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The Glen Race Even Made The ‘First Loser’ Smile

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 10 2016
There is nothing dull about racing Sprint Cup cars at Watkins Glen, Joey Logano said after Sunday's race. (RacinToday/HHHP photo by Alan Marler)

There is nothing dull about racing Sprint Cup cars at Watkins Glen, Joey Logano said after Sunday’s race. (RacinToday/HHHP photo by Alan Marler)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Joey Logano consoled himself with a second-place finish after Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at The Glen through a smile that confirmed nobody _ certainly not backache-ridden race-winner Denny Hamlin _ had more of a blast during the season’s final “full-contact” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series road-race.

bugnotes“Typical Watkins Glen,” said Logano, who finished 2.065-seconds behind Hamlin after a 90-lap/220.5-mile free-for-all around Watkins Glen International. The historic 2.45-mile/11-turn layout doled out nine lead changes among eight drivers, eight caution periods and two red flag stoppages totaling 30 minutes.

“I mean, it’s just awesome, crazy racing, full-contact. Just insane out there,” said Logano, driver of the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford Fusion fielded by Team Penske. “So a lot of fun from the driver’s seat and I’m sure the fans loved it as well in front of a sold-out grandstand.”

WGI President Michael Printup announced pre-race the facility’s reserved grandstands were sold-out for the second consecutive Cup race, putting the attendance at just under 100,000.

“It was pretty cool when I pulled over for the red flag in front of the grandstands and I could hear just fans screaming and yelling and loving it,” Logano said. “I thought, ‘Man, this is really cool to be in the driver’s seat right now.’ Having those moments, I thought it was neat.”

Logano later drew a round of laughter when he was asked to comment about the late-race bump-

Crew chief Todd Gordon and Joey Logano finished second at Watkins Glen but had a good time doing it. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

Crew chief Todd Gordon and Joey Logano finished second at Watkins Glen but had a good time doing it. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

and-run incidents involving Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski and A.J. Allmendinger and Brad Larson.

“That’s funny you ask me. Duuuuh?” said Logano, who was involved in a dump-and-run controversy with Matt Kenseth during last year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. “It’s aggressive racing. Sometimes you’re on the other end of it. To me, the protocol is to show some respect the next few weeks and hope the dust settles. That’s pretty much what you can do.

“You know, accidents happen. We’re pushing these things so hard. We’re trying to stop from 180 to, what, 70 or 80 miles an hour. We’re cutting off like 100 miles an hour into the Bus Stop and we’re trying to do that two-wide where there’s only one lane through there. Someone’s going to hit somebody. Someone’s feelings are going to get hurt.”

The Bus Stop is the four-turn chicane designed to slow the field after it exits the track’s signature Esses and heads down the backstretch. “I think it’s great. It’s part of it,” Logano said. “That’s what makes it so interesting. You can’t make the racetrack to just where it’s too easy to get around and you can make mistakes and not pay a penalty. Then everyone’s going to go straight through it all the time. You don’t want to make it a stop-and-go, make it a judgment call on NASCAR’s point. If it’s all paved, you put your left sides too far off on the other side of the curb, you got to make it stop-and-go.

“Just leave it the way it is. Let us handle it ourselves. It becomes crazy because you don’t know what it’s like until you get there, if there’s dirt on the racetrack. Yes, there’s a great example for me. I was leading the race. I went into the corner in the Bus Stop, and it was like dirt everywhere. It was like a dirt track. I went sliding off the track because of it. But it keeps it interesting. It changes things up.

“I don’t want to make it too boring, you know _ make it just idiot-proof out there.”

Recall the Logano-Kenseth controversy certainly spiced-up last year’s Chase. Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion, was leading with five laps to go at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway and perhaps heading for a victory and berth in the third round of the playoffs when he was hit from behind by Logano. When Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota Camry spun, Logano made the pass for the lead and scored the subsequent victory. The incident ended Kenseth’s bid to advance to the three-race Contender Round of the Chase.

For the next hour or so, the two blamed each other for what happened. Logano said he owed it to his team and sponsors to go for the win, even though he already had secured a berth in the third round of the playoffs. Kenseth said Logano dumped him with the expressed purpose of keeping him and his five-win Joe Gibbs Racing car out of the third round and, therefore, out of his hair for the rest of the Chase.

Kenseth retaliated at the half-mile Martinsville Speedway. Logano was in the lead with 50 laps to go and presumably  headed for a fourth straight playoff win when he was turned from behind by Kenseth, who was nine laps down after having wrecked earlier. The crash into the Turn 1 wall disabled both cars.  

NASCAR suspended Kenseth from participating in the Chase races at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway after ruling he intentionally crashed into Logano at Martinsville. NASCAR also placed “Matty Ice” on probation for six months.

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The pit road rap sheet at WGI was long-and-winding. A total of 31 violations were meted out, with four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon of Hendrick Motorsports and Aric Almirola of Richard Petty Motorsports leading the pack with four each. Gordon logged three penalties on his first pit stop on Lap 13. A four-time winner at WGI, Gordon started his third consecutive race in the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms. Gordon finished 14th while Almirola placed 27th in the No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion.

Danica Patrick, who led 11 laps in her No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevy SS, was hit for three infractions during her final pit stop on Lap 86 en route to a 21st-place finish for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Six scoring loops were added to the track during its offseason repave, bringing the total to 14. Race-winner Denny Hamlin was free of unforced errors, which included five for speed entering the pits and two for speed exiting the pits. Runnerup Joey Logano was cited for entering the pits over the 40 mph limit on Lap 34 under green and sent to the tail end of the lead lap _ a huge factor in the outcome.

“I just backed it down and extra light or two on pit road to make sure I didn’t make a mistake,” said Hamlin, who scored his first Cup road-course win in the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry. “I already have a well-rounded record on pit road this year. I know that it’s very hard to win these races if you make any mistakes. I only made one mistake at Sonoma, and it was in the final corner, and I didn’t win.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 10 2016
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