By David Morgan, Associate Editor
When the NASCAR Cup Series rolled into New Hampshire in June 2009, almost everything that could have gone wrong for rookie Joey Logano did, but at the end of the day, he would be the one hoisting the trophy in Victory Lane.
Dubbed “Sliced Bread” as he made his way up the ranks, Logano got the nod to replace Tony Stewart behind the wheel of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing entry when Stewart started driving for himself at Stewart-Haas Racing.
The Middletown, Connecticut native had scored three top-10 finishes on the season prior to the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire, so it would be fitting that his home track would be the place he would break through, even if it did take a helping hand from Mother Nature to make it happen.
Starting the day in 24th, Logano would fall a lap down in the first half of the race as Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Kurt Busch were all taking their turns up front, leading the race for multiple laps at a time. When the caution flag flew for a single car incident involving Paul Menard on lap 171, Logano got his first big break by gaining his lap back as a result of the Lucky Dog rule.
With ominous clouds moving ever closer to the 1-mile oval over the course of the afternoon, the cautions kept piling up as the race played out, including a nearly 13-minute red flag for an eight-car pileup in Turn 1 on lap 176.
When the race went back green on lap 181, it would only take three laps for the yellow flag to be displayed again, this time it was Logano who was on the losing end. A cut tire caused Logano to lose control and spin in Turn 4, forcing him to pit road for repairs and dropping him off the lead lap once more.
“I know on the spin, it was on a restart,” Logano said. “Newman sent it three wide on the outside, and then someone else sent it four wide on the bottom I think, and I just got squeezed. That cut down my left rear tire and just spun out with that.”
Luckily for Logano, he was able to catch another break after returning to the track when Scott Speed crashed in Turn 1 on lap 191, giving Logano his second Lucky Dog of the race and moving him back onto the lead lap.
As the race continued to run its course, fuel mileage started to become a factor with the leaders peeling off onto pit road for a round of green flag pit stops, which had they run their course, should have cycled Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch back to the lead.
However, with rain closing in, a couple of teams rolled the dice to try and stay out long enough to claim the lead before the rain came and their tanks ran dry. The first of those drivers was Ryan Newman, who moved to the front for a 17-lap stint before having to relinquish the lead and pit.
With Newman making his pit stop, Logano ascended to the lead on lap 264, but he wouldn’t be able to stay there for long, with his fuel reserves also running low.
Four laps later, the clouds that had been threatening all day finally opened up, with rain enveloping the track and bringing out the yellow. After six laps under caution, the field was brought down pit road and the race was brought to a halt.
After a short time, the race was called, handing Logano his first career Cup Series win and making him the youngest winner in series history at 19 years, 1 month, 4 days. Gordon and Kurt Busch finished second and third, respectively, followed by David Reutimann and Tony Stewart.
“It was awesome,” Logano said. “You know, we pretty much we didn’t take off as good as we needed to. I think it’s just me still lost out there trying to figure out where I needed to be. We overcame a lot.
We had a left rear cut down right before we made that last long green flag run and just trying to overcome that. When that happened, I thought we were done. I was like, the day just went bad, just try to finish it off and get as best finish we can and we made the right move at the end. He went for it and I was just lucky enough to be in the seat.
Even though the win came as a result of weather shortening the race, Logano noted it was just as special, especially with the victory coming at his home track.
“I think your first win no matter where it’s at is huge,” Logano continued. “Obviously it’s not the way you want to win your first race, in the rain, but 20 years down the road when you look in the record books, no one will know the difference.
“I’ll take them any way I can. This is my home track and where I watched my first Cup race. And Zippy, all of the guys, a lot of the guys at Joe Gibbs Racing are from the northeast, so it’s cool to get a win here.”
The prevailing opinion was that Logano’s win at New Hampshire would be the first of many for him at Joe Gibbs Racing, but it was one of only two wins he would be able to capture behind the wheel of the No. 20 car before losing his ride at the end of 2012.
As we all know now, the rest is history, as Logano has prevailed with Team Penske since 2013, winning 23 races, including the 2015 Daytona 500 and the 2018 series championship.