Sports

Teen phenom wins Ky. Speedway race

SPARTA — From the time he was 15, Joey Logano has carried with him the kind of pressure that would crush many an ordinary driver.

After just three weeks in the Nationwide Series, the 18-year-old has not only shown he can handle the expectations heaped upon him, but he's demonstrated why those hopes are so high.

In just his third career start in NASCAR's Nationwide Series, the phenomenon that is Logano justified all the admirable adjectives that have been used to describe him with a runaway triumph in Saturday's Meijer 300 presented by Oreo before a track-record crowd of 73,195 at Kentucky Speedway.

Scott Wimmer came across the line second, with Mike Wallace third.

With the victory, Logano becomes the youngest winner in the history of the Nationwide (formerly Busch) Series at 18 years, 21 days. The ebullient Connecticut native also becomes the third consecutive driver to earn his first career series win at Kentucky, following David Gilliland in 2006 and Stephen Leicht last season.

Few would ever predict such a quick ascension for any driver, but Logano's rapid rise isn't a shock to those paying attention to his burgeoning career.

When Logano was 15, NASCAR legend Mark Martin dubbed him ”the real deal.“

”Since I was about 14 I've been under the microscope so I'm kind of used to all of it,“ a still-beaming Logano said. ”But this is unbelievable, for sure. We didn't really unload tonight the way we wanted to. We were a little snug but we never gave up.

”I tell you, this team is freaking unbelievable.“

The same could be said for the driver.

After winning his second consecutive series pole earlier in the day, Logano spent much of the first 150 laps trying to reel in Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch — who led a race-high 85 laps.

On the restart on Lap 144 following a debris caution, Logano took the lead for good when he soared past Busch on the outside coming out of Turn 4 and opened up more than a half-second lead.

Eighteen laps later, Logano saw his top rival eliminated when Busch — who had the dominant car of the night — spun out and crashed in Turn 2 with 36 laps to go.

”We were loose and I just lost it,“ said Busch, who ended up 30th after controlling most of the race.

”It was unfortunate to see Kyle hit the fence but our car was strong enough we might have been able to hold him off,“ Logano added. ”Over the last 20 laps I was just praying it would stay green.“

Try as his competition might, Logano went virtually unchallenged over the final 30 laps, drawing off to a more than two-second lead over his rivals.

”This wasn't a surprise,“ said Steve Wallace, who earned his first top-five finish since 2006. ”(Logano) is a great young driver and everyone who has driven that No. 20 car this year has won.

”He is way more mature than his age. You look at what he's done and where he's raced. He didn't just pop out of nowhere.“

While he didn't have anything for Logano at the end, Wimmer's second-place run was a season-best for the team and marked his fourth top-five finish in five Kentucky starts.

”We've been struggling this year so this was a good turnaround for us,“ Wimmer said. ”(Logano) is in good equipment and when you're in good equipment you're going to run well. But we tried hard.“

Brad Keselowski, a first- time winner last week, finished fourth to move up to second in the points standings behind Clint Bowyer, who brought his car home in ninth.

While his outing was overshadowed by the adulation over Logano, rookie Bryan Clauson put in a terrific effort to finish fifth for his first top-five effort.

Logano has succeeded in every series he has touched, but some questioned whether he could make an immediate impact in NASCAR's premier leagues.

In his first race at Dover on May 31, one week after his 18th birthday, Logano answered that question by finishing sixth. One week later, he captured the pole at Nashville and led the race for 64 laps before spinning out en route to a 31st-place finish.

”Three starts, two poles, one win,“ Logano's crew chief David Rogers said with a grin. ”I think he's OK.“

MEIJER 300 RESULTS

Lap length: 1.5 miles

(Start position in parentheses)

1. (1) Joey Logano, Toyota, 200 laps, 195 points, $107,488.

2. (9) Scott Wimmer, Chevrolet, 200, 180, $67,668.

3. (16) Mike Wallace, Toyota, 200, 165, $52,243.

4. (13) Brad Keselowski, Chevrolet, 200, 160, $39,643.

5. (6) Bryan Clauson, Dodge, 200, 155, $36,043.

6. (3) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 200, 160, $33,368.

7. (26) David Ragan, Ford, 200, 146, $27,425.

8. (15) Mike Bliss, Chevrolet, 200, 142, $31,268.

9. (25) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 200, 138, $23,275.

10. (2) Jason Keller, Chevrolet, 200, 144, $31,393.

11. (8) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 200, 130, $28,693.

12. (4) David Stremme, Chevrolet, 200, 127, $28,168.

13. (14) David Reutimann, Toyota, 200, 134, $21,550.

14. (17) James Buescher, Toyota, 200, 121, $27,118.

15. (5) Brad Coleman, Ford, 200, 118, $27,643.

16. (10) Jason Leffler, Toyota, 200, 115, $26,668.

17. (24) Steve Wallace, Chevrolet, 199, 112, $26,543.

18. (12) Cale Gale, Chevrolet, 199, 109, $26,393.

19. (11) Kelly Bires, Ford, 199, 106, $26,268.

20. (30) Carl Edwards, Ford, 198, 103, $21,775.

21. (20) Bobby Hamilton Jr., Ford, 198, 100, $26,218.

22. (18) Mark Green, Chevrolet, 198, 97, $19,425.

23. (19) Josh Wise, Dodge, 198, 104, $26,143.

24. (31) Kevin Lepage, Chevrolet, 198, 91, $25,593.

25. (29) Stanton Barrett, Chevrolet, 198, 98, $19,175.

26. (34) D.J. Kennington, Dodge, 196, 85, $25,348.

27. (38) Brad Teague, Chevrolet, 189, 82, $18,750.

28. (41) Eric McClure, Chevrolet, 188, 79, $25,098.

29. (32) Kenny Wallace, Chevrolet, 169, 76, $24,963.

30. (7) Kyle Busch, Toyota, accident, 163, 93, $21,035.

31. (35) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, vibration, 97, 70, $24,743.

32. (23) Burney Lamar, Ford, electrical, 52, 67, $18,165.

33. (28) Andy Ponstein, Chevrolet, ignition, 41, 64, $18,055.

34. (43) Kenny Hendrick, Chevrolet, vibration, 31, 61, $17,945.

35. (36) Brian Keselowski, Dodge, handling, 31, 58, $17,835.

36. (37) Johnny Chapman, Chevrolet, rear end, 23, 55, $17,800.

37. (27) Kertus Davis, Chevrolet, vibration, 23, 52, $17,760.

38. (21) Justin Hobgood, Chevrolet, transmission, 19, 49, $17,705.

39. (39) Chase Miller, Dodge, accident, 11, 46, $24,138.

40. (40) Dwayne Leik, Chevrolet, electrical, 6, 43, $24,103.

41. (22) Larry Gunselman, Dodge, transmission, 5, 40, $17,575.

42. (33) Danny Efland, Chevrolet, handling, 0, 37, $17,540.

43. (42) Morgan Shepherd, Dodge, ignition, 0, 34, $17,481.

Race statistics

Average speed of race winner: 135.508 mph.

Time of race: 2 hours, 12 minutes, 50 seconds.

Margin of victory: 2.259 seconds.

Caution flags: Five for 25 laps.

Lead changes: 14 among eight drivers.

Lap leaders: J.Logano 1-17; J.Keller 18-39; Ky.Busch 40-53; J.Logano 54-56; M.Ambrose 57-61; J.Wise 62-68; D.Reutimann 69; S.Barrett 70; Ky.Busch 71-80; J.Logano 81; S.Wimmer 82-84; Ky.Busch 85-135; J.Logano 136; Ky.Busch 137-146; J.Logano 147-200.

Leaders summary: Joey Logano, 5 times for 76 laps, Kyle Busch, 4 times for 85 lpas, Jason Keller, 1 time for 22 laps, Kevin Lepage, 1 time for 7 laps, Marcos Ambrose, 1 time for 5 laps, Scott Wimmer, 1 time for 3 laps, David Reutimann, 1 time for 1 lap, Stanton Barrett, 1 time for 1 lap.

Point standings: 1. C.Bowyer 2,336. 2. Bra.Keselowski, 2,166. 3. D.Reutimann, 2,161. 4. C.Edwards, 2,111. 5. Ky.Busch, 2,093. 6. D.Ragan, 2,041. 7. M.Bliss, 2,041. 8. M.Wallace, 1,944. 9. D.Stremme, 1,916. 10. J.Leffler, 1,834.

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