Ryan: A maturing Joey Logano brings the party to Team Penske at Daytona


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Starched white shirts and creased black pants were out in force inside the stately wrought iron gates of Daytona International Speedway, but this party scene wasn’t Team Penske material.

Roger Penske grabbed a Miller Lite from a blue ice chest. His myriad lieutenants chattered on cell phones and giddily punched in text messages on smartphones. A raucous cheer went up at five blasts of a horn by a Penske hauler that crept past on pit road.

It was easy to miss the guest of honor in Victory Lane. As his typically buttoned-up superiors hung loose enjoying an extraordinary triumph for a storied organization, Joey Logano – the winner of the 57th Daytona 500 — stood off to the side deftly handling TV interviews and sponsor photos with the graceful aplomb of someone wise beyond his 24 years.

“Hey Logano!,” Penske playfully yelled as the cameras snapped.

Finally taking a break from fulfilling the Penske Way responsibilities that are synonymous with corporate-friendly excellence in auto racing, Logano ambled over to the revelry, threw his arm around his car owner and flashed a toothy grin.

“We won,” he said, pausing for dramatic effect, “the Daytona 500.”

Celebrate for a while, kid.

Few have been more deserving of being on the cusp of NASCAR superstardom.

“Sometimes, God just throws you situations and you don’t know why, but you just got to roll with the punches and it turns out to be the best,” Logano said. “I think it’s no secret that I got thrown into the series too young (and) inexperienced.

“Obviously, the switch over to Team Penske was the best move of my career.  It was an opportunity for me to regroup, be who I wanted to be as an adult, not an 18‑year‑old kid anymore.”

Six years ago, Logano became the youngest starter in Daytona 500 history.

Sunday, he became the second-youngest winner of The Great American Race.

The gulf between those two feats seems massive, in part because Logano has been in the national consciousness for more than a decade.

He was 12 when future Hall of Famer Mark Martin proclaimed him ready to race in NASCAR’s premier series, and he fulfilled that promise while being thrust into a career debut that was accompanied by an inordinate amount of pressure. A leading distributor of NASCAR merchandise ran a countdown clock on its website for several months leading into Logano’s Xfinity Series debut. He was dubbed “Sliced Bread,” an unwanted and outsized nickname that became an easy target for derision.

The hype multiplied when he was promoted to Sprint Cup in 2009 in the untenable position of taking over Tony Stewart’s familiar No. 20. After four disappointing seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing, Logano had devolved from can’t-miss prospect to teetering on the edge of irrelevant journeyman. Until A.J. Allmendinger was fired during his first season with Penske because of a failed drug test, there seemed to be no landing spot as JGR readied to cut him loose after the ’12 season.

“I’m so happy and thankful that I went through the times of trying to figure this out, the tougher times worrying about if you’re going to have a job or not,” Logano said. “Worrying about winning a race and having a job are two different things. When you get to the point of worrying about winning races, that’s where you want to be in your career.”

That’s precisely where Logano found himself Sunday on NASCAR’s grandest stage. His ninth career victory was a star-making turn in a name-making event, and Logano’s name will be etched into the Harley J. Earl Trophy with the same worthiness as Richard Petty, David Pearson and Jeff Gordon.

This was no fluke like Logano’s first win as a rookie in a rain-shortened event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Despite having nary a drafting partner for his No. 22 Ford, Logano battled furiously to stay up front for 203 laps and outsmarted the stronger Chevrolets of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick with perfect timing and bravado in the finicky draft on the 2.5-mile oval.

“It took a lot,” he said. “It’s cool to be able to hold those guys back there.”

It backed up the promise exhibited by his breakthrough 2014, when Logano notched a personal-best five victories and reached the final round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“He’s going to be a guy at the top for a long time,” Penske said.

His team seems just as well-positioned, built on the twin foundations of Logano and 2012 series champion Brad Keselowski. With a pair of Gen Y drivers young enough to be his grandchildren, Penske, who turned 78 this past week, seemingly has rediscovered a vim that was evident during Sunday’s festivities.

“You need youth today in your business, you need youth today on the racetrack,” Penske said. “I like seeing these people compete and elevate themselves in the company. That’s what I look for.

“Seeing these young guys step up, a young golfer, like (Rory) McIlroy, it’s the great thing about sports, it brings the best out of people, brings the best out of our team.”

It also transcends the team. When the NASCAR youth movement of Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott et al is broached, Logano rarely is mentioned – even though he was born in 1990 and is more successful than all of them.

“I’m basically the same age as them with seven years of experience,” he said. “I feel like I’m still involved with it. I hope to kind of feel like the leader of it because I’ve been here before, I kind of understand how the sport works a little bit, what I need to do. As a driver, you want to take advantage of that, try to build our sport bigger and better all the time.

“How can we reach a younger demographic more? How can we reach more kids, stuff like that. It’s a role I want to take on as a driver, because I want NASCAR as a sport to keep growing like it is.”

Sometimes, age still betrays the driver whose idea of a fun evening is curling up with his newlywed wife, Brittany, and watching Boy Meets World reruns and old race highlights with milk and a plate of cookies.

The most awkward moment of his Sunday post-race interviews occurred when someone asked Logano if he’d take better care of his Daytona 500 championship ring than his wedding band, which he lost on his honeymoon two months ago.

“This one is harder to replace, I think,” Logano said, eyeing his new jewelry as the media center filled with surprised laughter. “Wait, I screwed that up, didn’t I? What I meant to say, she’s still here with me, (the ring) is just a symbol. She would be impossible to replace.”

Yet another adroit save by the rising star.

“I’m going to stop now,” Logano sheepishly said.

Actually, he is just getting started.

NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin

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NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Elliott’s car slapped the outside wall. Elliott’s car then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway


A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.


Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series results: Justin Allgaier wins at Charlotte


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier finally broke through for his first win of the NASCAR Xfinity Series season Monday night.

Allgaier stretched his last fuel load over the final laps to finish in front of John Hunter Nemechek. Cole Custer was third, Austin Hill fourth and Ty Gibbs fifth. Gibbs ran both races Monday, completing 900 miles.

The win also was the first of the season for JR Motorsports.

Charlotte Xfinity results

Xfinity points after Charlotte

Justin Allgaier wins NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier won a fuel-mileage gamble to win Monday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Allgaier stretched his fuel to outlast second-place John Hunter Nemechek. Following in the top five were Cole Custer, Austin Hill and Ty Gibbs.

The victory was Allgaier’s first of the year and the first of the season for JR Motorsports. He has 20 career wins.

MORE: Charlotte Xfinity results

After a long day at CMS, the race ended at 11:25 p.m. The race started Monday morning but was stopped twice because of weather before it was halted with 48 of 200 laps completed so that the Coca-Cola 600 Cup Series race could be run.

When the race was stopped, Gibbs, Nemechek and Allgaier were in the top three positions.

Gibbs won the first two stages.

Stage 1 winner: Ty Gibbs

Stage 2 winner: Ty Gibbs

Who had a good race: Justin Allgaier has had good cars in previous races but finally cashed in with a win Monday. He led 83 laps. … John Hunter Nemechek, in second, scored his fifth top-two run of the season. … Cole Custer scored his sixth straight top-10 finish. … Ty Gibbs lasted 900 miles for the day and led 52 laps in the Xfinity race.

Who had a bad race: Sam Mayer was running 10th when he spun off Turn 2. He finished 35th. … Sheldon Creed finished three laps down in 28th.

Next: The series moves on to Portland International Raceway in Oregon for a 4:30 p.m. ET race June 3.