Logano wins pole at Pocono
Joey Logano heard the rumors at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Carl Edwards, the biggest free agent in NASCAR, was being pursued to sign a lucrative deal with JGR. And if Edwards signed, he’d poach Logano’s ride in the No. 20 Toyota and the coveted Home Depot sponsorship.
Logano couldn’t do anything about the negotiations. All he could do was drive.
Edwards stayed with Roush Fenway Racing, and Logano appears secure in his car.
Pushed by the public contract talks, Logano responded with his best finishes of the season and kept rolling at Pocono Raceway, turning a lap of 172.055 mph Saturday to win his second pole of the year. The 21-year-old driver became the youngest pole winner at Pocono. It was his third career pole in Sprint Cup.
Logano said he never talked to owner Joe Gibbs or team president J.D. Gibbs about his future at JGR, one of the top organizations in NASCAR.
”As far as I knew they, were just rumors,” Logano said. ”What am I really going to ask him?
Logano was once the hottest prospect in the sport, but has had mostly mixed reviews in his still-blossoming career. He opened this season with a mediocre Daytona 500 — he finished 23rd — and an engine failure the next week at Phoenix dropped Logano to 29th in the points standings. He rallied and had top-six finishes in three of four races entering last weekend’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He finished 25th and is 19th in the standings.
”There’s been a lot of rumors around our team lately, but, at the same time, I don’t know if everyone realizes how good we’ve been lately,” Logano said.
Kasey Kahne joins him on the front row for Sunday’s race. Martin Truex Jr., Edwards and Kurt Busch round out the top five. Busch won the pole at Pocono in June.
Truex’s finish was a rare does of good news for the veteran driver, who’s struggled to find strong finishes.
”We’ve had a tough season for sure, a lot of DNFs,” Truex said. ”We’ve had some good runs, but at the same time, not consistent enough. It seems like we have one good week, one bad week, one good week, one bad week.”
Kahne hopes the front-row start can bolster his bid for his first victory of the season. Kahne, a past winner at Pocono, is 15th in the standings and desperately needs wins if he wants to make the Chase for the championship as a wild-card entry. The drivers ranked 11th to 20th with the most victories will join the top 10 in running for the championship.
”The wild card is getting close to being our only chance to make the Chase,” Kahne said. ”If we can win once, stay consistent, make the points, we’ll have a pretty good chance at that.”
Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart was the only drivers in the top 10 with poor qualifying efforts. Gordon, who won Pocono in June, starts 31st. Stewart starts 28th.
Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman start 10th-12th. Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Matt Kenseth are 18th-20th.
Brad Keselowski, driving with a broken left foot, starts 13th. He had been cleared to race following a nasty accident during testing at Road Atlanta on Wednesday.
”It’s great to see him in the car, pushing hard,” Kurt Busch said. ”These young kids, they’re made like rubber bands, they can bounce back from anything.”
Fresh off his first career win last week at the Brickyard 400, Paul Menard starts seventh.
”It’s good to get that behind us and now we can focus on continuing the momentum from last week’s win,” he said.
Logano hopes the momentum from his strong efforts over the last month can carry into Sunday and earn him that needed victory. He said he couldn’t escape the speculation because the Edwards story was splashed on every racing website, newspaper and highlight show ticker, forcing him to confront the reality he might have to find a new car at JGR.
”How do you not think about it because it’s right there in front of you,” he said.
His future is clear and when the race starts Sunday the only thing in front of him will be open air.