11th, and went on to lead 131 of 200 laps, winning the inaugural race. The #2 RCR team renamed chassis #008 “The Punisher” following the win. “The Punisher” won eight races with Harvick behind the wheel before an accident at Phoenix International Raceway in 2002 totaled the car, putting it out of commission. Bliss’ first (2003) and most recent (2008) NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Kentucky weren’t his best, with finishes of 31st and 28th, respectively, due to accidents. But in the three races in between, his average finish was 6.6. In 2002, Bliss won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Kentucky.
Logano Longs To Play Spoiler Again In Kentucky’s “Dash 4 Cash” Race
The race at Kentucky presents the second in a stretch of three consecutive stand-alone races for the NASCAR Nationwide Series. It’s also the second of four “Dash 4 Cash” races sponsored by Nationwide Insurance, where fullt ime, part-time and limit e d –schedule series-olydrivers along with full-time double-duty drivers can pocket an extra $25,000 with a win.Joey Logano is the only driver in the field who’s ineligible since he’s not running full-time this year. He played spoiler with his win last year.Kevin Harvick won the season’s first “Dash 4 Cash” race in April at Nashville. Harvick was eligible for the $25,000 bonus since he had run in every NASCAR Nationwide Series event until that point. If Logano pulls off his third consecutive win at Kentucky, the pot rolls over to $50,000 at the next “Dash 4 Cash” event, July 31, at Iowa Speedway. Texas Motor Speedway (Nov. 6) also is among the bonus tracks. After the first round of stand-alone season — last week’s Nashville-Pocono schedule — the three fulltime, double-duty drivers showed no effects from the back-and-forth travel. Brad Keselowski (#22 Discount Tire Dodge) won at Nashville, followed by Carl Edwards (# 60 FanHouse.com Ford) in second and Paul Menard (Certain Teed Windows/Menard’s Ford), who was third. That result was the best for Menard since a third-place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2006. Keselowski also added to his standings lead. And with reigning series champion Kyle Busch out of the fulltime, double-duty picture, Edwards was able to jump one spot to third. But Keselowski still is 277 points ahead of Edwards, who won at Kentucky in 2005. That was Edwards’ best showing to date in the Bluegrass State. In the last four races, the 2007 series champion’s average finish is 27.3. Keselowski, meanwhile, has an average finish of 3.5 in his two races there. As expected, the overall standings juggled somewhat after the first stand-alone race. Jason Leffler (#38 Great Clips Toyota) and Steve Wallace (#66 5-Hour Energy Toyota) were the biggest movers. Leffler jumped from ninth to seventh while Wallace moved from 12th to ninth.
The race for 10th remains tight with just 66 points separating 10th from 15th.
NNS Etc.: Kentucky Edition
► Ickler Replaces Stenhouse Jr.
Roush Fenway Racing has made a second change among its young drivers this season.Brian Ickler, who signed with RFR in May and competed in the last two races in the #16 Ford in place of Colin Braun, now will step into the #6 Ford. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had driven that car in 12 of the season’s first 13 races. However, he failed to qualify at Nashville. After his most recent two-week hiatus, Braun returns to the # 16 Con-way Ford at Kentucky while Ickler moves into his second different car, albeit with the same team in his last three outings. Braun also stood back to watch at Richmond International Raceway and Darlington Raceway as Matt Kenseth drove the #16. “Colin and Ricky are young guys who don’t have a lot of experience,” said team owner Jack Roush. “They’ve had more wrecks and problems that were self-induced due to lack of experience. “We’re going to see a better result from both of those guys in the second half of the year than we did in the first half. I can guarantee you.” Stenhouse will be at Kentucky, however, serving as the substitute driver for Paul Menard. Neither Menard or Carl Edwards are expected to make the trip to Kentucky from Michigan International Speedway on Friday evening for practice. Erik Darnell will sub for Edwards. Other substitutes are Parker Kligerman for Brad Keselowski and Matt DiBenedetto, who will stand by for Joey Logano.
Manufacturers’ standings leader Toyota’s largest production facility outside of Japan, Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Kentucky, is based in Georgetown, Ky. The production facility opened in 1986. More than 6,500 employees produce various Toyota models, with an annual capacity of 500,000 vehicles and 500,000 engines. More than five million Camrys, the manufacturer’s NASCAR model, have been built in the U.S. since production began at the plant.
► Raybestos Rookie Standings
Driver Team Points
1. Brian Scott* Braun 138
2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. RFR 114
3. James Buescher N/A 97
4. Colin Braun RFR 85
5. Parker Kligerman SPR 26
*Nationwide Insurance’s “Driver of theWeek” at Kentucky
►Up Next: Road America
The NASCAR Nationwide Series will make its debut at Road America on Saturday, June 19. ESPN2 will carry the Bucyrus 200 presented by Menards beginning at 3 p.m. ET; race coverage starts at 3:30 p.m. ET. This will be the first of three road courses on the series’ schedule this year, and the first time the series has run on three road courses in the same season since 2007. While Road America is new to the NASCAR Nationwide Series, it’s not the first time NASCAR has raced there. On Aug. 12, 1956, Tim Flock won the only other NASCAR national series race, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, at the then one-year-old track. In 2001, current fulltime double-duty driver and Eau Claire, Wis. native Paul Menard won in the former NASCAR Re/Max Challenge Series.
Next Race: Meijer 300 presented by Ritz
The Place: Kentucky Speedway (1.5-mile oval)
The Date: Saturday, June 12
The Time: 8 p.m. ET
The Distance: 300 miles/200 laps
TV: ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio
2009 Winner: Joey Logano
2009 Pole Winner: Joey Logano
Schedule prior to race day (times ET): Friday: Practice, 5-6:15 p.m.; 6:45-8 p.m. Saturday: Qualifying, 4:05 p.m.