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NASCAR Fontana Nationwide Race Postscript

by Dave Grayson
Monday, October 12, 2009

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Joey Logano on Saturday

That age old revenge theory certainly applied to Joey Logano last Saturday afternoon. The 19 year old NASCAR phenom stood in victory lane at the Auto Club Speedway, with his famous toothy grin, after winning the Copart 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. It marked Logano's second, consecutive, series win.

But this victory was not free from drama. In fact Logano had to overcome a very frustrating day that had him wondering if he could even salvage a top ten finish out of this race.

The drama unfolded early during the Copart 300 when contact from Greg Biffle's Roush Fenway Racing Ford sent Logano's Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota bouncing off of the wall. The damage to the Toyota's right front fender created a handling nightmare and the early race leader started falling backwards through the field.

Normally this type of on track contact would simply be considered a bad luck racing deal. However, in this particular case, there was a rather eyebrow raising comment overheard from Biffle's in car radio system that indicated the contact was an act of retaliation from last week's series race at Kansas where Biffle claimed his fender was smashed by Logano.

Prior to the contact MRN, the Motor Racing Network, caught Biffle on the air saying "I hope the #20 has casters on it because I'm going to fence him."

Dave Rogers, Logano's crew chief, was livid and couldn't believe that Biffle announced his plan to ram his driver and car. During a caution flag period MRN interviewed Rogers who said "It's a shame that we have to race with cowards at this level."

Rogers and company turned their focus to improving the handling on their car to an effort to savage some sort of decent finish. During the course of two pit stops the team found the handle on their car again and that allowed Logano to charge his way back into the top five.

But there was still more Copart 300 drama to come. On lap 141 there was some hard three wide racing between race leader, and Logano's team mate, Denny Hamlin along with Brad Keselowski and Biffle. The result was the Hamlin lost traction and crashed hard. That set up a green white checker finish. Logano, now back in the race lead, made quick work of running out those final laps.

Once in victory lane Logano began the process of celebrating the race win as well as a clear cut case of sweet revenge. "This is the coolest race of my life," he said adding "no doubt in my mind this was awesome. I got to the point where I said I was going to just try to salvage a top ten out of it. All of sudden I was in third, then all of a sudden I was in first. I couldn't believe we got a victory out of this thing. After we got put into the fence, which almost ruined our day, we fought back on a track like this and that was really cool. That hit really hurt my car a lot but I think this,(the win), was the best way to get him back. It was frustrating. I get mad in the race car sometimes but I've never been that mad in my life. You don't want to get me mad, It just makes me driver harder."

After the race Biffle, who finished 14th, said "I was getting a side draft off of him on the backstretch and it got a little tight back there. I don't think he liked me squeezing him as much as he did. I think it was a combination of me side drafting him and him moving down a little bit. I don't know what his issue was. He smashed my left front fender last week in Kansas and I fell back during the rest of that race. I'm not sure what his issue is."

Surprisingly, the Copart 300 drama still wasn't over. When Biffle brought his car down pit road he was met by Tom Logano, the race winner's father, who presented him with a one finger salute. Before the incident could escalate any further, a NASCAR official escorted Logano away from the scene.

NASCAR officials pulled Logano's hard card. This card is issued annually to key members of race teams and provides unfettered access to all track activities throughout the entire season. The action doesn't mean that Tom Logano has been banned from future races. But he'll have to fill out credential papers at future events on a race to race basis which is reported to be quite extensive. NASCAR did allow Logano access to the pits on Sunday to watch his son race in the Sprint Cup event.

It's understandable that the elder Logano would be angry at Biffle. It involves a philosophy used by parents and grand parents all over the world that says: "mess with me if you must, mess with my children and there's going to be a big problem."

But one has to wonder where the Joe Gibbs Racing public relations were as this pit road confrontation unfolded. During the previous Sprint Cup race at Dover Tom Logano, after watching his son roll his car multiple times in a spectacular crash, was standing by to do a live television interview. A Gibbs Racing public relations rep pulled up in a golf cart and told Logano not to do the interview because "it was inappropriate." The rep, the dad and the golf cart sped away.

Where was this Gibbs Racing rep and that high speed golf cart last Saturday afternoon?

In the aftermath NASCAR officials said they were going to look into the radio transmission that started this all. In total fairness it needs to be pointed out that last Monday Biffle, on the Speed Channel's "This Week In NASCAR" program, said "I probably ran him higher than I should have and I apologize for that." Biffle also said that he called Tom Logano and apologized to him on Sunday morning.

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