Logano repeats on the pole at MIS
Brooklyn, Mich. — Joey Logano, racing in a Ford for Team Penske, picked off his second pole at Michigan International Speedway this season on Friday, besting a resurgent Jimmie Johnson.
Logano won the June 12 race at MIS from the pole.
Following his first pole at the two-mile track in the Irish Hills in 2013, Logano went on to triumph in the race.
Indeed, at one of the fastest tracks in NASCAR that was resurfaced at the end of the 2011 season, four of the last six pole winners went on to win the race.
Denny Hamlin, Sprint Cup points leader Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney, Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman rounded out the top 10 for the Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m., Sunday, NBCSN).
The young breed of Sprint Cup drivers performed well again, as they did in the FireKeepers Casino 400 in June at MIS. Elliott, Bowman and Blaney are all 23 years old or younger.
Brad Keselowski, the native of Rochester Hills who is still without a win, qualified a disappointing 18th, well behind his teammate Logano.
Two other drivers have won three or more Michigan races from the pole, and both are in the NASCAR Hall of Fame — David Pearson and Bill Elliott.
“I mean, anytime you get your name with a Hall of Famer of any sort it’s really special for me,” Logano said. “That’s crazy for me. That’s a really, really neat stat.
“I’ve still got to do it, though.”
Logano said the advantage of starting in front at MIS comes from leading on the restarts and garnering the first pit stall.
“In qualifying trim, I didn’t think we were going to make it happen today,” said Logano, who was eighth before the final qualifying round.
He credited crew chief Todd Gordon with quick, substantive changes.
“Todd gave me some good adjustments, and he gave me a little pep talk,” said Logano, 26, of Middletown, Connecticut. “I was able to drive in (to corners) harder than my brain should tell me to do, and stuck. He made some adjustments for the Ford to stick and it did what I told it to do. So, good job for the whole team.”
A different rules package, affecting the design and mechanics of the cars, is in place for the second race in Michigan, as it was earlier this season in Kentucky.
It is intended as the “setup” for 2017, or at least something close to it.
The evolving responses from the teams and crews to the mandatory arrangements seem to have shuffled the performances of some cars.
Among other things, just about everyone ran faster than in June.
“The teams are getting smarter,” Hamlin said. “It doesn’t take long once you take down force away, these teams start to adjust, get their balance better and you see faster speeds.”
Chevrolet was suddenly ascendant, with eight of the top 12 qualifiers, and the performance of the Fords slackened, with only Logano and Blaney running in them.
Johnson’s last win was March 20 at Fontana. His other win this year was at Atlanta on Feb. 28.
“I do feel like the speed is going to be there for us, and we’ll be able to carry it into the following weeks,” Johnson said of the Hendrick Motorsports cars that suddenly lost speed in recent races.
All four of the slumping Hendrick cars — all Chevrolets — qualified in the top 10.
“Time will tell,” Johnson said. “It is one thing to go fast for one lap, but to go fast all day long is the next step for us. And we’ve just got to piece that together.”
Hamlin earned his 11th top-10 start at MIS, and his 22nd in 24 races in 2015.
Elliott, 20, was the top qualifying rookie.
Pure Michigan 400
When: 2 p.m. Sunday, Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, Michigan
Schedule: Today — 8:30 a.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice; 9:45 a.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series pole qualifying; 11:30 a.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice; 1 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Careers for Veterans 200.
Defending champion: Matt Kenseth
Tickets: Go to mispeedway.com