Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Sports

Joey Logano edges out Mark Martin, wins Sprint Cup Pocono 400

LONG POND, Pa. — Joey Logano stood on top of the No. 20 high-fiving everyone he could reach in Victory Lane. Beverages were sprayed, fists were pumped and throaty shouts of celebration could be heard well down the 2½-mile track. It's what winning a Sprint Cup race is all about.

It's what Logano has waited years to truly experience. Not rain nor Mark Martin would deny him this feeling at the Pocono 400.

Logano gave Martin a nudge out of the way in the closing laps Sunday at Pocono Raceway to clinch his first victory since 2009 and become the first Cup driver this season to win from the pole.

The former prodigy and the grizzled veteran pushing hard down the stretch was a duel to remember at Pocono.

"I didn't stop screaming until I got to Victory Lane," Logano said. "You work so hard to do this."

This one felt like the first time for Logano after his only other career win in 125 Cup starts was a rain-shortened victory at New Hampshire. Wins count the same in the record book. But they sure do feel different.

"When you cross the line and you've won the race, to me, it's an amazing feeling," said Logano, who posted the fastest practice time Friday and took the pole Saturday.

Logano, once a much-hyped phenom when he broke in with Joe Gibbs Racing, was under pressure to produce victories in the final year of his four-year contract.

Sunday's win continues a recent uptick of solid results in the Cup series, and he hoped this victory sends a message to his critics.

"I hope it shuts them all up," he said. "It means a whole lot."

He shoved aside one of his earliest supporters to take the checkered flag. Martin saw Logano race at 11 years old and raved about his potential as future Cup champion. In 2005, Martin said Logano "can be one of the greatest that ever raced in NASCAR."

Logano signed a developmental deal with JGR and made his NASCAR national level debut at 18 in the Nationwide Series. He had the one victory and never finished higher than 16th in the standings in three full Cup seasons. He's 15th this year and has no deal with JGR for next season.

"Obviously, winning a race means a lot and it helps that out a ton," Logano said. "For sure, right now, my future's not set with anybody."

Pocono shortened the race by 100 miles and got a thrilling finish. Logano, 22, led a career-high 49 laps to become the youngest winner at Pocono.

The 53-year-old Martin, looking for his first win since 2009, took the lead with eight laps left. Logano, though, bumped Martin and zipped past with three laps remaining.

"It has been acceptable in this racing for a long time," Martin said. "It's not how I would have done it. Certainly, had I had a fast enough car, he would have gotten a return."

Tony Stewart was third, Jimmie Johnson fourth and Denny Hamlin fifth.

Matt Kenseth finished seventh and wrested the points lead from Greg Biffle, who finished 24th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a dominant car most of the race but finished eighth to run his winless streak to 143 races.

He led 36 laps and was positioned well until crew chief Steve Letarte made a call for a late pit stop for gas instead of trying to stretch the fuel.

"The best car I've had at Pocono in a long, long time," said Earnhardt, who supported the call. "I'm just really trying not to be too upset about it because we did a lot of good things."

. FAST FACTS

Sprint Cup points

Through 14 of 36 races. The top 10 drivers plus two wild cards (based on wins) after 26 races make the Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Matt Kenseth 523—

D. Earnhardt Jr. 513 10

Greg Biffle 507 16

Denny Hamlin 504 19

Jimmie Johnson 493 30

Kevin Harvick 470 53

Martin Truex 465 58

Tony Stewart 448 75

Clint Bowyer 443 80

Brad Keselowski 426 97

Note: Unofficial; NASCAR posts official results today

Gearhead stats

Winner's average speed: 131.004 mph

Time of race: 3 hours, 3 minutes, 12 seconds

Margin of victory: 0.997 seconds

Caution flags: 7 for 35 laps

Lead changes: 19 among 10 drivers

Lap leaders: J.Logano 1-16; J.McMurray 17-22; D.Hamlin 23-31; McMurray 32; D.Earnhardt Jr. 33-43; M.Kenseth 44; G.Biffle 45-46; D.Ragan 47; Hamlin 48-59; Earnhardt Jr. 60-67; McMurray 68-74; Biffle 75-91; Kenseth 92-101; Logano 102-103; J.Montoya 104-106; D.Gilliland 107-108; Earnhardt Jr. 109-125; Logano 126-152; M.Martin 153-156; Logano 157-160

. FAST FACTS

Sprint Cup points

Through 14 of 36 races. The top 10 drivers plus two wild cards (based on wins) after 26 races make the Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Matt Kenseth 523—

D. Earnhardt Jr. 513 10

Greg Biffle 507 16

Denny Hamlin 504 19

Jimmie Johnson 493 30

Kevin Harvick 470 53

Martin Truex 465 58

Tony Stewart 448 75

Clint Bowyer 443 80

Brad Keselowski 426 97

Note: Unofficial; NASCAR posts official results today

Gearhead stats

Winner's average speed: xxx.xxx mph

Time of race: x hours, xx minutes, xx seconds

Margin of victory: x.xxx seconds

Caution flags: x for xx laps

Lead changes: xx among xx drivers

Lap leaders: J

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