Showdown performance shows Logano has the winning edge heading into 2009
As the running order came on, one name stood out -- defending race winner and teenage superstar Joey Logano, who will take over the driving duties in Joe Gibbs’ #20 Home Depot Toyota this year in the Cup series. My first thought: “He should dominate this race”.
Though he ended up getting up front toward the end of the race and almost winning after a Carl Edwards-like kamikaze move, it was hardly an easy run for Logano. He ran in the top 10 early, but did nothing spectacular. There was a lot of talent in the field -- including Matt Kobyluck, Brian Ickler, Marc Davis, Auggie Vidovich, Trevor Bayne, Jason Bowles and Peyton Sellers. Also, Ron Hornaday decided to show up, but more on him later. For these mostly unknown drivers, this race is a great chance to get noticed by the big teams, and maybe the first step toward landing a Nationwide or Truck Series ride.
Overall, the racing Saturday night was what should be expected when 40 cars compete on a half-mile track and no points are at stake -- four-wide and lots of wrecks. Though at times the wrecks got out of hand, it was a very exciting race overall, capped off by a nail-biting finish.
On the final restart with less than 10 laps to go, Logano, Sellers and a couple other drivers were as close as it’s possible to be to each other on the track, and Logano ended up pushed into the wall and fell back to third in the fracas. But as I expected, he battled back to second and with just one lap left, it didn’t look like Logano was going to be able to catch Sellers. But Joey did what any true racer would do in a race like this … he went deep to the inside and tried to get the lead kamikaze style, the only way he could possibly win. As often happens, he didn’t quite clear Sellers, and a big wreck ensued. Sellers didn’t make the finish line, and Logano crossed the line first. What ensued was a classic, yell through the window, post-race confrontation, and I was pretty sure Sellers wanted to rip Joey in half (which wouldn’t be too hard to do, as the tall, twig-like Logano looks to weigh about 100 pounds).
Even though Logano finished first, NASCAR didn’t approve of his last-lap move and took the win away, giving it to Kobyluck. Regardless, this type of dedication to winning, even though this was a one-off race in a series he will no longer compete in, shows that the young man known to some as “sliced bread” truly wants to win at all costs. Combine that with his pure, raw talent, and you have a dangerous driver in the Cup series. I’m not saying he’ll light the series on fire this year, but you’ll definitely see some sparks out of that #20 car.
As a side note, I have to mention Ron Hornaday and his antics Saturday night. I know he has history in this series going back to his father, but he was truly an “idiot driver,” as one of his victim’s crew chiefs called him. While Logano was going for the win when he caused a wreck, which I really can’t argue against, Hornaday was driving like a madman all night. He took out Ickler, who had dominated the beginning of the race, with a completely unnecessary move early on. Then later , he knocked out another driver who was minding his own business with a similar questionable move. One of the victims said they lost a lot of respect for Hornaday Saturday night, and I don’t blame them. There’s a time to race that way, and it’s surely not halfway through the race.
Austin Dillon driving a black #3 car (for his grandfather Richard Childress) was a nice reminder of a glorious past for that number/color combination, though I wouldn’t want to see anyone other than Dale Jr. run that number in the Cup series if it ever is used again.
Former Cup winner Steve Park was in the race, and it’s good to see him still behind the wheel of a racecar. A couple of really bad wrecks left him with some lingering brain injury right when his career was taking off in Cup, and it would have been easy for him to just fade away. But it’s clear he wants to race, and will do so wherever he can, even if it’s not in the top 3 divisions of NASCAR. And some others, like Jerry Nadeau, have never been able to get back behind the wheel of a racecar due to their brain injuries. If Park can still do that, that’s the best news of all for him.