Start: 11th; Finish: 42nd
Summary: Joey Logano and his entire Home Depot team came into the AAA 400 weekend with high hopes of building upon their strong 15th-place run in the Dover earlier this year. It was a good start for the rookie, who qualified 11th on Friday afternoon, but it didn’t last long. Logano’s Camry looked competitive from the drop of the green flag as he maintained his position and knocked on the door of the top 10 until the competition caution was thrown on lap 25. The team did not have a great pit stop and lost track position, which would prove to be costly.
On the ensuing restart, Logano was attempting to navigate traffic down the backstretch when both he and the No. 96 of Bobby Labonte went for the same piece of real estate. Logano checked up but Tony Stewart, who was running just behind the duo, could not check up in time and made contact with the 19-year-old. As a result, the No. 20 Toyota went sliding down the inside of the track and then back onto the racing surface in turns 3 and 4. Logano made contact with both the outside retaining wall and the No. 43 Dodge of Reed Sorenson, which launched the bright orange and white machine into a barrel roll. After several frightening flips, reminiscent of Michael McDowell’s qualifying wreck at Texas last year, the acrobatics ended with all four tires planted firmly on the ground. Fortunately, like McDowell a year before him, Logano also walked away from the violent wreck shaken up, but OK. The wreck ended Logano’s promising day as he was credited was a next-to-last finish.
Quote: “I’m fine. It scared the heck out of me that’s pretty much what the biggest thing was. I’m not sure what happened. The spotter was clearing me low. I got down there and then they checked up getting into the corner. I guess I got hit from behind, I’m not really sure. I haven’t seen a replay yet. I’m not sure I want to see a replay.”
Start: 39th; Finish: 25th
Summary: The No. 82 team entered Sunday afternoon’s event in the midst of a “mini-slump” of sorts with two consecutive finishes outside the top 30. The team did not help themselves out any when they just barely made the field with the 39th starting position. However, Scott Speed narrowly missed the wreck that took out his fellow rookie and then dug in deep to get the most out of his Camry for remainder of the afternoon. It appeared that Speed and crew chief Jimmy Elledge struggled to figure out the new tire that Goodyear brought to Dover as the car would be competitive for only a handful of laps before falling off significantly. Despite this challenge, Speed was able to come home with a top-25 finish, four laps behind race winner Jimmie Johnson. It wasn’t pretty, but it was enough to earn him his first rookie of the race honor since Bristol in August.
UNOFFICIAL Raybestos Rookie Standings
Almost Rookie Recap
(These drivers are not official rookies because they made too many starts in 2008. For all intents and purposes however, they are still basically Sprint Cup freshman as they embark on their first full season in 2009.)
After two uncharacteristic runs, Marcos Ambrose was back on target for the AAA 400 at the Dover International Speedway, a larger version of Bristol where the Aussie ran so well last month. After starting in the middle of the pack, the No. 47 car broke into the top 20 by the race’s one-quarter mark. In typical Ambrose fashion, he remained in and around the top 15 and enjoyed a mostly uneventful afternoon, with one exception. On the last pit stop of the afternoon during the ninth caution, Ambrose mistakenly thought that he was in for a two-tire pit stop and began to pull out of his stall prematurely. However, the crew was able to stop him in time and complete their service. It was no harm, no foul for Ambrose who came home in the 14th position, his best finish since a third place run when the series last ran on a concrete track in August.
This was one of those weekends where everybody involved with the sport came out as a winner when Logano walked away from an eye-popping accident that left his car in shambles. There are many negative things that have been said about this new car and with good reason, but the additional layer of safety it has introduced into the sport far outweighs the other challenges that crews and drivers have had to deal with as a result. It was unfortunate though for Logano that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time as the accident ended what could have been a potential top-10 run.
Speed’s 25th-place run may not look like much on paper, but it was exactly what this team needed to “stop the bleeding.” Unfortunately, they have had to look for several of these types of performances just to get them back on track in 2009. Consistency is what this team lacks as every time they seem to get a hint of momentum going, they endure bad luck or a straight out poor performance that halts their forward progress. Look for Speed and Company to attempt to build on a positive once again when they head to Kansas next week.
Who Wasn’t Here?: All rookies who attempted the AAA 400 made the field.
UNOFFICIAL Driver Points Standings
17th – Marcos Ambrose (0)
20th – Joey Logano (-1)
35th – Scott Speed (0)
41st – Brad Keselowski (0, DNS)
42nd – Max Papis (0, DNS)
44th – Aric Almirola (0, DNS)
56th – Erik Darnell (0, DNS)
62nd – Dexter Bean (0, DNQ)
Note – The discrepancy between the driver standings and owner points for Speed is due to the fact that John Andretti fell behind Speed in driver points after missing two events due to Indy 500 commitments, but his No. 34 team remained in 35th because of the efforts of Tony Raines in the time period.
Qualifying Next Week: Speed just made the field this past week at Dover and he will face the same challenge again next week when he will have to time into the field. Keselowski in the No. 25 Chevy and Papis in the No. 13 Toyota will also need to be quick enough on Friday if they hope to be around on Sunday.
Next Up: The streak of second visits to venues in 2009 comes to a temporary halt this weekend as the circuit visits the Kansas Speedway for the Price Chopper 400. While the rookies have not seen this track before, the Chicagoland Speedway, which is similar in nature, can probably serve as a blue print for who will do well here. Logano had a solid top-20 finish while Keselowski and Speed both had good runs that were ended by wrecks. Based on that experience, I would expect a competitive race among the rookies in the nation’s heartland this weekend.
Rookie Prediction Poll: Over 65% of you thought that neither Speed or Logano could beat out Ambrose and you were absolutely correct. Logano never had a chance to show his stuff on Sunday while Speed had to fight for a top-25 finish. You break the tie by earning one point.
Kansas Prediction: There will be several drivers with yellow stripes on their bumpers this weekend including some faces we do not see every week. Which one of these rookies will finish best this weekend?
Tony’s Rookie Prediction: I still think Logano could have beaten out Ambrose’s 14th-place finish, but we will never know. His bad luck equals my missed opportunity this week as I now fall to a one-point deficit to you with only eight races remaining.
Logano ran well at the sister track to Kansas while Speed qualified on the outside of the front row, but I think Keselowski will beat out all of the rookies this Sunday at Kansas.
Rookie Poll Points: Readers 12, Tony 11