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Logano aims to maintain momentum at Kentucky

The leader in the Most Pressure To Perform Sweepstakes heading into Saturday night's Quaker State 400 Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway (the inaugural Cup race at the track) just might be Joey Logano. While the young Joe Gibbs Racing driver's ...

The leader in the Most Pressure To Perform Sweepstakes heading into Saturday night's Quaker State 400 Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway (the inaugural Cup race at the track) just might be Joey Logano. While the young Joe Gibbs Racing driver's future may or may not be at stake, Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup chasing momentum surely is.

"We need to get this momentum and keep it going like we did at the end of last year," Logano said this week. "Now is the time to keep it going and move ourselves up there in points."

Fans, and you have to believe sponsors, have been waiting for Logano to achieve consistent momentum in Cup since he was saddled with the dreaded can't-miss-prospect tag when he was still in grade school.

But in his first two full-time seasons -- 2009 and 2010 -- success has been spotty for Logano. There was one win--a weather-aided job -- at New Hampshire in his rookie year, but only nine other top-five finishes during those seasons.

Through the first 11 races of the current season, there were only three top-20 finishes and one top 10. Logano, who turned 21 on May 24, looked like he had no shot for the Chase when he left Dover 28th in points on May 15, as he was not even within sight of wild-card consideration.

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But this weekend brings a freshening of Logano's hopes. He is coming off two straight top-six finishes--sixth at the tough Infineon road course and third at high-profile Daytona.

"We've been in a hole, and I think we're doing a really good job digging ourselves out of it right now," Logano said. "It seems like once we get up on top of it we'll be fine. I feel like we're on our way out right now. We went through a segment like this last year; we were struggling and we came up out of it, and we finished off the year really strong with a lot of top-10 and top-five finishes. Hopefully we're on the same road right now, digging out of there, and we can get back on that run again."

His podium at Daytona, which came after he had won the pole, pushed him to 20th in points. That is, it pushed him into wild-card territory.

"Being 20th in the points, it's good," he said. "It's nowhere even close to where we expected to be or where we wanted to be at this point in the season. We're excited that we're back into the top 20 in points. We need to be a lot better than that."

What he needs is a victory, because there likely will be no wild-card entry into the Chase without one, be he 20th in points or 11th.

Logano does have victories at Kentucky. In fact, he has nothing but victories at the 1.5-mile oval -- he has three in three starts. The deal is, however, those victories were all in a Nationwide Series car.

Will his obvious feel for the Kentucky track give him an advantage this weekend?

"I'd say I've got a little bit of an advantage," Logano said. "But I think a lot of it is going to come down to getting your car good. I think my big advantage that I have is I just know what I need to make the car go faster. I know what I need when the race starts and all that. I think that's an advantage that I might have there."

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Unless, of course, he considers pressure an advantage.

Fast facts

What: Quaker State 400

Where: Kentucky Speedway, Sparta, Ky.

When: Saturday, 6:30 p.m.

TV: TNT, 5:30 p.m.

Radio: PRN/Sirius/XM Satellite Ch. 90

Track layout: 1.5-mile oval

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Race distance: 267 laps/400.5 miles

Qualifying: Friday, 4:10 p.m.

2010 winner: None (inaugural race)

2010 polesitter: None (inaugural race)

Points standings: 1. Kevin Harvick, 586; 2. Carl Edwards, 581; 3. Kyle Busch, 576; 4. Kurt Busch, 570; 5. Matt Kenseth, 564; 6. Jimmie Johnson, 564; 7. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 534; 8. Jeff Gordon, 519; 9. Clint Bowyer, 505; 10. Ryan Newman, 498.

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