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Mar 29, 2014 - 04:32 PM
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Lack Of Sprint Cup Practice Doesn't Worry Joey Logano
Posted by: ASkyler on Mar 29, 2014 - 04:32 PM
Feature Articles
Lack Of Sprint Cup Practice Doesn't Worry Joey Logano


By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

MARTINSVILLE, Va.— When it comes to making the cut, Joey Logano is in elite company.

The only two drivers to make the final 12 in each of the five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series knockout qualifying sessions so far are Logano and six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson.

In fact, Logano set a track record (100.201 mph) Friday at Martinsville Speedway in leading the first round of qualifying for Sunday’s STP 500. In the second round, which determined the Coors Light Pole Award winner, Logano was third-fastest behind Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.

Logano has topped the speed chart in five of the 12 rounds of knockout qualifying held so far, under a format that features two rounds at tracks under 1.25 miles in length and three rounds at tracks 1.25 miles and longer.

"And we only have one pole (at Las Vegas), so I’m winning the wrong rounds, and it’s really frustrating me," Logano quipped after Friday’s time trials.

 

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Though Logano’s No. 22 Team Penske Ford was better in qualifying trim than in race trim, the 23-year-old driver from Middletown, Conn., wasn’t particularly concerned with the prospect of losing both Saturday practice sessions to rain.

"I still feel pretty good about it," after Saturday morning’s practice was wiped out. "[Crew chief] Todd [Gordon] and I have talked a lot about what we need here to race well and kind of just what we’ve been doing at every other track.

"We don’t really show a ton of speed in practice, and we feel pretty good when the race starts, so even if it rains out today, it’s not the end of the world. I’m not really worried about it. Obviously, people take their practice to try things and learn something, but really, in all honesty, we’re OK. I feel like we have a shot at it."

Logano will have to wait until Sunday to find out if he’s right. Rain subsequently forced cancelation of final practice, and no Sprint Cup cars got track time on Saturday.

SHORT-TRACK ACE

Restrictor-plate superspeedways aside, Martinsville is arguably Danica Patrick’s best race track.

In fact, the argument, if you can call it that, is short and sweet. Last spring at Martinsville, Patrick posted her best finish at a non-restrictor-plate track, 12th.

On Friday at the .526-mile paper-clip-shaped short track, she posted a personal-best in non-restrictor plate qualifying: 10th. Patrick’s previous best "open-motor" qualifying effort was 21st at Atlanta and New Hampshire, both in 2013.

Patrick’s strong performance in time trials was unexpected, given that she had been 29th-fastest in opening practice.

"Just got to expect the unexpected, I guess," Patrick said after the session in which she advanced to the final 12 in knockout qualifying for the first time. "I think that our practice started off a little bit rough, because you go out with all those cars on the track, I was following another car, and he was not coming up to speed and I ended up getting passed by 15 cars, it felt like, in the first five laps.

"You’re just not really getting up to speed and in a rhythm, so we didn’t really put a lap in at the beginning, and then, in our qualifying runs, I feel like we improved a lot, but we still needed something. That something [crew chief] Tony [Gibson] gave me for qualifying. That’s the difference — then just nailing that lap. I mean, that is qualifying. I just have to get better at it."

GETTING BETTER ALL THE TIME

AJ Allmendinger isn’t a patient person, so it’s a good thing the driver of the No. 47 JTG/Daugherty Chevrolet can see real progress early in his first full season with the team.

Five days after posting his first top-10 finish with JTG/Daugherty (eighth at Auto Club Speedway), Allmendinger qualified 15th for Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, his best starting spot of the season. Allmendinger missed the top 12 by 0.016 seconds.

"We’ll be close enough to the front to at least be able to see when it goes green," Allmendinger quipped. "When you miss by one 100th, it’s kind of tough to swallow, but, ultimately, we’re making our Chevy stronger each weekend.

"We’re steadily improving."

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