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BROOKLYN, Mich. - At 30 pounds, the new Michigan Heritage trophy is heavy. No one with Ford Racing seemed to mind.
Particularly not Joey Logano.
Logano rang up his first victory of the Sprint Cup season in the Pure Michigan 400 Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, and the timing could not have been better -- on several fronts.
* Logano significantly improved his chances of making the Chase for the Sprint Cup field in his first season with Penske Racing. He moved from 16th to 13th in the point standings and is only 17 points out of the top 10 with three races remaining.
* Logano reached Cup victory lane for the first time in 44 races and kept alive a mid-season push that has seen him rise from 20th in points.
* The victory gave Ford possession of the Michigan Heritage, a huge, attractive bronze trophy that MIS will award to the winning car builder after each Sprint Cup race. Each winner will keep the perpetual trophy until the next Cup race at MIS, so Ford will have the award to showcase until the middle of next season.
All in all, it was a splendid Sunday to be wearing the Blue Oval.
“What a great place to win,” Logano said. “What a great time to win, being in Ford's backyard, being in Roger's (team owner Roger Penske) backyard. Just a great opportunity for me. I'm glad to make the most of it.”
Penske, who formerly owned the MIS track, called the win one of his biggest.
“As I go back probably 30 years here at the track, this is probably one of the biggest wins,” he said. “With Joey coming on board, his first win with the Shell/Pennzoil car, our relationship with Ford. It's my home state, my home track. Detroit is my city.
“I want to thank Jamie Allison (Ford Racing director) for the support Ford has been giving us. We've been lacking in delivering what we said we were going to deliver when they signed us up. At least we could shake their hand today in victory lane.”
Allison visited the track’s media center to celebrate the win with Penske and Logano.
“We’re very honored to receive the inaugural manufacturers’ trophy,” Allison said. “It is special. Every win is special. But to win it here in front of our employees, our fans, with our team, just makes it even more important.”
The win comes at a critical juncture of the season as Ford Racing shoots to put as many of its drivers as possible in the post-season Chase.
Carl Edwards (third), Brad Keselowski (eighth) and Greg Biffle (10th) are in the Chase top 10 with three races remaining. In addition to being only 17 points out of the top 10, Logano, with Sunday’s win, becomes a bigger player in the race for one of the two wild-card spots. He’s third in the wild-card standings behind Kasey Kahne (who has two wins) and Martin Truex Jr. (who, like Logano, has one race win but is one place ahead of the Ford driver in the point standings).
With the Chase start looming, the Blue Oval is moving into position to be a big threat.