The Rain Game: Why Logano and the No. 20 Team Deserve the Win at NHMS

Rob TiongsonSenior Analyst IJune 29, 2009

LOUDON, NH - JUNE 28:  Joey Logano, driver of the #20 Home Depot Toyota, celebrates winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 28, 2009 in Loudon, New Hampshire. Logano won the rain shortened race with 27 laps remaining.  (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Sure, the winner of Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 only led for 10 circuits and took command of the race lead by virtue of crew chief Greg Zipadelli's gamble.

Yes, this driver got "lucky" and "stole" the race away from front-runners Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart, and Jimmie Johnson, who all had stout machines capable of winning at "The Magic Mile."

And again, rain ruined what was otherwise shaping out to be a competitive race at the 1.058-mile paperclip oval in Loudon, NH.

But for those who feel that an asterisk should be placed next to 19-year-old Joey Logano's name in the all-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins list, such complaining should come to a crashing halt.

While I sympathize with those who may have been unhappy with Sunday's finish, which fell 28 laps shy of its scheduled distance, fans need to remember that wits and luck are factors that play into a win.

How many times in previous races, whether it's in the NASCAR ranks, the IndyCar series, or even the sports car divisions of the Grand American Racing series, where the best cars often fall short of a victory?

It is often like the old fable of the tortoise and the hare, where of course, the fastest animal did not win their spirited race.

Logano and his team, primarily by the genius strategy made by Zipadelli, found themselves at the right place at the right time when Mother Nature was going to have her say in who'd win Sunday's race.

The 19-year-old freshman driver, who's steadily improved in the past few races, has shown a remarkable turnaround behind the wheel.

No longer apt to just pushing the car to its limits and banging fenders with his peers on the track, Logano has learned the art of patience, and it has shown with a trio of ninth-place finishes at Talladega, Darlington, and Lowe's. Certainly, those are not tracks for the faint hearted.

Many expected the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry team to improve over the course of 2009 with a collection of top five and top 10 finishes to boot for this rookie contender.

But a win? Most definitely not. "Sliced Bread," you ain't got stuff to run with the big boys...

Well, this kid, with a solid team and plan, outfoxed the field for one day.

As a result, the No. 20 team finds themselves sitting 21st in points, which is a remarkable showing when you consider how horrendous their performances and finishes were earlier in the year.

For those who won't admit that Logano deserved the win, just think of how many times your driver won a race by luck.

In baseball, you have the sacrifice fly or bunt that more than often results in a costly out over an improbable victory.

But when all other avenues of strategy are limited at best, as the manager of the trailing team, you have no choice but to go against the odds.

Think Boston Red Sox winning in an unlikely Mother's Day game in 2007 against the Baltimore Orioles. Who "woulda thunkit?"

In the NBA, a two-plus possession lead with a minute left in the game can leave the losing team in either knots or with excitement with the chance to tie or win the game.

Again, you have to rely on luck, with your defense coming through with steals and the offense shooting on fire.

Buffalo Bills fans need not be reminded of how a sure-fire thing isn't always exactly in the cards with wins.

From Scott Norwood's missed field goal attempt in Super Bowl XXV to the Music City Miracle in the 1999-'00 NFL playoffs against the Tennessee Titans, fans of this team know that luck definitely factors into victories.

In the same token, motorsports, and especially with NASCAR, gambles are often the last-resort option that competitors have if they are going for the wins, not points. A safe driver would be thrilled to heck with a top-five or top-10 finish, and why not?

That results to cash, television time for your sponsors, and exposure to fans across the country about your stout efforts.

Equally as memorable, but perhaps more discussed, are those who go for the win. I'm talking about those who would find the Captain Kirk in them to risk all to defeat "the enemy."

In this case, Logano and the Home Depot team defied convention and opted to play the odds against the rain.

The result?

  • A very ecstatic teenaged rookie in Logano, who's got to feel like he's on top of the world right now.
  • A crew chief in the form of Zipadelli, whose brilliance has ushered in the start of many victories for another NASCAR talent
  • And a team owner in Joe Gibbs, who has got to be gleaming over the success of yet another icon-in-the-making.

Congrats, Joey on your well-calculated, played out, and deserving win.

Enjoy this one—and many more in the coming years ahead!