2014 Sprint Cup championship preview: Joey Logano

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Driver: Joey Logano
Age: 24
Full-time seasons in Sprint Cup: six
Career starts: 218
Career wins: 8
Career top-5 finishes: 43
Career top-10 finishes: 82
Pole positions: 8

* 2014 record to date: 35 starts, five wins, 16 top-five and 22 top-10 finishes. One pole. Laps led: 993. Average start per race: 9.8. Average finish per race: 11.2. Lead lap finishes: 29.

* Highest single-season finish to date: Eighth, 2013

* Season finishes to date: 2008 (41st), 2009 (20th), 2010 (16th), 2011 (24th), 2012 (17th), 2013 (eighth).

* Homestead Record: 5 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 1 top-10, 1 pole. Best career finish: Eighth in 2013. Average start: 18.0. Average finish: 20.8.

* Year-by-year finishes at Homestead: 2009 (24th), 2010 (39th), 2011 (19th), 2012 (14th), 2013 (eighth).

Will “Sliced Bread” make mincemeat of his other three championship challengers?

This hasn’t just been Joey Logano’s breakout season, it’s also been a coming of age season for the 24-year-old Connecticut native.

With five of his eight career to-date wins coming in 2014, Logano has lived up to all the expectations and predictions made about him by numerous drivers over the years, including Mark Martin and Randy LaJoie, who nicknamed Logano “Sliced Bread” – as in the best thing to come along since sliced bread.

With teammate Brad Keselowski being eliminated from advancement to the Chase final round this past Sunday at Phoenix, Logano has the title hopes of the entire Penske Racing organization riding on his shoulders heading to Homestead.

Will he be able to handle the pressure, as well as the expectations from his organization?

No problem, says Logano, who is feeling more than confident.

“It is exactly how you would think it feels – it’s the accumulation of a whole season of hard work,” he said. “This No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford team has been strong all year, and I think we deserve to be in the final four competing for this Championship.

“I think it would have been a shame not to race for the title after the year we have had. Thankfully, we were able to make it through the Chase and make it to the final round. All of the teams in the Chase will say the same thing, but we deserve it.

“This team has worked its butt off all year long. We’ve been through a lot and we’ve come a long way to get where we are. (Crew chief) Todd (Gordon) has led this team, and we are all very close. This is the type of team you win Championships with.”

One thing not exactly in Logano’s favor is his past history at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In five starts on the 1.5-mile track, Logano has just one top-10 finish (eighth, last season) and one other top-15 finish (14th in 2012).

He’s completed just 92.4 percent (1,234) of the 1,335 total laps he’s completed in contested in his five career starts at Homestead.

And perhaps the biggest key stat of all: His average starting position there is 18.0, and his average finishing position is worse at 20.8. He also has one DNF at HMS.

At the same time, two of Logano’s five wins this season have come on 1.5-mile tracks (Texas in spring, Kansas in fall). He also has four other top-five finishes on 1.5-milers.

That bodes well for Sunday’s race.

When asked to size up his competition, here’s what Logano had to say:

“I think they are all going to be strong. You don’t make it to this position without being strong. Kevin (Harvick), of course, has been strong all year long. They’ve led a lot of laps, and they’ve been strong at almost every single track.

“Denny (Hamlin) and that team have been coming on lately, and they’ve been strong in the Chase. And he won last year at Homestead, and that’s probably one of his better tracks.

“And Ryan (Newman) is consistent. Sometimes you just don’t think about him and there he is running fourth or fifth in the race out of nowhere.

“All of the teams are strong, but I think the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil team is just as strong, if not stronger, than all of them. I think we have as good of a shot as anyone, and I’d put my money on me. It will be fun to watch as a fan, for sure.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)