Joey Logano looks ahead to Martinsville, not behind

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Joey Logano is focused on what’s ahead this weekend at Martinsville Speedway, but car owner Roger Penske can’t help but look back at this race a year ago.

Penske sees how strong Logano’s car was and how his driver was in position to win and earn a spot in the championship round until Matt Kenseth intentionally wrecked Logano in retaliation for an incident a few weeks earlier at Kansas.

“I hope we can (return) where we left off, not against the wall, but leading the race,’’ Penske told NBC Sports after Logano’s victory last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

Logano has moved on from that race.

“We just want to go there and win,’’ he told NBC Sports. “I don’t really focus on what happened last year or think about it or anything like that.

“It would be really cool to win at Martinsville. We’ve never won there.’’

What Logano has won there is the pole three consecutive years, tying what Jeff Gordon (2003-04), Mark Martin (1990-91), Darrell Waltrip (1979-80) and Glen Wood (1959-60) have done.

The pole didn’t prove too helpful in the spring race, though, as Logano struggled with the car’s handling and was lapped within the first 80 circuits. Logano recovered to finish 11th on the lead lap.

Logano led 207 laps in this race a year ago. That was before Kenseth, also upset about an earlier incident with Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski, issued his payback. 

MARTINSVILLE, VA - NOVEMBER 01: The #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford of Joey Logano is towed into the garage after an incident with Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on November 1, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Joey Logano’s car is towed into the garage after an incident with Matt Kenseth during last fall’s Chase race at Martinsville Speedway. (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)

Logano finished 37th and could not recover from the points deficit in the next two races and failed to advance to the championship round. It is the only time Logano has been eliminated since this format debuted in 2014.

Logano says that competing for the title in 2014 at Homestead has helped him excel in the playoffs.

“The Chase, there’s a lot of pressure but I’ve found a way to be excited about it,’’ he said. “I love this part of the season. I really enjoy it, can’t wait for it all year.

“Going through Homestead a couple of years ago, I learned a lot about myself. I think our race team learned a lot about themselves, individually, kind of handling that pressure.’’

Logano and crew chief Todd Gordon both say what gives Martinsville added importance is that a win there gives a team two extra weeks to prepare for the season finale in Miami instead of focusing so much on races at Texas and Phoenix before the field of eight title contenders is cut to four.

The Chase field includes all four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers — Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth — along with Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch and Hendrick Motorsports’ Jimmie Johnson.

Gordon isn’t worried about competing against all four Gibbs cars.

“It’s one vs. 39 every weekend,’’ he told NBC Sports. “Yes, they have four opportunities, but if we want to win a championship, we’ve got to beat everybody and that means all four of their guys. I don’t see it as a negative for us.’’

Should Logano make it to Miami, he could help Penske achieve something he’s never done before — win the IndyCar and NASCAR Sprint Cup titles in the same year.

“This being our 50th year and you go back and you think back to all the great results and the great people and the great drivers and then to finish 1-2-3 in the IndyCar championship, obviously, is something very special,’’ Penske said. “In the back of your mind, you keep thinking, ‘I wonder if I can get the Cup job done again in 2016?’ Believe me it’s on our minds, but we’ve got to earn it, we’ve got to race for it, no one is going to give it to us. That would make this year real special.’’

Long: Hall of Fame moment is special for father and son

Photo by Dustin Long
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CHARLOTTE — Sleep has not come easy for Doug Yates in some time.

It has only gotten worse lately.

He can’t stop thinking of his father, Robert, who battles liver cancer. Robert has undergone chemotherapy, but at one point doctors said they weren’t sure what how to treat the 74-year-old former NASCAR team owner and engine builder who was selected to the 2018 Hall of Fame Class on Wednesday.

That helpless feeling of not solving a problem counters what Robert and Doug have done all their lives. If there was an issue with an engine, they worked harder and longer until they fixed the matter.

This they can’t.

While Robert Yates undergoes experimental treatments, Doug is there to help take care of his father. There are bad days, Doug says, wincing.

“What I see is a man who is broken down and built back up because he is watching his father,’’ said Whitney Yates, Doug’s wife. “Sometimes (Robert) is so sick he can’t do anything and Doug is there.’’

They are more than father and son. They share a treasured relationship not every boy and his dad experiences, their bonds woven early and strengthened with each day together.

Doug fondly recalls sleeping on a cot in a race shop when he was about 5 years old while his father worked on an engine through the night. They traveled to races together. Doug reminisces of a trip to Richmond where his father, tired from work, told his son, then 12, to take the wheel while he slept. Yet, when a deer ran across their path, it was Robert who asked his son if he saw that.

They often went to the race shop together. Although family, Robert was still the boss. He would be hard on his son at times, but Doug cherishes even those memories.

Robert was only teaching his son what it took to succeed. Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett won two Daytona 500s and Davey Allison won another for Robert Yates Racing. Jarrett won the 1999 Cup championship with the team. As an owner, Robert Yates won 57 Cup races and 48 poles.

Now, Doug is the boss. He oversees the “vision” his father had of the Roush Yates Engines shop, which powered Kurt Busch to a Daytona 500 win and Ford teams to four other victories in the season’s first 11 races.

“He wants to make (his dad) proud,’’ Whitney said of Doug. “He’s always trying so hard.

“Doug is always moving the bar. I think Robert is so proud of that.’’

While Doug does what he can for his father and the family business, he couldn’t control what happened at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The past three years Robert, Doug and the rest of the family came to the Hall of Fame to see if Robert would be selected. Five are chosen each year. Robert ranked sixth in votes received twice, just missing enshrinement.

Robert Yates reacts after he is announced to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Each time, Robert said the voting panel got it right.

“Selfishly, I didn’t think so, but he did,’’ Doug said. “That was a lesson for me. Everything happens for a reason.’’

As Wednesday approached, Doug Yates’ anxiety grew. It was worse Wednesday morning and throughout the day.

As Doug walked into Hall of Fame, ahead of his father, he conceded he was “nervous.’’

He also was prepared.

Doug stocked multiple tissues in the pockets of his slacks.

“If he didn’t make it, I was going to break down,’’ Doug said of his father making the Hall of Fame. “If he did, I was going to break down.’’

Robert also felt nervous.

“If I don’t get in,’’ Robert told himself before the announcement, “that’s the reason to work real hard to be here next year to get in.’’

The family didn’t have to wait long to celebrate.

Robert Yates, who received 94 percent of the vote, was announced first.

“Wow,’’ Doug said. “I’m glad that’s over.’’

His father, sitting a row in front of Doug, reached back. Doug leaned forward. They held hands. 

After that it was a matter of relishing what had happened as four other men — Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ken Squier and Ron Hornady Jr. — were selected to join Robert Yates in the next Hall of Fame Class.

Doug stay composed throughout. He wiped his eyes once.

When the ceremony ended, Robert Yates reached his arm around wife Carolyn and embraced her.

“My family means so much to me because they allowed me to work night and day,’’ Robert Yates said. “Do I love engines? Yes, whether one cylinder, two cylinders, six or 12 or 24. I love engines.’’

That passion led him to this moment.

“I feel like I could take a jack,’’ said the former jackman.

“I don’t know if I’ll sleep tonight.’’

Doug Yates will.

His father will be in the Hall of Fame.

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Announcer Ken Squier elected to NASCAR Hall of Fame (video)

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With 40 percent of the vote, announcer Ken Squier was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 2018 class.

Squier, 82, is one of the most iconic voices in NASCAR history.

A co-founder of the Motor Racing Network, Squier is famous for his call of the 1979 Daytona 500 on CBS, which was the first NASCAR race to be broadcast live on TV flag-to-flag. It was Squier who nicknamed the Daytona 500 the “Great American Race.”

Squier called races on CBS and TBS until 1997. For the last two years he has been a regular contributor to NBC Sports’ NASCAR coverage, including calling select portions of the Southern 500.

“It feels pretty darn good,” Squier told NASCAR America. “I announced so many races in so many places and met so many people. That’s the overwhelming feeling. To get this honor from the stock car crowd, that to me is beyond belief because there’s so many others that are doing similar things. So many people who are so committed and so caring about this sport and to think that I’ve been sort of singled out, I’ve never quite understood that.”

 

 

Four-time Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. elected to NASCAR Hall of Fame (video)

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With 38 percent of the vote, Ron Hornaday Jr. was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 2018 class.

Hornaday, 58, is a four-time champion of the Camping World Truck Series and holds the series’ wins record with 51 victories.

Hornaday raced in the series from its inception in 1995 through 1999 and then from 2005 through 2014.

He’s the first Truck Series champion to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

“There wasn’t even a Hall of Fame when I started racing, you just do it to put food on the table and enjoy it,” Hornaday told NASCAR America. “There’s so many people (to thank) … I don’t know who to thank and where to start.”

Hornaday won two of his championships driving for Dale Earnhardt Inc. and two for Kevin Harvick.

Ray Evernham, leader of the ‘Rainbow Warriors,’ elected to NASCAR Hall of Fame (video)

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With 52 percent of the vote, Ray Evernham was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 2018 class.

Evernham, 59, was the crew chief for Jeff Gordon and the “Rainbow Warriors” when they won three Cup Series championships from 1995-1998.

Evernham and Gordon won 47 races together before Evernham left Hendrick Motorsports in 1999 to lead Dodge’s return to NASCAR.

Evernham was in Indianapolis when he learned of his election to the Hall of Fame.

“I got my first NASCAR license in 1978 and that’s a long time ago,” Evernham told NASCAR America. “It’s a huge sense of relief but it’s also a very, very humbling feeling. There’s so many of my heroes who are in the Hall of Fame and so many of them that are nominated. When you have your name even mentioned in that, it’s incredible. This sport has been everything to me. It’s all I ever wanted to do, It’s all I’ve ever done.”