USAR: Valdosta: Race report

Logano Rebounds, Makes Statement Fifteen-year-old driver takes second Hooters Pro Cup win Cecil, GA-Joey Logano made just 38 laps in the season-opening Southern Division Hooters Pro Cup race before breaking a shock mount and crashing hard in...

Logano Rebounds, Makes Statement
Fifteen-year-old driver takes second Hooters Pro Cup win

Cecil, GA-Joey Logano made just 38 laps in the season-opening Southern Division Hooters Pro Cup race before breaking a shock mount and crashing hard in Turn 1 at USA (Fla.) Int'l Speedway on Feb. 25.

But in the second race of the season, Logano, driver of the No. 51 Joe Gibbs Performance Racing Oil Chevy, rebounded in a big way, leading a race- high 88 laps en route to victory in the South Georgia 250 presented by Astro Exterminating & Termidor at South Georgia Motorsports Park on Saturday, March 11.

Logano's win was his first in the Southern Division and second career Hooters Pro Cup win.

"I was bummed out last year that we only won one race really," said Logano, who broke Brian Vickers' record for being the youngest driver to win a Hooters Pro Cup Series race last season when he went to victory lane as a 15-year-old at Mansfield. "We had a lot better cars that we showed at some of those places last year. I made a few mistakes and the team made a few mistakes. I think we can be this good all year this year, and we proved it tonight."

Logano's win also made a bold statement to the rest of the Southern Division-and the entire series-as four Hooters Pro Cup champions were in the field that the 15-year-old driver bested at SGMP.

While Logano may not have had the best car of the 36 starters, he showed poise beyond his years, staying out of trouble and holding off Pro Cup veterans Shane Wallace and Benny Gordon during a green-white-checkered finish.

"I didn't want to see that last caution," said Logano, who won under similar circumstances at Mansfield. "I was like, 'You got to be kidding me.' But that same thing happened at Mansfield. It was weird, and this track is sort of like Mansfield, so it's a pretty cool deal."

Although it was a "pretty cool deal" for Logano, many drivers with legitimate shots at winning weren't so fortunate during the evening.

Clay Rogers, driver of the No. 44 Automotive Development Group Ford, was the class of the field early in the event. Rogers laid down a blistering lap in Advance Auto Parts Pole Qualifying and picked up his 15th career Pro Cup pole. Although Mardy Lindley, driver of the No. 03 Titan Industrial Ford, was able slip past Rogers on the opening lap, the 2004 Hooters Pro Cup Champion dogged Lindley for the top spot and eventually made his way past for the lead on Lap 42.

Rogers pulled away from the pack after taking over the point, building leads of up to 1.1 seconds over Lindley. A slew of cautions erased Rogers' lead on several occasions, but he was able to keep the field at bay from Lap 42 to 90. His night would go into a tailspin after that.

Most of the leaders decided to pit on Lap 91, but Rogers was late to commit to pit lane and forced his way into line, resulting in a tail-end-of-the- longest-line penalty on the restart. Rogers failed to adhere to the penalty, received the black flag and was issued a stop-and-go penalty. Six laps later, Rogers heeded the black flag, but he was scored six-laps down by the time he came to pit road, dropping him from contention.

Rogers, however, would still be a factor up front throughout the race.

Jody Lavender, driver of the No. 84 Lavender Racing Ford, elected to stay out during the pit cycle and assumed the lead before ducking on to pit road on Lap 115. Jeff Futlz, driver of the No. 54 C&C Boiler Sales and Service Pontiac, stayed out as well and took over the lead when Lavender pitted. But he, too, still needed to come to pit road.

Despite being on older tires, Fultz, the 2005 NASCAR Southeast Champion, managed to stay out front long enough to lead the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Lap and pick up an extra $1,000. But on Lap 137, Fultz was forced up the track by Rogers, allowing Shane Huffman slip past and take the lead.

Shane Huffman, driver of the No. 88 Champion/US NAVY/Snap-On Chevrolet, began to pull away from Logano, who was running second, over the next 20 laps, but a failed rear-end pinion on a restart sidelined the JR Motorsports driver on Lap 163.

"When I put it in high gear, I think the pinion broke," said Huffman. "I thought it was my night. Wes [Ward, crew chief] and all the guys gave me a good car, and we made some pretty big adjustments on the pit stop. After that, that car was a rocket. I could just play around then; it was awesome. I'm aggravated, but, if we keep bringing cars like this to the racetrack, we'll get our share of wins."

After Huffman's problems, Logano made his way out front for the first time on Lap 164, but he had a mirror full of Mardy Lindley. During the ensuing green-flag run, Logano distanced himself from Lindley as the laps clicked off.

But during a restart on Lap 203, Logano, like Fultz, had his preferred line taken by Rogers, who made up another lap. Lindley followed Rogers past Logano on Lap 204.

Undeterred, Logano patiently tracked down Lindley and made the winning pass on Lap 212.

"Clay Rogers obviously had the fastest car at that time, and he was right underneath me," said Logano. "When he got by, Lindley stuck his nose in there and got by me. That was alright, because I figured I had the fastest car of all the guys on the lead lap. I knew I was good on long runs, and I was able to drive back by him."

Shane Wallace, driver of the No. 38 Shane Wallace Motorsports Ford, finished .673 seconds behind Logano at the finish, but his second top-five finish in a row pushed him into first in the Southern Division points.

Chase Pistone, driver of the No. 83 Speed Vue Window Tearoffs Ford, finished fourth, and Shelby Howard, driver of the No. 20n Tony Stewart's Original Bar-B-Que Sauce and Salsa, rounded out the top five.

The South Georgia 250 presented by Astro Exterminating & Termidor was slowed 17 times for 107 laps of caution and featured eight lead changes among six drivers.

South Georgia 250 Notebook

Theory of Two

Last year, Joey Logano's first win came in his second start in the Northern Division. After switching to the Southern Division this season, Logano won the South Georgia 250 in just his second start in the Southern Division. Coincidental or Destiny? Well, if you throw in the fact that both of his wins came on the 11th of the month, it seems destiny was calling. Perhaps, Logano will work on the "Theory of Three" at Montgomery.

Attention Overrated?

Shane Wallace has yet to celebrate in victory lane, but he's enjoying the under-the-radar start to his season. In two races, Wallace has been a fixture in the top five, finishing fifth at USA Int'l Speedway and second at SGMP.

"I'll take a season of top-five finishes," said Wallace, who took over the points lead with his second-place finish at SGMP. "Our car was a little loose in the beginning, but Darrin Shaw and all the boys on the crew got that thing tightened up. We were a little too tight at the end. That's alright, though. We don't have scratch on the car, and we'll load it up and go to Montgomery."

Chasin' It

Chase Pistone's new cars are still being worked on, but his older ride seems to be able to get the job done. Pistone, driver of the No. 83 Speed Vue Window Tearoffs Ford, finished 12th at USA Int'l Speedway to start the season and finished fourth at SGMP.

"This car is not bad," said Pistone. "We lack a little in chassis and engine, but it drove good tonight. I'm real excited about our run tonight. Maybe, we can go to Montgomery and get us a win."

First Time Fultz

If you don't know who Jeff Fultz is, then you've likely been living under a rock for the past 10 years. Fultz is the all-time winner in the NASCAR Southeast Series and was making his first start in Pro Cup at SGMP. The Troutman, N.C., driver started 22nd, but he used an out-of-sequence strategy to get out front at the race's midpoint before finishing 10th.

"We stayed out to see what the car would do out front," said Fultz, driver of the No. 54 C&C Boiler Sales & Service Pontiac. "The car was better out front, but the problem was that we still had to come in. We had probably had a sixth-place car. We're still learning, and our car was super tight. We wanted to get out of here with the car in one piece, and I've only got a little scratch on it. There was a lot of beating and banging going on, but it's a really fun series."

I Can't Lie

Mardy Lindley and Jody Lavender were locked in a dogfight for second place late in the South Georgia 250 when Lavender got into the back of Lindley, sending the Greenville, S.C., driver for a spin. Most times, drivers would have opposite views of an incident, but that wasn't the case at SGMP.

"He wasn't even under me," said an ill-tempered Lindley. "He squared me up and spun me out."

What was Lavender's response?

"My side of the story is probably the same as his," said Lavender. "I spun him out. I didn't mean to, nothing intentional, but it cost me a chance at winning. I had the best car at the end. I got impatient and lost the nose of the car. I knew I was going to get penalized as soon as it happened, but I take full responsibility."

Lavender finished 14th, while Lindley fell to 17th at the finish.

Miller Lite Nite

Rookie Trevor Bayne was the highest-finishing rookie in the South Georgia 250 and took home and extra $1,000 from Miller Lite. The Tennessee youngster stayed out of trouble and came home sixth.

"It's awesome," said Bayne, driver of the No. 29 McDonalds Ford. "Everybody drove me clean tonight. We had to come from 18th position to get here. Wade Day, my crew chief, made some good calls to get us up front. It was just an awesome night."

No Whammies!

While no one driver claimed all the bonus bucks at SGMP, there was plenty of it distributed.

Clay Rogers received $1,000 for winning the Advance Auto Parts Pole Award; Jeff Fultz took home $1,000 for being the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader; Trevor Bayne pocketed $1,000 for being the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race; Mike Herman Jr. took home the Aaron's Hard Charger Award and an extra $500; and Joey Logano added $500 to his purse for being the Greased Lightning "Super Strength Performer" for leading a race-high 88 laps.

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Tony Stewart , Clay Rogers , Trevor Bayne , Shelby Howard , Jeff Fultz , Brian Vickers , Jody Lavender , Shane Huffman , Joey Logano