Longano forced to bow out after blow out
BY TINA AKOURIS firstname.lastname@example.org September 15, 2013 11:10PM
JOLIET, IL - SEPTEMBER 15: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, stands next to his car in the garage area after leaving the race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 15, 2013 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Updated: October 17, 2013 6:29AM
Joey Logano was poised to shake things up at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet Sunday.
Logano came into the GEICO 400 on the heels of a NASCAR scandal that engulfed his Penske Racing team — it was alleged that Logano’s team had suspicious radio chatter with Dave Gilliland’s of Front Row Racing during last week’s race at Richmond— and resulted in it being put on probation until Dec. 31.
As a way of moving on, Logano turned out the fastest qualifying time Friday afternoon and got the pole for the first race in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
And at 23 years old, Logano is the youngest member of this year’s Chase.
Logano was in the lead at the 175-lap mark, and having waited out a five-hour and 10-minute rain delay Logano may have driven his No. 22 Ford Fusion a bit too hard. He blew a piston with about 90 laps to go and headed straight to the garage.
“(The problem) is somewhere in the valve train,” Logano said. “It’s a bummer for this Shell/Pennzoil team. We took four tires after the rain delay and then we took two in the next cautions.”
But the rain may have caused more problems for the drivers than just an inconvenience in their schedules.
Logano said the temperature dropped when the race restarted and the cars were able to go faster, creating more horsepower.
“It was a lot of RPM’s,” Logano said. “I don’t think I will be the last one to blow up today.”
And he wasn’t. Dale Earnhardt Jr. blew an engine at the 227-lap mark, and Brian Vickers also had an engine go out shortly after the rain delay.
“We lost an engine,” Vickers said. “The motor just started to tighten up on the backstretch and we lost it.”
After Friday’s announcement that Penske was on probation — and that Jeff Gordon was being added to the Chase as the 13th driver — Logano and his Penske teammate Brad Keselowski seemed to have more to prove.
The pair started the GEICO 400 1-2 on the grid and Logano led for the first 32 laps before the delay.
Since NASCAR awarded Chicagoland Speedway with the first Chase race starting in the 2011 season, the winner in Joliet has gone on to win the championship. Tony Stewart did so in 2011 and Keselowski won in 2012.
With Keselowski out of the Chase this year, Logano was poised to put Penske Racing back on top in Joliet. Logano had a good feeling going into Sunday’s race after finishing second to Kyle Busch in Saturday’s Dollar General 300 Nationwide race.
“There was nothing we could have done differently,” Logano said. “We can’t let this take us down. Its 10 races and you can’t have these issues for a run at a championship. The bummer part is that this is one (race) we thought we could capitalize on.
“We had a really fast racecar ... these things happen.”