One Word Dominates Others Heading Into NHIS... POINTS by Penny Aicardi
Busch East Point Battle In Final Stretch
Matt Kobyluck (#40) and Joey Logano (#20, outside) are two guys both looking for the BES title. (Howie Hodge photo)
It’s always the hot topic heading into New Hampshire International Speedway’s fall event: especially with NASCAR’s NEXTEL Cup Series beginning “The Chase”. But with regards to the NASCAR Busch East Series, there hasn’t been much talk about it lately. With only two races to go, rookie standout Joey Logano has an 82 point lead over Matt Kobyluck. The question is: will Logano wrap up one of the most successful rookie seasons in Busch East Series history or will Matt Kobyluck steal the thunder?
Logano has led the 2007 Busch East Series points all year with the exception of one day. Sean Caisse’s win at Elko Speedway put him atop of the point standings on Friday night, but Logano’s win at Iowa Speedway on Sunday returned the 17-year-old rookie back on top. Caisse barely had time to realize he was a point leader before Logano reclaimed it. Logano, with a series leading four wins in only 11 starts, extended his point lead to 188 as the series headed to Lime Rock Park. Matt Kobyluck, who won that race, closed the gap to double digits when Logano went off course and went several laps down. After Mansfield, Kobyluck was able to shave off another ten points, but he still has a long way to go.
One has to look no further than previous rookie records to see just how incredible Logano’s season has been. In the past, everyone has compared rookies to Ricky Craven, New England’s golden child who went on to have a successful career in NASCAR’s NEXTEL Cup Series. In 1990, as a rookie in the Busch Grand National North, Craven finished third in the points with two wins and seven Busch Pole Awards. Since then, no rookie has ever finished higher then third in the point standings. Brad Leighton
and Jerry Marquis both posted two wins in their rookie seasons, but neither finished higher than fifth in the point standings. Craven didn’t win the series title until his sophomore year in 1991.
Logano has rewritten history in his rookie year, and it will be a long time before we see another driver come in and challenge his record. Whether or not he wins the championship, Logano’s four wins (which could be added to before the season is out) are unprecedented. He’s beat Craven’s rookie record, which was set, ironically, the year Logano was born. Regardless, he will be happy with nothing less than the championship trophy. Anything else, at this point, will be a disappointment.
Kobyluck, on the other hand, is facing long odds. Mathematically, 82 points is a do-able figure. But, NHIS has been his nemesis. In July, Kobyluck seemed to shake the monkey off his back with a top-10 finish, and the team is confident that they have a solid car for this week’s Aubuchon Hardware 150. Realistically, 82 points is a lot to close up in only two races. If both drivers post a top-10 finish in the last two races, the series title will go to Logano. In order for Kobyluck to get within shooting distance, Logano will have to have another race like Lime Rock Park.
Whether or not Matt Kobyluck has a title shot largely depends on this week. As we said before, New Hampshire International Speedway has not been kind to the driver of the No. 40 Mohegan Sun Casino Chevrolet, and Logano, driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Driven Oil Chevrolet, in his one start at the ‘Magic Mile’, has done something Kobyluck has never been able to – win.
In a season that has been defined by youth, the final battle comes down to rookie versus veteran. It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Logano has turned many heads in BES this season.