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Rookie Logano, 18, finishes last at Daytona

Mon., Feb. 16, 2009, midnight

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Joey Logano wasn’t trying to make history. The 18-year-old budding NASCAR star just wanted to get through his first Daytona 500 in one piece.

Instead, Logano ended up learning one more painful lesson in a week full of them.

Logano wrecked his No. 20 Toyota on lap 80 on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway after getting tangled up with Scott Speed and Clint Bowyer, sending Logano sliding into the inside wall and last place in the 43-car field.

The rookie, nicknamed “Sliced Bread” because of his precocious talent, started ninth but spent most of the day running a little off the pace, simply trying to get some experience and earn his peers’ respect.

Logano refused to blame Speed for starting the accident but could not hide his disappointment.

“I don’t think I should say what I’m feeling inside. I’m not happy, that’s for sure,” Logano said. “We were just getting going. And we got a couple pit stops under our belt, started coming to the front a little bit and made a few more adjustments.”

He’ll have to make one more: learning how to bounce back from adversity.

“This place takes awhile to figure out,” said Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs. “He’ll be fine. The frustrating thing was, and we just talked about it, ‘Finish it, just finish it.’ That’s all he was trying to do, and a lot of stuff happens around here out of your control.”

The crash ended a roller coaster week for the rookie. He finished second in the ARCA race last Saturday, wrecked early in the exhibition Budweiser Shootout later that day, hit the wall during practice Wednesday, then came back to finish fourth in a 150-mile qualifying race the next day. But he had to step aside during practice Friday as teammate Kyle Busch got in and helped fine-tune his car.

“I think the big thing is we tried to get as many laps as we could here all week,” Joe Gibbs said. “Hopefully that all pays off in the long run.”

JGR has brought along young drivers before, and J.D. Gibbs is hardly worried about Logano’s ability to bounce back.

“We went through it with Denny (Hamlin), we went through it kind of with Tony (Stewart),” J.D. Gibbs said. “It’s a lot for anybody. I don’t care if you’re 50 or 18, if you’re new to it, this place takes awhile. He did a good job learning. It’s going to be a learning curve for him period, and we just want to get the foundation built.”

Hendrick struggles again

NASCAR’s super team didn’t exactly get off to a super start. Again.

None of Hendrick Motorsport’s drivers – Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin — was a major factor at Daytona for the second straight year.

No Hendrick car placed in the top 10, with Gordon’s 13th-place the best of the bunch.

Martin faded from the outside pole to 16th, Earnhardt was 27th and three-time defending series champion Johnson was 31st.

It wasn’t exactly the performance expected out of NASCAR’s highest-profile team.

Backup boys

Who needs a good qualifying run? Some of the seven drivers sent to the rear of the field at the start of the race after deciding to go to backup cars for the 500 hardly seemed bothered by the demotion.

Winner Matt Kenseth and second-place finisher Kevin Harvick had little trouble picking their way through the field.

Kenseth abandoned the car he used in Thursday’s qualifying run in favor of one that handled better. It certainly seemed that way when he zipped to the front with a couple of laps to go in the rain-shortened race.

Tony Stewart finished eighth in a backup car he was forced to go to after colliding with Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Ryan Newman during practice Saturday.

Newman, the defending champion, ended a miserable week with a 36th-place finish.

John Andretti (19th), Sam Hornish Jr. (32nd) and Speed (35th) struggled to keep up in their backups.

Pole-sitter falters

Pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. dropped to the track apron on the pace lap. Maybe that should have been a sign of things to come.

Although Truex fixed his pre-race problem, he never proved to be a factor in the Daytona 500. He was in the middle of the pack much of the day but took advantage of a nine-car crash late to move up a few spots. Truex finished 11th and extended the Daytona 500 pole-sitter’s streak to nine years without winning the race.

“We did not handle well in the beginning,” Truex said. “We adjusted on it, and it came to life once the sun went down. … It’s not a top-10, but to come out of Daytona in one piece is just as good.”

The last pole-sitter to win the 500 was Dale Jarrett in 2000. The pole-sitter hasn’t finished higher than fifth since.

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