USAR: Lakeland III: Joey Logano race report

Joey Logano Shakes Bad Luck In Return To Pro Cup Victory Lane 16-Year-Old Builds Momentum for Championship Series with Second Win of the Season MOORESVILLE, NC (September 4, 2006) -- Week in and week out during the 2006 season, Joey Logano...

Joey Logano Shakes Bad Luck In Return To Pro Cup Victory Lane

16-Year-Old Builds Momentum for Championship Series with Second Win of the Season

MOORESVILLE, NC (September 4, 2006) -- Week in and week out during the 2006 season, Joey Logano and the Joe Gibbs Racing Oil #51 USAR Hooters Pro Cup Southern Division team have one of the fastest machines on the racetrack at any given race. Logano won a race early in the season at South Georgia Motorsports Park, putting the entire racing world on notice that the 16-year-old Joe Gibbs Racing Development Driver was a serious threat not only for wins at each race, but also the points championship.

Each week, Logano backed it up. He went out and qualified well and raced inside the top-five time and time again. Luck just did not stay on the young driver's side, however. It seemed like Logano just could not catch a break that would keep him in position for the strong finish that he was headed for.

Saturday night at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, FL, everything came together for Logano. He once again was fast in both practice and qualifying, but this time everything worked in the favor of the #51 team, allowing Logano to cruise to his second victory of the season and his third overall Pro Cup victory.

"It feels awesome," said Logano. "I'll tell you what, we needed this more than anything. We've been struggling. We've had fast cars, but we've had bad luck. We've been running good every week, but we'd get caught up in wrecks or something. There have been four or five races that we could've won this year. We've won one, but this one was really needed by our whole team. It was nice to get one, that's for sure."

Just to get the win after a series of bad luck in recent races was good for Logano and the #51 team, but to take the checkers in the final Southern Division race of the season before the series title battle, the Championship Series, which pits the top Pro Cup Southern Division drivers against their rivals in the Northern Division, means Logano is filled with plenty of momentum headed into the first Championship Series battle at the new Iowa Speedway in two weeks.

"This gives us quite a bit of motivation going into the Championship Series. The whole team needed this to get our morale back up. We know we can win pretty much every race we go to. We've had pretty much the fastest thing out there at every race, but something would happen. We know we can win them, and we proved that we could do it at Lakeland."

No one doubted Logano's ability to win, but a wide array of circumstances kept him out of victory lane for much of the season. Logano would have no such problems on Saturday, but the thoughts of some bad luck creeping up on him still were fresh in his mind as he pulled away from the Pro Cup field after taking the lead with just 24 laps to go.

"When I heard there were 10 laps to go, I just said, 'please don't let there be a caution.' Every time I'm looking like I'm going to win a race, we get a caution or a green-white-checkered finish and something goes wrong. I'm just glad there wasn't a caution. Our car took a while to get going on restarts, so I'm just glad that there wasn't a caution."

Logano showed that he was going to have a strong car from the time the #51 hit the racetrack on Saturday. He qualified fourth and, through a little different pit strategy than the leaders, found himself having to work a little bit harder to get back up to the front as the race went along. Even as he passed cars using the tricky outside groove at Lakeland, Logano knew he had a good car, but he was not sure if he had quite enough to take down the victory.

"I didn't think I had a car that was anywhere near a winning car. The beginning of the race we were just cruising around. I think everyone was at that point, though. The leaders eventually pitted and we stayed out. When we did come down, I thought maybe staying out before was the wrong decision. When we came back on the track, we were at the back of the pack and all the lapped cars and everyone else was up ahead of me. I thought, 'oh man, here we go again.' Turns out we made the right decision after all. We just started picking off spots from there.

"I was surprised I was able to go up to the outside and be good out there. It probably wasn't the smartest thing to do, but it definitely worked for us. Everyone was running the bottom and were balanced out. I just went to the outside and passed them all. Whatever it takes, you know? The car was really good on long runs and that long run that we had at the end of the race really helped us. I kept picking them off one by one and checked out; once I got out front, I just checked out."

Logano's win secured fifth place in the Southern Division's final point standings. The overall Pro Cup Championship will be decided at the end of the six-race Championship Series that starts on Friday, September 15th, at Iowa.

credit: joeyloganoracing.com.

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Joey Logano
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing