Zipadelli gambles on rain to give Logano home win
Sometimes, the sun shines even though it's raining.
Ask young Joey Logano. A late-race rainstorm stopped the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 after 273 of the scheduled 301 laps, giving Logano his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.
The 19-year-old rookie, who turned 19 on May 24, was probably the only happy driver when NASCAR announced the race official, but veterans of the sport would quickly tell the youngster to enjoy his win because "there's no telling how long it might be before he wins another one."
Crew chief Greg Zipadelli, Logano's mentor and crew chief on the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota, a veteran of this sport's tremendous emotional peaks and valleys, probably told his rosy-cheeked driver, "You take em any way you can get 'em, kid."
Even though Logano never challenged any of the race leaders, he raced his way back into contention after a blown tire and an untimely pit stop put him a lap down.
He eventually was the "Lucky Dog," which put him back on the lead lap and in position to gamble on fuel mileage as reports of impending rain rolled through the pit area like tumbleweeds.
Actually, Logano's car was the last in a group of cars who rolled the dice on fuel. Ryan Newman was the leader with some 50 laps to go but had to pit.
Bobby Labonte had a turn out front before his thirsty Ask.com Ford asked for fuel.
Logano's victory makes him the youngest driver ever to win a Sprint Cup race. That in itself came as no surprise to fans at this one-mile oval a couple hours from Boston. This track is Logano's "home" track since he grew up not too far from here in Middletown, Conn.
He has been pegged as the "next" Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson with his past success in other NASCAR series. He won the championship in the developmental Camping World East Series in 2007 and moved to the Nationwide Series last year, where he has won three times.
He has struggled at times this season but has also shown signs of tremendous potential. Sunday's win was a windfall of luck, which follows the wind and the rain from time to time.
They were followed by David Reutimann, Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Sam Hornish Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne.
Casey Mears was 11th and Juan Pablo Montoya was 12th, just ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Mark Martin.
An overcast New England sky cast an ominous shadow over the 43-car starting field for Sunday's race. The crowd of over 100,000 had the same thoughts as the drivers... would the New England weather allow the race to be run? As the field took the green flag, they were racing against another green, the rainy green of weather radar that lurked off the coast as a potential threat.
Gordon jumped out front early for the lead and then the older Busch Brother, Kurt, took the top spot. Greg Biffle passed Gordon for second, and Johnson was fourth. They were followed by Newman, Carl Edwards, Stewart, Montoya, the younger Busch brother, Kyle, and Reutimann.
Patrick Carpentier hit the retaining wall in turn two at lap 15 to bring out the first caution of the afternoon. Busch maintained the lead on the restart at lap 19. Two laps later, Jamie McMurray lost control between turns two and three and slammed the outside retaining wall. Gordon was ahead on the restart at lap 25 this time around.
They made just three laps this time before AJ Allmendinger spun in turn three. It was the third caution period in just a few laps, but the laps that were run were dandies.
Under NASCAR's new double-file, shootout-style restart procedure, Gordon, Busch, Biffle, Montoya and others were two-abreast around the track.
Gordon still led when the race resumed at lap 31, but Busch quickly went back out front.
NASCAR added a competition caution at lap 47 to allow the teams to check tire wear. A hard rain Saturday night washed away the rubber put down during several preliminary races.
On the restart at lap 50, Johnson took the lead for the first time with teammate Gordon next and young Busch third, then brother Kurt, Martin, Biffle, Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Matt Kenseth.
Another caution slowed the field when Michael Waltrip was turned by Scott Speed at lap 59.
Johnson led on the restart at lap 64. He moved ahead of teammate Gordon by about one second, but at this point in the race, he certainly appeared to be the dominant car.
Another caution fell at the halfway point of the race, 151 laps completed of the 301 to be run, and a few drops of rain showed up on windshields. Johnson had led to this point, but both Gordon and Kurt Busch took two tires to beat Johnson back on the track while he took four tires.
The race started again on lap 157 with Gordon in front. He was followed by Busch, Johnson, Stewart, Earnhardt, Kyle Busch, Truex, Edwards, Martin and Reutimann.
* Denotes Rookie
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