Hot/Not: Joey Logano rebounds nicely at Daytona

Geoffrey Miller
July 5, 2011

David Ragan won his first career Cup race, taking the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Here's what is on my mind as the circuit left the world center of racing:

HOT: Joey Logano had a pretty impressive weekend in the Sunshine State, scoring his first restrictor plate victory Friday night in the wild Nationwide Series finish before his third-place effort in the Sprint Cup event.

The 21-year-old Logano has struggled some in his third year of Sprint Cup Series racing. He's currently 20th in the point standings with just four top 10s and two top fives in 17 races. A year ago after Daytona, Logano had already earned seven top 10s en route to finishing 16th in points during his sophomore campaign.

Logano made no bones about it after Saturday night's race that the weekend that was Daytona provided an immeasurable boost to his confidence after coming up mostly empty so far this year. It hasn't help, of course, that Logano's seat has become a hot bed of NASCAR's Silly Season speculation as to who will pilot the No. 20 in 2012.

To make matters better for Logano, his Daytona performance followed up his effort last weekend at Infineon Raceway in which he started from the pole and wound up finishing sixth.

"I needed something to turn around here. It's a lot of momentum for me," Logano said post-race. "We definitely needed something to turn around."

Life should only get better for Logano, too. Saturday night's race at Kentucky Speedway will mark the Sprint Cup Series' first appearance at the 1.5-mile track near Cincinnati. It's also a track Logano has dominated in the Nationwide Series. The Connecticut driver has been flawless at Kentucky — literally — by winning three poles and three races in three starts.

HOT: How about that for David Ragan? Ragan, forever one of NASCAR's good guys courtesy of his great treat-as-be-treated demeanor, finally scored his first career Sprint Cup 'W' after 163 starts and exponentially more questions.

For some related trivia, Ragan's got a penchant for first wins at restrictor plate tracks. He scored his first Nationwide Series win at Talladega in 2009 and later followed it up with a win at Bristol.

NOT: It's fitting, I assume, that David Ragan "avenged" his Daytona 500 meltdown in the very next race at the 2.5-mile track. However, the story that Ragan "lost" the Daytona 500 because of one solitary late restart is a stretch, at best. {ysp:more}

Sure, Ragan was leading at the time of his penalty for changing lanes too quickly. But Ragan also would have had to fend off the rest of the field for two remaining green-flag laps in February. In a race that featured 74 lead changes, Ragan had a slight advantage, at best, over most.

That being said, such a story would have been played up at any track where Ragan looked like a potential first-time winner.

HOT: I really, really like that this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup will feature two drivers solely (mostly, that is) on them putting notches in the victory column. That battle is only going to improve as we roll down the stretch to Richmond.

NOT: I realize that NASCAR tries its best to get a race to finish under green, and I think they did a reasonable job of that Saturday night with the timing of the last-lap caution flag. The first crash on the final lap appeared to mostly skid out of the groove in Turns 3 and 4, enabling NASCAR to allow the race to finish under green. The second crash more near the start/finish line accurately brought out the yellow flag.

What I don't get is how fast Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, David Gilliland and Marcos Ambrose approached the crash scene at the start/finish line, several seconds after the caution lights illuminated. They were simply too fast and just barely missed walloping a stopped Ryan Newman.

The rule is simple: the field freezes at the time of a caution. Hopefully NASCAR made a point about that after the race.

NEUTRAL: Admit it. The two-car tandem drafting at Daytona — in both Sprint Cup and Nationwide — is starting to grow on you. I'm still not its biggest fan — I'd like to find a way for leaders to lead for more of a reason rather than aerodynamic luck — but the racing is intense every step of the way.

HOT: Jeff Gordon's saves — including not hitting anything during his Lap 158 incident and also recovering to finish sixth — could help him considerably come Chase time. Remember, bonus points in the Chase only apply to the top-10 drivers, and Gordon currently has six of those coming his way should be remain a top-10 qualifier.

NOT: The legion of Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans who somehow found a way to blame Jimmie Johnson for the No. 88 coming up empty Saturday night may need their collective heads examined.

HOT: Jimmie Johnson's response to those crazies via Twitter was simply awesome, and more importantly, helped to sideline the inaccurate "vanilla" reputation of NASCAR's five-time defending champion. It's been said before, but I'll say it again: Johnson having direct control of and readily using his Twitter account is the best PR move he could have made.

HOT: TNT's (mostly) commercial-free telecast Saturday night proved again that advertisers and networks need to work a lot closer together to make racing a more streamlined experience with cars being shown on-track as much as possible. It was great to watch, even with the in-race ads.

NEUTRAL: I'm not ready to crown Danica Patrick as NASCAR's second-coming by any stretch, but she deserves praise for the race she ran Friday night at Daytona. Patrick finished 10th after leading a total of 13 laps and getting caught in last-lap tri-oval crash.

Patrick wasn't perfect and she got quite an assist from several drivers who pushed her in the tandem drafting, but she's far from the no-talent hack many like to characterize her as.