Logano stays in high gear

Revved-up driver takes Pocono pole

By Dan Gelston
Associated Press / August 7, 2011

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LONG POND, Pa. - Joey Logano heard the rumors at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Carl Edwards, the biggest free agent in NASCAR, was being pursued to sign a lucrative deal with JGR. And if Edwards signed, he’d poach Logano’s ride in the No. 20 Toyota.

Logano couldn’t do anything about the negotiations. All he could do was drive.

Edwards stayed with Roush Fenway Racing, and Logano appears secure in his car.

Pushed by the public contract talks, Logano has responded with his best finishes of the season and kept rolling yesterday at Pocono Raceway, turning a lap of 172.055 miles per hour to win the pole for today’s Good Sam RV Insurance 500. The 21-year-old became the youngest pole winner at Pocono. It was his third career pole in Sprint Cup.

Logano said he never talked to owner Joe Gibbs or team president J.D. Gibbs about his future at JGR, one of the top organizations in NASCAR.

“As far as I knew, they were just rumors,’’ Logano said. “What am I really going to ask him?’’

Logano, once the hottest prospect in the sport, has had mostly mixed reviews in his young career. He opened this season with a mediocre 23d finish in the Daytona 500 and had an engine failure the next week at Phoenix, dropping Logano to 29th in the points standings. He rallied and had top-six finishes in three of four races entering last weekend’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He finished 25th and is 19th in the standings.

“There’s been a lot of rumors around our team lately, but, at the same time, I don’t know if everyone realizes how good we’ve been lately,’’ Logano said.

Kasey Kahne joins him on the front row today. Martin Truex Jr., Edwards, and Kurt Busch round out the top five.

Truex’s finish is good news for the veteran driver, who has struggled in 2011.

“We’ve had a tough season for sure, a lot of DNFs,’’ Truex said. “We’ve had some good runs, but at the same time, not consistent enough. It seems like we have one good week, one bad week, one good week, one bad week.’’

Kahne hopes the front-row start can bolster his bid for his first victory of the season. Kahne, a past winner at Pocono, is 15th in the standings and desperately needs wins if he wants to make the Chase as a wild-card entry. The two drivers ranked 11 through 20 with the most victories will join the top 10 in the Chase.

“The wild card is getting close to being our only chance to make the Chase,’’ Kahne said. “If we can win once, stay consistent, make the points, we’ll have a pretty good chance at that.’’

Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart were the only drivers in the top 10 with poor qualifying efforts. Gordon starts 31st and Stewart 28th.

Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Ryan Newman start 10-12. Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Matt Kenseth are 18-20.

Brad Keselowski, driving with a broken left foot, starts 13th. He had been cleared to race following a nasty accident during testing at Road Atlanta Wednesday.

“It’s great to see him in the car, pushing hard,’’ Kurt Busch said. “These young kids, they’re made like rubber bands, they can bounce back from anything.’’

Fresh off his first career win last week at the Brickyard 400, Paul Menard starts seventh.

Blinded by smoke billowing from Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s car on the final lap, Edwards slammed into his Roush Fenway Racing teammate and inadvertently pushed him to victory in a wild finish to the NASCAR Nationwide race last night in Newton, Iowa .

Stenhouse appeared set to cruise to his second win at Iowa this year, but the No. 6 car blew an engine with the checkered flag in sight. With the smoke obscuring Edwards’s view and oil on the track, he slammed into Stenhouse and shoved him across the finish line.

“I still haven’t seen the replay with the audio, but that’s the most amazing finish I’ve been involved with in a long time,’’ Edwards said.