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Inside Motorsports: Logano speeding toward Atlanta with Chase in sight

Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013
Next Race AdvoCare 500 Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, Ga. When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday TV: ESPN Radio: Performance Racing Network Last year’s winner: Denny Hamlin

What’s fueling Joey Logano’s potential run into his first Chase for the Sprint Cup?

Well, there is his sponsor, Shell, for one. But that’s too easy.

What has been far more difficult – and impressive – has been the five consecutive top-10 finishes earned by the No.22 Penske Racing team.

Within that streak are two very telling moments. The biggest was his impressive victory at Michiganthis month. It was Logano’s onlyof the season and just the third of his Cup career. Logano had shown speed all season – his first with Penske – but had not been able to capitalize on race day. Mission accomplished.

The second moment was Saturday night at Bristol, Tenn. It looked like one of those races when everything that could go wrong, did. The difference was, even though a lot went wrong, by the end of the race, far more had gone right. Logano and his team turned what could have been a Chase-ending performance into quite possibly a Chase-clinching one as he ended up fifth.

There certainly is a lot that can happen over the next two races that could alter Logano’s chance to compete for the championship.

For one, he has never done particularly well in six starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, site of Sunday night’s AdvoCare 500. His best Cup finish there is 18th and his average finish is 26th.

“I’ve never really run great there,” Logano said. “I’ve run in the top 10, but I’ve never really had a car that’s been able to go up there in the top five or anything like that. But we’re not going to go in there thinking that we’re going to have a bad run.”

As well he shouldn’t.

If anything, Logano is a far more confident driver these days and his team far more competitive of late to write off any races. If the past few weeks are any indication, Logano has a better chance to cement his Chase berth this weekend than lose it.

Notebook

Phoenix Racing sale complete: Harry Scott Jr., co-owner of Turner Scott Motorsports, has come to a definitive agreement with James Finch to purchase Phoenix Racing. Scott will formally take over control of the team Sept.10 with Justin Allgaier behind the wheel of the No.51 Chevrolet at the Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

“This is a very proud day for me as I will have the opportunity to compete against the best teams in motorsports in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as the owner of Phoenix Racing,” said Scott. “I am going to build a championship contender with hard work, the right people and the right partners.”

Scott’s role as a co-owner in TSM remains unchanged. Allgaier also will drive the No.51 this season at Charlotte and Talladega, Ala.

‘Nothing substantive’ on TV talks: Steve Herbst, NASCAR’s vice president of broadcasting and production, issued a statement in which he said despite recent published reports, “nothing substantive” has been presented to NASCAR regarding plans by ESPN or TNT to exit their respective TV contracts early.

Both networks have 2014 remaining on their contracts.

“We’re very happy with our current broadcast partners and fully expect and are excited to be back with Fox, Turner and ESPN next year,” he said. “These types of discussions happen regularly across the sports television landscape, very rarely resulting in changes to a media rights agreement.”

Team member reinstated: NASCAR has reinstated former Nationwide Series crew member Robert Harrison after his completion of its Road to Recovery program. Harrison had been indefinitely suspended May 30 for a violation of the substance-abuse policy.

Labonte breaks 3 ribs: Bobby Labonte broke three ribs during a bike riding accident Wednesday near his Trinity home and will miss this weekend’s NASCAR race in Atlanta. A spokesman for the driver said Labonte was taken to a hospital by ambulance and will be held overnight for observation.

Labonte was to drive Phoenix Racing’s No. 51 at Atlanta, but he'll be replaced in the car by Mike Bliss. Associated Press

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