Joey Logano overtook Mark Martin four laps from the finish to claim victory at the Pocono 400 as the Aaron's Dream Machine driver suffered yet another near-miss in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. The 53 year old has now finished second on seven separate occasions at Pocono while Logano, 31 years his junior, became the first man in 30 races to convert pole position into victory.
The top two moved the front of the running order during a green flag pit stop phase on lap 125. Dale Earnhardt Jr and Matt Kenseth were fighting it out at the front prior to that point but Logano left pit road ahead of them having entered in third. Martin's crew serviced their driver almost three seconds quicker than Earnhardt's and promoted their man four places to second.
A late race caution period threatened to derail Logano's victory charge as Martin stormed around the outside of him into turn one. Only eight laps remained but Logano kept himself on the tail of the leader and when Martin made a slight error coming around turn three on lap 156, Logano took advantage. The Home Depot Toyota driver made light contact with Martin at turn one and slipped underneath him, giving him an advantage he'd hold to the checkered flag.
Martin wasn't completely happy with the way he lost the lead but took great pride from his own performance and hopes the first victory since Loudon 2009 isn't too far away.
“Well, I’d call that a bump-and-run. It’s been acceptable in this racing for a long time. It’s not how I would have done it, but certainly, if I’d have had a fast enough car, he would have gotten a return (bump). But I couldn’t quite keep up with him.”
“It was great racing, and everybody does what they’re . . . what they decide to do. It was a great race, and I’m very, very proud of my race team for putting me in something that would give me a shot. I’m having fun. Maybe next week we’ll be the ones with the trophy.”
Logano believes the result was the perfect way to answer his critics and admits the win gives him greater satisfaction than any of his 13 Nationwide Series successes.
“I hope it shuts ’em all up. “The first win came — it came soon, it came under rain delay — so this is a different feel. But when you cross the line, and you’ve won the race, it’s, like I said earlier, it’s an amazing feeling. It’s amazing how much more it means than a Nationwide win.”
“Not to take anything away from that, those Nationwide wins are a lot of fun, but I think Jason knows when you’re racing against the best race car drivers with the best race teams out there, and to be able to beat them is — it’s, to me, the best of the best out here.”
The race saw a record number of penalties as an extraordinary 22 men broke the speed limit on pit road. Jimmie Johnson was among them but recovered to finish third behind Tony Stewart with Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer completing the top six.
Matt Kenseth ended up in seventh spot but with previous Sprint Cup leader Greg Biffle down in 24th, the no.17 driver now leads the standings, ten points clear of Dale Earnhardt who followed him home in eighth and sixteen ahead of Biffle.