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.”

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Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.