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Pedley: Please, No Talk About Asterisks After Logano Victory

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, June 29 2009
Joey Logano's victory at New Hampshire on Sunday was popular, even with the guy he beat and whose car he was driving. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Joey Logano's victory at New Hampshire on Sunday was popular, even with the guy he beat and whose car he was driving. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

You can bet that in some circles, the sour talk about the method by which Joey Logano got his first Sprint Cup victory started long before the rain stopped at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday.

You can bet phrases like “fuel mileage win” and “freakish luck” and “asterisk-mark ending” were being issued far and wide in a good old New England blather-o-rama.

But you can also bet that virtually none of those phrases were coming out of the mouths of Logano’s peers.

That’s because NASCAR drivers – nor drivers in any other professional racing series, for that matter – know there is no such thing as a tainted victory in their sport. They know that in big-time auto racing, luck and circumstance play a role in the outcome of virtually every, single finish.

That explains the actions of “losing” drivers in the minutes following the decision not to restart Sunday’s race and why Logano’s victory was massively popular in the New Hampshire infield.

After Logano, the 18-year-old rookie who has been subjected to the kind of dissecting pressure that no 18-year-old should ever be subjected to, won the Lenox Industrial Tool 301, Jeff Gordon poked his head into Logano’s car.

Gordon, the winner of 82 races and four Cup championships told Logano, “It doesn’t matter how you win them.”

Logano got his first Cup victory, became the series youngest winner and did it in an unconventional manner.

He took the lead late in the race when he stayed on the track when others opted to pit for fuel and tires during green-flag conditions.

The move was a gamble, one dictated by veteran crew chief Greg Zipadelli, because Logano himself was running low on fuel as then-race-leaders began heading for the pits.

But with 35 laps to go, and Logano leading, rain started falling.

NASCAR waved the yellow flag.

Logano, in big fuel trouble as he circled the one-mile track behind the pace car, shut the car off and coasted as often as he could.

After several laps of that, the rain picked up and NASCAR red-flagged the race. About 20 minutes after that, the race was called and Logano had his victory.

Offering congratulations and strict orders to not even think about how the victory was secured, was the guy who drove Logano’s No. 20 car for 10 year and to two championships – Tony Stewart.

“I’m happy for Zippy (Zipadelli) and Joey and all the guys on The Home Depot team,” Stewart said. “Man, you take ‘em any way you can get ‘em. That’s as much as a strategy as shocks and springs and everything else. They still had to work to get themselves in that position, so they did a good job.”

The rain which aided Logano’s victory may have cost Stewart a victory. He had a fast car, led 40 laps and finished fifth only because he had lug-nut trouble in the pits late in the race.

Still, he could not help but feel good about Logano and his former Joe Gibbs Racing team. And he could not help but tell the kid that a victory is a victory is a victory.

“It’s been a hard, learning year for Joey,” Stewart said, “and he’s done a great job, and it’s like I told him, I said 10 years down the road nobody’s ever going to know how this win came, but the thing is, they still had to earn it. They had to put themselves in position to be in this spot. They did a good job strategy-wise. For them, it makes up for the one that we lost here last year because of the rain. I’m happy with our run, but proud for those guys too.”

Gordon also may have gotten deprived of victory by the rain. He was behind Logano when the rain came and stood to inherit the lead were the lead car would run out of fuel or be forced to pit under green.

He likely would have won had officials decided to restart the race after the red-flag wait as Logano still would have needed to have fuel put into his car before the restart and would have required pitting while Gordon was running.

He could have found the nearest NASCAR official, stomped his feet in the puddles which were rapidly expanding in the New Hampshire infield, and pitched a hissy.

Nope.

“Everybody is out here is working as hard as they can for pit stops, fastest race car, and making the best call,” Gordon said. “And I just told him congratulations.”

A couple years ago, Kansas Speedway was the site of one of most bizarre finishes in recent NASCAR history.

Rain had poured, darkness was moving in on a track which has no lights and fuel was an issue. Greg Biffle was leading under yellow and behind the pace car, when the race was called because of darkness.

As the pack headed toward the flag stand for the final time, Biffle, low on fuel, slowed and the suddenly veered into the infield in the vicinity of the finish line. As he did so, Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson crossed the line.

There was a large brouhaha afterward about who actually won. Bowyer thought he won, Johnson thought Bowyer won. NASCAR was unrelenting.

There was and is room for doubt about the outcome at Kansas in 2007 in the minds of many.

But nobody in the garages that day/night was saying anything about an asterisk or luck or saying Biffle should not accept the trophy.

Because everybody knows what Gordon knows: “It doesn’t matter how you win them.”

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, June 29 2009
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