Entering this weekend, a pole-sitter had not won a Sprint Cup race in 31 attempts. That streak ended today as Joey Logano bumped past Mark Martin in the closing laps to win the Pocono 400 at Pocono International Raceway.
For a moment it looked as if Mark Martin was going to win, the beneficiary of a fantastic restart with eight laps to go. He held the top spot until four to go when Logano used the bump-and-run to win his second-career race, and first since a rain-shortened victory at New Hampshire in 2008.
Logano was once called "Sliced Bread," as in the "Greatest Thing to Hit Racing Since," but has stalled upon reaching the Sprint Cup Series. Logano is in a contract year and Joe Gibbs is rumored to be looking at options. The victory is sure to help strengthen Logano's chances, at least for a little while.
"I hope this win shuts them up," Logano said of his critics. "This means a whole lot to our entire team."
My thoughts can be found after the jump!
Logano is rumored to be on the hot seat at Joe Gibbs Racing, pending his performance in 2012. The belief after today's race is that the victory secured his ride for at least another few years, but I wouldn't be so sure.
David Ragan found himself in a similar position last summer, and got his big win at Daytona in July. Ragan narrowly missed the Chase and was released by Roush Racing in November. Ragan now drives for Front Row Motorsports and his No. 6 was shut down from lack of sponsorship.
Home Depot appears committed to NASCAR and Gibbs, but don't be surprised if they make a strong push for change if Logano misses the Chase.
One win isn't enough when millions of dollars are being spent.
Shorter Race Equals More Excitement
NASCAR hit a home run when they shortened both Pocono races to 400 miles. The 500-mile versions were just too tedious. Fans could have built a shed at the start of a 500-mile race and still had time for the final 100 miles. There just wasn't enough action or compelling storylines to keep fans interested for four-and-a-half hours.
Today's race was both shorter and full of storyline developments. The first of which is the impending end of the Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s losing streak. He's so close to winning and could have won today if not for a questionable pit decision by crew chief Steve Letarte.
Earnhardt was running fifth when the caution fell on lap 137. It was believed that the caution would put everyone in their window to make it to the end, but Letarte was not as confident, calling his driver in with 22 laps remaining.
Earnhardt led 36 laps but could only work his way up to eighth.
Confusing Pit Road Penalties and a New Track Surface
The race was perhaps decided by 18 pit road speeding penalties, shattering the old record of 14 from Kansas in 2004. The timing lines were shifted after the track's off-season repave and teams missed the memo as early as the first green flag pit stops.
Jimmie Johnson was among those caught speeding off the exit of pit road, and was penalized twice when he was again caught speeding exiting his drive-thru penalty. The misunderstanding cost Johnson a lap but he rebounded to finish fourth.
NASCAR already announced that they will move the timing lines back to their original locations when the circuit returns in August, opening the door for even more confusion.
The new track surface held up well to race conditions and provided enough grip, despite the high speeds entering the corners. The track produced, more or less, a typical Pocono race. I'll leave it up to you to decide whether or not that's a good thing.
Pocono has traditionally been one of the more uneventful races on the calendar, but the combination of pit penalties, 100 less miles and Earnahrdt leading laps helped shape one of the most interesting races of the season.
Where does it rank on your list? Tell us in the comments section or on Twitter @NASCARRnR or @MattWeaverSBN.
The complete rundown and updated championship standings can be found below. Have a great Sunday night and we'll see you throughout the week.
|1||1||20||Joey Logano||The Home Depot Toyota||160||48||5||Running||5||48|
|2||6||55||Mark Martin||Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota||160||43||1||Running||2||5|
|3||22||14||Tony Stewart||MOBIL 1 / Office Depot Chevrolet||160||41||Running|
|4||24||48||Jimmie Johnson||Lowe's / Kobalt Tools Chevrolet||160||40||Running|
|5||5||11||Denny Hamlin||FedEx Express Toyota||160||40||1||Running||2||21|
|6||16||15||Clint Bowyer||5-hour Energy Toyota||160||38||Running|
|7||14||17||Matt Kenseth||Ford EcoBoost Fusion Ford||160||38||1||Running||2||11|
|8||8||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||National Guard / Diet Mtn. Dew Chevrolet||160||37||1||Running||3||36|
|9||3||27||Paul Menard||Menards / Sylvania Chevrolet||160||35||Running|
|10||11||1||Jamie McMurray||Banana Boat Chevrolet||160||35||1||Running||3||14|
|11||2||99||Carl Edwards||Kellogg's / Cheez-It Ford||160||33||Running|
|12||18||39||Ryan Newman||HAAS Automation Chevrolet||160||32||Running|
|13||9||9||Marcos Ambrose||DeWalt Ford||160||31||Running|
|14||21||29||Kevin Harvick||Rheem Chevrolet||160||30||Running|
|15||20||31||Jeff Burton||The Armed Forces Foundation Chevrolet||160||29||Running|
|16||7||78||Regan Smith||Furniture Row Chevrolet||160||28||Running|
|17||17||42||Juan Pablo Montoya||Target Chevrolet||160||28||1||Running||1||3|
|18||31||2||Brad Keselowski||Miller Lite Dodge||160||26||Running|
|19||12||24||Jeff Gordon||DuPont Chevrolet||160||25||Running|
|20||23||56||Martin Truex Jr.||NAPA Auto Parts Toyota||160||24||Running|
|21||25||51||David Reutimann||Phoenix Construction Services Chevrolet||160||23||Running|
|22||27||47||Bobby Labonte||Bubba Burgers Toyota||160||22||Running|
|23||36||38||David Gilliland||ModSpace Motorsports Ford||160||22||1||Running||1||2|
|24||13||16||Greg Biffle||3M / Rite Aid / NextCare Ford||160||21||1||Running||2||19|
|25||42||10||Dave Blaney||Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet||159||19||Running|
|26||37||93||Travis Kvapil||Burger King / Dr Pepper Toyota||159||18||Running|
|27||34||34||David Ragan||Taco Bell Ford||159||18||1||Running||1||1|
|28||29||43||Aric Almirola||Transportation Impact Ford||158||16||Running|
|29||10||5||Kasey Kahne||Farmers Insurance Chevrolet||139||15||Accident|
|30||4||18||Kyle Busch||M&M's Toyota||76||14||Engine|
|31||19||22||AJ Allmendinger||Shell Pennzoil Dodge||64||13||Accident|
|32||40||36||Tony Raines||SealWrap.com Chevrolet||47||12||Accident|
|33||43||33||Stephen Leicht||LittleJoesAutos.com Chevrolet||39||11||Brakes|
|34||30||98||Michael McDowell||Presbyterian Healthcare Ford||37||10||Rear Gear|
|35||26||13||Casey Mears||GEICO Ford||36||9||Brakes|
|36||32||49||JJ Yeley||America Israel Racing / JPO Absorbents Toyota||33||8||Accident|
|37||33||87||Joe Nemechek(i)||AM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves Toyota||30||0||Brakes|
|38||28||19||Mike Bliss(i)||Humphrey Smith Racing Toyota||26||0||Brakes|
|39||39||74||Stacy Compton||Turn One Racing / Country Suites Chevrolet||24||5||Transmission|
|40||38||23||Scott Riggs||North Texas Pipe Chevrolet||19||4||Overheating|
|41||41||32||Reed Sorenson(i)||Herr Foods / Hero Energy Shot Ford||12||0||Accident|
|42||35||26||Josh Wise||MDS Transport Ford||12||2||Brakes|
|43||15||83||Landon Cassill||Burger King - Real Fruit Smoothies Toyota||1||1||Accident|
# = Rookie, Fin = Finish, Str = Start, Pts = Total Points, BPs = Lap Leader Bns Pts, TLd = Times Led, LLd = Laps Led. (i) Ineligible for driver points in this series
Average Speed: 131.004 MPH Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 03 Mins, 12 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.997 Seconds
Lead Changes: 21 among 10 drivers Cautions: 7 for 35 laps Attendance : N/A