|Joey Lagano made history at Kentucky Speedway Saturday night becoming the youngest driver at 18 years, 21 days to win a Nationwide Series race when he won the Meijer 300 present by Oreo. It was Lagano's first Nationwide win in just three starts before a record crowd of 73,195 race enthusiasts. (Photos by Wade Bell)|
Logano becomes Nationwide's youngest winner
Wins Meijer 300 at Kentucky Speedway
June 18, 2008
Just 21 days after his 18th birthday, Joey Logano became the youngest driver to win a Nationwide series race Saturday night after he won the Meijer 300 presented by Oreo at Kentucky Speedway before a record crowd of 73,195 fans.
It was a day where Logano had no idea how it was going to go when it started.
"We didn't unload the way this morning we wanted to," Logano said after his first win in just three starts. "The guys never gave up. They worked hard on it, changed everything. I didn't know what I was going to have going into (turn) one on the first green flag lap. We were really snug at the beginning. We kept loosening it up and loosening it up and after that last pit stop we got it about right."
"We came off the truck really tight," Logano's crew chief Dave Rogers said. "The guys changed everything but the door number and the name above the door."
Logano, was the fastest during qualifications with a top speed of 175.558 mph, almost a full mile per hour faster than Jason Keller, who started on the outside of the front row. When the race started, however, all eyes were on Kyle Busch, who had flown down from the Craftsman Truck Series race in Michigan. Busch had to start at the back of the field because Jeremy Clements had to qualify the car for him three hours earlier while Busch drove the truck race.
|At left, Chase Miller backs into the wall between turns one and two on lap 12 of 200 in the Meijer 300 at Kentucky Speedway Saturday night.|
"Every time we came in, we made the car better," Clements said before the race. "I think we will have the car ready for Kyle when he's here for the race."
Four laps into the race, Busch had come from the back of the field to 25th. On lap 12 Chase Miller spun after contact with Steven Wallace and found himself into the turn two wall. After the green came back out, Busch moved up to the 16th position. Jason Keller moved in front of Logano, but it was Busch on the move after sliding into sixth by lap 23.
Two laps later, Busch was in fourth with Keller still in front. A few laps later, the leaders began to get into lapped traffic and on lap 38 Busch passed Logano for second. A lap after that, Keller saw his lead come to an end when he was passed by Busch on the back stretch.
By lap 50 Busch had stretched his lead to 2.55 seconds. Logano was still running second, with Jason Leffler moving up to third. Jason Keller was fourth and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top five.
Cars began pitting under green four laps later, with Busch pitting first. Josh Wise, David Reutimann and Stanton Barrett pitted out of sequence and had the front three positions, respectively, with Busch fourth and Logano fifth. After the pitting cycle was completed, Busch was back in front again by a dominating margin of 7.597 seconds.
A caution for debris on lap 79 tightened up the field once again. After the restart and another set of pit stops, Scott Wimmer was in front, followed by Busch and Logano, Leffler and Brad Keselowski. Busch and Logano passed Wimmer a lap later. At the halfway point, Busch was just 0.632 of a second ahead of Logano. Wimmer was still third, with Leffler fourth and David Stremme fifth.
By the halfway point, a second groove had formed and cars running two and three wide through the turns became a regular event.
"It was interesting," Wimmer said. "Sometimes the high line would work real good and other times the low line. It was real easy to get a car trapped down low and keep your momentum up on the high side. It looked like that's how (Logano) got up by (Busch). We made a couple of passes up there like that.
"It's still the same old Kentucky. You've got to get around the bottom fast. If you want to pass, it seems like you're going to have to do a lot of passing on the bottom."
Busch continued to lead through the next extended green run, his lead going to 1.232 seconds over Logano. It wasn't until lap 136 that the yellow flew again, this time for debris on the track.
The entire field came into the pits for service but fuel mileage looked to be a part of the equation with Busch looking to be five laps short of going all the way. Busch was out of the pits first and green was expected to go again on lap 141. Just before the race resumed, however, Carl Edwards bumped into Steven Wallace as both were cleaning their tires for the restart. Wallace spun into the infield, forcing two extra caution laps to be run.
The race resumed on lap 143 and, four laps later, Logano passed Busch on the outside in turn four to take the lead. With 50 laps to go, Logano led by just over a half second, with Busch second and Wimmer third.
Busch, however, would see his day come to an early end. On lap 164, the Nationwide points leader spun coming out of turn two and slammed into the outside wall. With the field slowed by the pace car, any fuel concerns were completely eliminated.
"It was unfortunate to see Kyle hit the fence," Logano said. "I think our car was strong enough that we might have been able to hold him off. Dave (Rogers) told me on the way here, 'We're going to win one way or the other. I don't know how but we're going to win this thing.' I took his word for it."
When the race resumed, Logano began to pull away from the field. By the end of the final lap, Logano would go on to win by a 2.259-second margin over Wimmer. Mike Wallace moved up to third, with Brad Keselowski fourth and rookie Bryan Clausen fifth.
"The whole last 20 laps there, I was praying for it go green," the 18-year-old said. "We were pulling away a little bit and then (Wimmer) got by and was catching up as little bit. Once I took that white flag, I felt better. That last lap was nice."
Wimmer and Wallace were both asked what it was liked to get beat by a teenager.
"It's tough," Wimmer admitted. "Last year, I finished third to a couple of teenagers, too, so it's kind of trend I'm going through. Those guys are in good equipment and when you're in good equipment, you're going to run well. Joey is a great driver along with a lot of the other teenagers."
"Let's face it," Wallace said. "NASCAR built a commercial around the kid. I've watched three commercials today about Joey Logano. It wasn't a surprise. He's a great young race car driver, and he's in a great race car. You've got to remember that everybody that has drove that car this year has won. It isn't like something new and magic. He's got a lot of talent and you have to respect what he can do."
Wallace said he was well aware of Logano's talent.
"Joey is way more mature than his age, if you look at where he's raced," he said. "My daughter and him raced legend cars together. They've raced for a long time. It's not like he popped out of nowhere. He's tested every week with Gibbs and their Cup car."
Logano said he's used to having a lot of eyes on him.
"Since I was 14 and my first day, I've always been under the microscope," the Nationwide rookie said. "I'm kind of used to that and used to that pressure. That part is not really new to me. I've talked to (Busch) a few times just about racing stuff. It was cool to get our first win here in our third start."
Rogers was asked just how good Logano really is.
"Three races, two poles, one win," Rogers answered. "He's pretty good."
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