Joey Logano continues hot streak with pole run at Atlanta

Reid Spencer - NASCAR Wire Service Saturday, Feb 28 1514

When you're hot, you're hot.

Joey Logano, last week's Daytona 500 winner, didn't slow down one iota on Friday in the first competition of the year at an open-motor track.

With a lap at 194.683 mph in the final round of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series knockout qualifying at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Logano put his No. 22 Team Penske Ford on the pole for Sunday’s Fold of Honor QuikTrip 500 (1 p.m. ET on FOX).

Logano toured the 1.54-mile intermediate speedway in 28.477 seconds, .131 seconds faster than the lap at 193.793 mph posted by reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick.

Jamie McMurray was third fastest at 193.623 mph. Denny Hamlin (193.400 mph) qualified fourth for the second race of the season, followed by new Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Carl Edwards (193.137 mph).

Like Logano, Jeff Gordon was hot, but for a completely different reason. Gordon was one of 13 drivers whose car failed to clear inspection before time trials began, even though NASCAR delayed the start of qualifying for 15 minutes.

Accordingly, Gordon was not allowed to make a qualifying attempt in the first round. The list of those who failed to pass pre-qualifying inspection included three other past champions: Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart.

Logano and his team, on the other hand, did everything right. And he defied conventional wisdom on a track with old pavement that typically abrades tires. Logano posted his fastest lap of the session in the third and final round.

“Our first run today in practice, we were faster on our second run on scuffs, so I knew that the grip would stay in the tires for at least two runs,” said Logano, who won his first Coors Light Pole Award at Atlanta and the ninth of his career. “I didn’t know about the third run, but apparently the third run also…

“It was probably right at the limit, though. Probably the next run after that, it would have taken a pretty big jump down.”

Though Harvick qualified second, he believes he’ll have a strong long-run car in Sunday’s race. Even so, Harvick felt he left some speed out on the race track.

“I just did a bad job,” he said. “In Round 1 I missed Turn 1, and in the last round, I missed Turn 1 again and just didn’t get to the bottom like I needed to in order to get back in the throttle.”

Note: Mike Wallace, Matt DiBenedetto, Michael Annett and Reed Sorenson failed to qualify for Sunday’s race.