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Photo – http://www.nascarmedia.com

Dave Burnham, Middletown Chronicle, October 1, 2014

As the V8 engine stopped growling and the clouds of tire smoke cleared after one of his trademark victory burnouts, Joey Logano had just one question, “Where’s the lobster?” The Middletown native was looking for his unique lobster trophy in Victory Lane having just taken the checkered flag in the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) on Sept. 21.

His seventh-career Sprint Cup win was a hard-fought affair. Logano led one lap of the one-mile oval track under caution on lap 107 and 42 more starting at lap 171. Logano’s decisive moment came on a lap 273 restart when he blasted past Penske teammate Brad Keselowski and leader Kevin Harvick to take over at the head of the field and won by 1.150 seconds.

Logano and the Team Penske No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Fusion started the 300-lap race from seventh spot after recording a lap time of 27.35 seconds at a speed of 139.24 mph in qualifying.

“We weren’t as good as we thought we would be. I thought we would have been a little faster than where we ended up,” Logano said. “We’ve got to find a little more speed for race day.”

When the race began, Logano dropped several positions, but after 20 laps, he worked his way up to sixth before the caution flag came out on lap 35. After a two-tire stop during the caution period, Logano came off pit lane in third spot and was soon up to second, which he held from lap 95 through two more pit-stop cycles.

With the Shell-Pennzoil Ford unable to make the finish on fuel, crew chief Todd Gordon called Logano in for four tires and a top up of Sunoco fuel on lap 246. One of the few competitors to take four tires on his last stop, Logano was 16th with 50 laps remaining.

The fresh rubber worked to his advantage by allowing him to charge from 16th to sixth in 10 laps.

With several late-race restarts (16 throughout the race), and fresher tires and more fuel than the cars ahead, Logano picked off the field one by one.

“I thought we gave it away but four tires were good and we had some good restarts,” Logano commented. “Before I knew it, I was sitting third. I’ve got 30-lap newer tires than anybody else and we were able to capitalize with that. Then, of course, it was caution after caution after caution and that was making me nervous for sure.

“The guys did a good job setting this up and gave me something to win with. I went to sleep just wanting a top five finish because this isn’t one of my best places. It means a lot to win here.”

New Hampshire Motor Speedway is home to several firsts in Logano’s career. He attended his first NASCAR race there at age five. He made his Sprint Cup debut there; and it was the location of his first Sprint Cup win in 2009 in a rain-shortened race where he was denied the traditional victory lane celebration.

‘‘I didn’t know where Victory Lane was, actually,’’ a jubilant Logano said. ‘‘I just made another lap. I didn’t have any rear tires [after the victory burnout]. I wanted to stay out there. I never got out in front of all the fans on a front straightaway before. It was too cool. I couldn’t give up that opportunity. I just wanted to keep going. There might not be much left of the car, but it was something really special to win here. I wanted to make it last as long as I could.

“This is my home track. I always love coming here. It’s the coolest place to win for me – this is almost like Daytona. Thanks to all the boys at Team Penske, we’re doing what we’ve got to do to win this thing.”

The NHMS win moved Logano into second spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase standings, just one point behind Keselowski.

To see the published feature click HERE.

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