The Times West Virginian

Sports

August 19, 2013

Logano holds off Harvick for Michigan win

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Joey Logano gave Ford a Sprint Cup sweep in Michigan — and enabled team owner Roger Penske to celebrate a victory in his home state.

Now Logano can start to envision a happy finish to what has been an eventful season for the 23-year-old driver.

“We’re close, we’re close,” Logano said. “What a great place to win — what a great time to win, being in Ford’s backyard.”

Logano boosted his chances of reaching the Chase for the Sprint Cup, winning for the first time this season in a fuel-mileage race at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday.

Logano and Kevin Harvick both breezed past Mark Martin with just over three laps to go in the 400-mile, 200-lap race. Martin had been trying to stretch fuel, but when he faltered, Logano was able to hold off Harvick.

The win put Logano in 13th place in the standings. He’s seven points behind Martin Truex Jr. for the second wild card.

It’s been an up-and-down year for Logano. He and teammate Brad Keselowski were docked 25 points each after NASCAR inspectors confiscated parts from the rear suspensions of their cars before the April 13 race at Texas.

More recently, Logano has had to recover from back-to-back 40th-place showings at Daytona and Loudon, but he’s now right in the middle of a wild race for the final Chase spots.

“A roller coaster, to say the least,” Logano said. “We’ve just got to keep that momentum going. It just goes to show, as long as nothing goes wrong — knock on wood — we’ve been pretty good. We’ve had some good speed in our cars.”

Everything went pretty much according to plan at Michigan. Logano won the pole Friday and took Sunday’s race by a second over Harvick, who is safely in fourth place in the standings.

“I was very pleased with the day,” Harvick said. “It’s just going to come down to getting on a hot streak over 10 weeks and not making any mistakes.”

There are three races left before the Chase, and the jockeying for the final spots is just as muddled as it was before Sunday’s race. Keselowski, the defending champion, is still in eighth place with 667 points, but Kurt Busch is now only two points behind him after a third-place showing Sunday.

Greg Biffle (663) is in 10th place. Kasey Kahne (659) and Truex (653) are currently in line to be the wild cards, but Logano closed a lot of ground.

Points leader Jimmie Johnson lasted less than 60 laps Sunday before engine trouble knocked him out. He still has a 41-point lead over Clint Bowyer.

Biffle finished ninth after winning the previous two Cup races at Michigan. His victory in June was the 1,000th for Ford Motor Company across NASCAR’s three national series — Cup, Nationwide and Truck.

Biffle drives for Roush Fenway Racing. This time, it was Penske’s turn to celebrate.

“I go back about 30 years here at the track — this is probably one of the biggest wins,” Penske said. “I say it’s my home state, it’s my home track, and Detroit’s my city.”

It was the third Cup win of Logano’s career, and it came after he posted the ninth-fastest pole-winning speed in NASCAR history during Friday’s qualifying.

Johnson, Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were among the big names to have problems, but the race was a clean one for Logano in his No. 22 Ford. He was battling Kurt Busch for the lead at the very start and needed only to outlast Harvick at the end.

Sunday’s race began with 10 of the first 17 laps under caution. There were nine cautions in all, and Logano and Kurt Busch led for 94 of the 200 laps — nearly half the race.

The 54-year-old Martin emerged late, making a bid for his first Cup win since 2009, but his fuel didn’t hold up. He finished 27th.

“We saved a bunch of gas but we needed one more yellow,” Martin said. “One more yellow and we would have been in good shape.”

Johnson finished 40th and is now winless in 24 Cup starts at MIS. His lost weekend began when a practice crash Saturday forced him to use a backup car and start in the back of the field. He quickly made his way into contention before the engine problem ended his day.

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