Joey Logano does not see himself as a road course racer.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â So imagine his surprise when he set the pace at 93.256 mph with a lap time of 76.821 Seconds and none of the drivers who followed him were able to better his speed for the Toyota/Save Mart 350.Ã‚Â This run makes Joey the youngest driver in Cup History to score a pole on a road course.Ã‚Â In his typical understated fashion Joey told the media just how surprised he really was.
”I was very surprised,” he said. ”We were sitting in the trailer watching the last three guys to go and it was Kasey (Khane), who got the pole here last year, Denny (Hamlin), who is really good here and our teammate, and then Kurt (Busch), who has got the last three poles in a row. We didn’t think we were going to be good enough to get the pole, but made some good adjustments and got some speed in the car.
”This is the last place I expected to get a pole. I never considered myself a road course racer.”
“After practice, I felt like we needed a lot more forward drive, a lot more side bite in the car, and they (his crew) made it happen.”
“I was surprised. I felt like my lap was OK. I didn’t feel like it was stellar — by no means. And it held up.”
“I didn’t really think it was going to hold up, and I don’t think any of my guys thought it was going to hold up, but we’re really pumped up right now. We needed a good momentum change for our Home Depot team right now. We’ve been going through a little bit of a drought, and this is definitely going to help us a lot.”
Now he’s have to get his armor ready for the brawl that is about to follow.Ã‚Â Sonoma in recent years has become a track the requires skill and patience, and yet has more beating and banging that the shorts tracks that NASCAR fans are used to watching.Ã‚Â Just look at the results from the race here last year.Ã‚Â 11 laps in, four cars stacked up. Just past halfway, the event had to be stopped for 20 minutes to clean up a five-car accident. In nearly every passing zone, drivers in the middle of the pack beat and banged on one another as if they were on a short track. Many were inadvertently caught in the crossfire and spun out.Ã‚Â Although the race is most remembered for Marcos Ambrose losing the lead when his car failed to restart on an uphill grade while he tried to conserve fuel, the conversations and appologies after the race were all about or from Jeff Gordon. Clint Bowyer,Martin Truex Jr.,Kurt Busch, and Elliot Sadler were among those demanding answers from Gordon afterward.
There’s preferred lines, and there’s basically being off line,” Gordon said. “If you happen to get put in a position where you’re off line, then you’re going to scratch, claw, with everything you possibly can, especially in the closing laps. There’s no doubt that in the closing laps … it’s as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than a short track.”
“It was an off day for Jeff,”Ã‚Â said Kurt Busch on Friday. “He apologized to a handful of guys afterward, and for some reason … excluded apologizing to me. I thought that was interesting. He drove straight through our right rear, gave us a flat, and we finished 32nd. You have your bad days. You have your moments of beating and banging. It’s one of those things where the lines keep getting further and further towards the aggressive side here at Sonoma.”
Kevin Harvick offered some idea of why the aggression factor is so high on a road course like Sonoma.
“I think there are very limited places to pass, and so when you see somebody that’s vulnerable, you have to take advantage of it. And when you get taken advantage of, you obviously want to minimize it as much as you can,”said Harvick. “As long as the fenders aren’t rubbing the tires here, you can usually still make good lap times. Road courses have become very physical races, and the cars look more like they should have been at Martinsville than probably anywhere else. It’s a fun race, and it has become very physical over the last three or four years. I think that’s more of a tribute to this particular car, because you can be more aggressive with it and not get yourself in trouble with fenders dragging tires and things.”
Jimmie Johnson agrees.
“When you’re in the center of the pack, it’s just an energy that exists when somebody makes a questionable move on you, and your excitement level goes up. And now you make a move on a guy, and it just kind of breeds this style of racing, and we’re going to see it,” he said. “Anymore, the passing zones, drivers are so aggressive in defending the passing zones and braking zones that you have to find a different way by, or just bomb it in there and the eight-tires-are-better-than four mentality and hope that you make it. I think there’s a very good chance of a lot of action taking place.”
Even a driver like Tony Stewart, who is definitely one of the best active NASCAR road course racers out there is looking for action to happen on the track.
“I can promise you, there will be a lot of guys that will just crash each other just because they think they can,” said Stewart. “I’ll bet anything I’ve got in my pocket that in the last two or
three laps, somebody dumps somebody just doing something stupid. So there’s no doubt in my mind that’ll happen.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. spoke about the post race meetings on the helicopter pad where the drivers let their feeling be known to each other about the days race.
“Yeah, this place gets interesting, especially up there on the helicopter pad afterward,” said Jr. “I don’t fly to the race tracks on helicopters no more, but it’s pretty interesting after the race. Everybody just sort of gets what’s on their mind out, and they talk it out, or whatever. Or they don’t talk, and it’s just kind of awkward.”
So even after his round of apologies, what doe Jeff Gordon expect from the other drivers?
“I’m sure if they’re in a position to kind of get back for what happened, I’m sure they will,” he said. “My goal this weekend is not to allow myself to get in that position.”