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Joey Logano claims the Toyota All Star Challenge

By admin | January 31, 2010

By Richard Allen

Joey Logano doesn’t get to race against many drivers he can refer to as a kid. On Saturday night he did just that and the kid gave him a run for the money.

The Toyota All Star Showdown on the Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, California serves as an unofficial start of the racing season. Covered by SpeedTV, the race offers competition starved fans a racing fix leading into the stock car portion of Daytona SpeedWeeks.

This year’s version of the race that pits stars from all over the country proved surprising at the very beginning. During Friday’s qualifying session, 16 year old Sergio Pena took the pole position driving for Revolution Racing under the guidance of Max Siegel, who once served as the head of Dale Earnhardt, Inc.

Not surprising, however, was the fact that Sprint Cup driver Joey Logano started from the outside of the front row and darted out to the lead at the drop of the green flag.

Pena more than held his own early, racing against the likes of Logano and former Cup runner David Gilliland as three cautions slowed the action in the first 50 laps. After a slight misstep which cost him a couple of spots on one of the restarts, the young unknown driver gave the only slightly older Logano a challenge for the lead after the restart from the third caution.

After a lap 69 restart, Gilliland muscled his way around Pena and briefly challenged Logano for the lead only to again fall back behind Pena.

As is typically the case, this track proved to favor those who ran on the high line. Logano held the lead throughout much of the first 100 lap segment by maintaining the groove up near the wall. Both Pena and Gilliland made numerous attempts to pass for the lead but were unable to move into first place.

The end of the first segment came just a bit early after a caution at lap 95. Logano held the lead with Pena in 2nd, Gilliland was 3rd, Eric Holmes was 4th, and Sean Caisse rounded out the top-5.

Drivers brought their cars to the pits for changes during the brief break between segments one and two.

At the very start of segment #2 the 2005 winner of this event, David Gilliland, abruptly pulled to the low side of the track and came to a stop. An apparent electrical problem caused his car to shut off. He was unable to continue.

“We were good,” Gilliland said. “I was sure we were going to get one here tonight.”

On lap 106, Pena’s persistence paid off as he was finally able to get around Logano for the lead. After a caution and another restart Pena flexed the muscle of his #4 Chevrolet as he stretched out to a somewhat comfortable lead over Logano’s Toyota.

At lap 129 Caisse suffered significant damage as he tangled with Auggie Vidovich. It appeared as though Caisse lost power leaving Vidovich with no where to go. Both cars had been running in the top-5 but were eliminated from contention as a result of the incident.

“We broke a drive shaft going down the back stretch and got run over there,” Caisse, who will run some Nationwide Series races for Richard Childress Racing in 2010, said.

Just short of midway through the second segment #2, Logano was able to retake the lead on a restart until a multi-car crash brought out the race’s tenth caution and eventually a red flag.

Pena hounded Logano for lap after lap during the middle part of segment #2. Pena seemed to have the better car but Logano was able to hold the lead by getting the jump on the restarts.

Ryan Truex, younger brother of Sprint Cup driver Martin Truex, Jr., brought out the eleventh caution when he spun his Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota on lap 168. Truex had been forced to start from the rear of the field due to an engine change prior to qualifying. He would eventually be eliminated after a later crash.

After that eleventh restart, Pena was able to retake the lead from Logano as 2009 race winner Matt Kobyluck along with Jason Bowles joined the fray at the front. Pena pulled away as Logano, Kobyluck and Bowles staged a fierce battle for the all important 2nd spot. The 2nd place runner at the end of segment #2 would be able to start on the front row in the final 25 lap dash for the win.

When the caution flew to end segment #2 Pena led ahead of Logano, Bowles, Kobyluck and Andrew Myers.

Logano stormed to the lead on the restart for segment #3 as cars raced 2, 3 and 4 wide behind him. A multi-car incident brought out yet another yellow flag after only four laps of green flag racing.

The field restarted with 12 laps to go and again Logano bolted to the lead until another caution slowed the action. A furious battle ensued on the restart with 8 laps to go. Logano again got to the lead as Kobyluck challenged Pena for second.

By the time Pena and Kobyluck settled their issue Logano had pulled away. Pena followed the winner with Kobyluck, Matt Dibenedetto and Andrew Myers in tow.

“That’s one of the toughest races I’ve ever had to win,” Logano said in victory lane. “This is why we came out here, to have fun and get a big trophy.”

It was the second time Logano has won the Toyota All Star Challenge… officially that is. Logano crossed the finish line first in 2009 but was penalized for rough driving. He won the race the year before that.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

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