Keeping Pace

Logano shooting for back-to-back wins at Kentucky

Joey Logano takes time to sign autographs for fans between the two Nationwide Series practices at Kentucky Speedway. (Photo Credit: Dak Dillon for NASCAR)  (The Spokesman-Review)
Joey Logano takes time to sign autographs for fans between the two Nationwide Series practices at Kentucky Speedway. (Photo Credit: Dak Dillon for NASCAR) (The Spokesman-Review)

Certainly, Joey Logano is capable of becoming the first driver to win back-to-back Nationwide races at Kentucky. He's driving Joe Gibbs Racing's formidable No. 20 Toyota, a car that dominated the series with multiple drivers last year, and he's far more experienced at the top levels of NASCAR.

By Tim Tuttle and Bill Marx
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

Can Joey Logano deliver an encore performance Saturday in the Meijer 300 at Kentucky Speedway, where he became the youngest driver to win a Nationwide Series race last year?

Certainly, Logano is capable of becoming the first driver to win back-to-back Nationwide races at Kentucky. He's driving Joe Gibbs Racing's formidable No. 20 Toyota, a car that dominated the series with multiple drivers last year, and he's far more experienced at the top levels of NASCAR.

Logano's victory a year ago was achieved in his third Nationwide start, 21 days after reaching NASCAR's minimum age of 18 to race in a national series. Since then, he has competed in 27 Nationwide and 17 Sprint Cup races.

"I feel like me as a driver compared to last year, I feel like I'm a lot better, so everything is kind of adding up," Logano said. "Everything is getting better."

Logano added his second Nationwide win in April at Nashville Superspeedway. He's not running the full schedule and skipped last week's second Nashville stop, but he's still fifth in the points with six top fives in 11 starts out of the 13 races.

"Our GameStop Toyota is running really good this year," Logano said. "(At Dover) obviously we got the pole by almost three-tenths of a second, so it goes to show (crew chief) Dave Rogers and the whole gang are still on the A game, doing great."

Logano finished second at Dover in his most recent race. He ran into leader and teammate Kyle Busch during a green-white-checkered finish, spinning out Busch and allowing Brad Keselowski to drive past and take the victory. Logano recovered to finish second. Busch finished 17th and stormed out of the No. 18 Toyota without comment. It later came out that Busch had a right-front tire down.

"That (tire issue) made me feel a little bit better, but I was still bummed out we didn't win the race," Logano said. "I went through an emotional roller coaster after that race. I was about to win the thing and then bummed out, thinking you wrecked your teammate."

Busch won his fourth race of the season last week at Nashville. He's the points leader, 65 in front of Carl Edwards.

Logano and Busch had a stirring duel at Kentucky last year. Busch led a race-high 85 laps but was trying to regain the lead from Logano with 37 laps to go and spun into the Turn 2 wall. Logano started from the pole and led 76 laps, including the final 54.

"That win at Kentucky was one of the biggest things, if not the biggest thing, that's happened in my career to keep it going (upward)," Logano said. "That's kind of what got me into the Cup ride that I'm in now."

Three to watch

Mike Bliss, No. 1: Bliss has three top 10s in four starts at Kentucky, including eighth last year in the James Finch's No. 1 Chevrolet. His other two top 10s were with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2004 and Fitz Motorsports in 2007.

Stephen Leicht, No. 29: Driving for Yates Racing, Leicht won this race in 2007 for his only NASCAR win. In his other start at Kentucky, he finished 10th in 2006. This year he is driving for Richard Childress Racing.

Carl Edwards, No. 60: Edwards won this race as a Nationwide rookie in 2005 but has had poor finishes since: 36th, 33rd (despite leading a race-high 96 laps) and 20th.

Track chatter

Stephen Leicht: "Personally, I have more confidence going there. Once you've won a race, especially when you win somewhere you like, a few things come back to you. I remember the line I used and how my car was driving there at the time. You use that as an advantage. Kentucky is one of my favorite racetracks because you can race the bottom or three grooves up. As long as there are cars running everywhere, you can race anywhere you want."

Brad Keselowski: "I don't look at these stand-alone weekends any different than I would a companion weekend. There is a lot of talent in the field every time we go to the track, regardless of what weekend it is. The one thing that we do have over the Cup drivers who go back and forth is track time. We get that three hours of practice time on Friday, which could go a long way in leveling the playing field a bit for those guys who are only racing in the Nationwide Series."




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Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.





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