IT’S NO FLUKE: JOEY LOGANO IS THE REAL DEAL by Jeremy Troiano
Rogers Has The Best Car, But Penalty Kills His Chances
There were a few things proven on Saturday night in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series event at South Georgia Motorsports Park.
First, there is truth to the rumor that 15-year-old Joey Logano is a superstar in the making.
There is also truth to the rumor that sometimes is racing, the fastest car doesn't always win.
Rogers dominated the first part of the race. After earning the pole, Rogers grabbed the lead from Mardy Lindley on lap 42 and led until the leaders came in to pit on lap 89.
That is when Rogers’ night turned upside down.
In short, Rogers incurred a pit road penalty that would have initially resulted in him having to go to the tail of the longest line before the next restart. However, when Rogers didn’t adhere to the penalty, he was black flagged. There was some miscommunication somewhere, and Rogers never served his black flag until many laps later. In the end, Rogers came out of it six laps down and, theoretically, out of the running for the race win.
The Pro Cup officials explained Rogers’ penalty as this: “He was supposed to be sent to the rear of the longest line for dropping down after the commitment line to indicate pitting and forcing his way into the line of cars pitting. He didn’t adhere to the penalty that was called down to him. He took the green flag and then received the black flag. He stayed out for three laps and the black and white flag (which signifies a car is no longer being scored) came out. The caution then came out and he stayed out three more laps (while still receiving the black and white flag). With the black and white flag, his scorecard was pulled. As per Pro Cup rules, for each lap you run with a black and white flag, you are assessed a one-lap penalty per lap in addition to the lap you are losing. He ran three laps with the black and white flag, which put him three laps down. He was also assessed three more laps for running under the black and white flag, so that put him six laps down.”
Joey Logano picked up his second Pro Cup win on Saturday night. (51 Photos)
Rogers’ wouldn’t settle for that simple explanation.
“What happened here tonight was the possibly one of the biggest breakdowns in communication that has ever happened in motorsports,” said a extremely frustrated Rogers after the event. “The car that never lost a lap on the racetrack somehow managed to un-lap itself four times and still finished three laps down.
“We screwed up (by not dropping down before everyone else did) and we knew it. Everyone dropped down and short pitted because they knew they couldn’t beat us. I figured I’d go to the tail of the cars that dropped down, still come in and we’d be ok. I thought I did the right thing by coming in at the tail of the lead lap cars.
Clay Rogers (#44) had the best car by far on Saturday night, but he didn't get the win he was hoping for in the end.
Logano earned his second-career Pro Cup victory and his first in the Southern Division. Last season, he won a Northern Division race at Mansfield Motorsports Park in Ohio in just his second career start. And if anyone thought that win was a fluke, he backed it up, winning in the even more potent Southern Division on Saturday evening, holding off Shane Wallace in a green-white-checker finish.
Logano admittedly didn't have the fastest car in Saturday night’s 250-lap showdown at South Georgia, but he had a fast car that was able to cross the finish line before anyone else, and that is what counts when they issue the checks and hand out the trophies.
The fastest car… well that belonged to Clay Rogers.
“Ok, so I got penalized. Fine. Somehow, of all the ways they could have relayed that info (that he was penalized) never got done. I guess it was too overwhelming of a job. I never knew. In those three laps between the penalty and going back green, we couldn’t get the message relayed to me.
“The breakdown in the communication we had tonight was unacceptable. They have the ability to come on our radio and tell us stuff, but they don’t even use that ability. What is the point of even having that ability? There is an official in your pits, two in the scorer’s stand and one in the spotter’s stand and none of them could tell us.
Ironically, it was Lindley who Logano passed for the lead as well in his first Pro Cup win at Mansfield last year.
“The caution came out and we got back going and Clay was right next to me (in the lapped down line),” said Logano. “When Clay got by (to get a lap back), Lindly stuck his nose in under me and got by me. I knew our car was good on long runs, so I just rode it out and rode it out. (Lindley) came back to me and I got right by him.”
After making that pass, Logano then had to hold off Shane Wallace. He also had to endure a green-white-checkered finish, the same as he did when he won his first Pro Cup race last year.
“We had that green-white-checker and I was sick. I couldn’t believe it. It is the same thing that happened at Mansfield when we won. It was like de javu. We had Lindley right behind us there too. And this track is sort of like Mansfield too. It is pretty weird how it all worked out I guess.”
“I might be hard-headed, but I am not going to let my scorecard get pulled, whether I agree with the call or not. Not with a car that is this good. I would have gone a lap down and still went and kicked their ass.”
Once Rogers was so many laps down, the race fell into the hands of three drivers: Shane Huffman, Lindley and Logano.
All three drivers took turns up front, but Huffman looked to then have the car to beat. However, off of a restart on lap 164, Huffman’s car broke, putting Logano back up front.
Logano and Lindley then swapped the lead a couple of times. Logano retook the lead for what could be the last time on lap 212.
After the win, Logano admitted that he know he wasn’t he best car on Saturday night.
“Clay Rogers was obviously the fastest car out there tonight. He was several laps down though. I figured I had the fastest car of the cars on the lead lap and that is what counts.”
Logano had a little extra help in his corner on Saturday night as well. Andy Santerre, the four-time defending NASCAR Busch North (now Busch East) Series Champion was at South Georgia serving as a consultant for Logano. It worked out.
“He is amazing,” said Santerre, watching Logano celebrate in Victory Lane. It is hard to believe that he is only 15 (years old). Talking on the radio, he talks like a seasoned veteran. It is unreal. I was just fortunate enough to be here. It is my first race here and I’m just fortunate enough he ends up in victory lane.
“I told him yesterday to wait until today. He said he liked the track, but it wasn’t one of his favorites. I told him when he is
Andy Santerre (left) said Logano (right) is one of the best he's ever seen.
standing in victory lane, spraying champagne and all the Hooters girls are hugging on you, we’ll see what you say.”
And if there were any detractors to his victory of last season, Logano proved those skeptics wrong on Saturday, winning in what many believe to be the tougher of the two Pro Cup Divisions.
“I was bummed out last year that we only won one race rally,” added Logano. “We had a lot better cars that we showed at some of those places last year. I made a few mistakes and the team made a few mistakes.
“I think we can be this good all year this year. We proved it tonight.”
That could be very, very bad news for the rest of the Pro Cup field.