Logano ends drought
LONG POND - Mark Martin had already run 124 career NASCAR Sprint Cup races by the time Joey Logano was born on May 24, 1990.
On Sunday at Pocono Raceway, Martin made his 841st career start in the series while Logano made his 125th.
Yet when it came down to crunch time, the young gun wound up showing the wily veteran a thing or two.
Logano passed Martin for the lead with four laps remaining to claim the checkered flag in the Pocono 400 Presented by #NASCAR.
Starting from the pole, Logano led a race-high 49 laps in his orange-and-white No. 20 Toyota to notch his first win of the season and his first in seven starts at the 2.5-mile triangular track. It also is his second Sprint Cup Series victory; the first came in June 2009 in a rain-shortened race at New Hampshire.
"It's just awesome to finally get to Victory Lane the right way," Logano said.
Also, at 22 years, 17 days, Logano is the youngest winner in the track's history. Jeff Gordon previously held the distinction at 24 years, 10 months, 12 days when he won at Pocono in 1996.
As for the 53-year-old Martin, he continues to be a Pocono bridesmaid.
His second-place finish Sunday was his seventh in 51 starts here.
Tony Stewart wound up third, Jimmie Johnson was fourth and Denny Hamlin finished fifth. Rounding out the top 10 were Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray.
When he wasn't leading laps, Logano still ran near the front all day.
He was in fourth place on lap 124 when the caution flag came out for debris on the track after Aric Almirola's car brushed the wall.
It was a call by first-year crew chief Jason Ratcliff on the ensuing pit stop to take only two tires that got Logano out of pits ahead of everyone else and back into the lead.
"Some guys were pitting off sequence and we lost track position," Ratcliff said of his decision. "So we knew coming down to the end there we were going to be creative. Thankfully, the first pit box paid off for us. A lot off guys took right-side tires at that time, (but) we were able to come off pit road in the lead."
However, with 35 laps still to be run, fuel mileage quickly became a concern. Ratcliff said they were about six laps short at that point. But two more cautions - one from laps 138-143 because of an accident involving Kasey Kahne, the other from laps 150-152 for debris in turn 2 - helped ease those fuel concerns a bit.
It was on the lap-153 restart following that final caution that Martin, running second in the No. 55 Toyota, passed Logano for the lead.
"Every late-race restart, Mark was getting a little better, and he got me on the last one," Logano said. "I said, 'I'm giving one away here.'
"When he got in front of me, I was trying to get right to him, and made a couple of mistakes, and he was driving away a little bit."
Then, on lap 156, Martin made a mistake in turn 3 and Logano was able to get a run on him as they headed into turn 1 on lap 157.
"(I) tried to outbrake him and he was protecting the bottom," Logano said. "I was trying to stick my nose in there and we got really close. I'm not even sure if we touched each other or not, but I know I got him air loose at least and (was) able to slide up underneath him and clear him by the time he got off of (turn) one."
Martin called Logano's winning pass a "bump-and-run," an acceptable move but one Martin said he would have returned had he been able to catch up to Logano.
"But I couldn't quite keep up with him," Martin said.
Over the final four laps, Logano said he had no worries about running out of fuel.
"I didn't even think about it. That was the last thing on my mind," said Logano, whose margin of victory was 0.987 seconds. "Once I passed (Martin), it was wide open until the end." Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org