NASCAR driver Joey Logano talks with a crew member as he prepares for a practice session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday. (Charles Krupa / Associated Press)
can always count on top billing when he races at what counts as his hometown track.
Take a walk at the New Hampshire fan zone and Logano’s name is on the marquee high above the ground for the film “Cross-Threaded.” Logano stars with drag racer Robert Hight in a trailer for the faux film sponsored by AAA that centers on the buddy team searching for the missing Golden Lug Nut.
“Turn right!” Hight urges during a high-speed chase.
“I can’t! I don’t know how!” Logano says.
Cut to the next scene, the drivers watch in mock shock, the car engulfed in flames.
Yes, the preview clip lived up to its “AAA” rating for bad acting and cheesy catchphrases. Fans waiting in line to collect Logano bobbleheads got a kick out of the film and perked up when it was announced Logano would appear Sunday morning to sign autographs.
“I’d be here nice and early,” the cheery MC announced.
Logano, a native of Middletown, Conn., will surely find a line a few hours before he slides into the No. 22 car for Sunday’s race. Site of his first career Cup win, Logano has always enjoyed a robust following at the London, N.H., speedway.
“I feel like I am Dale Junior because everybody likes me,” Logano said, referencing NASCAR’s most popular driver.
Logano needs more than sitting atop the NASCAR Q Score among New England race fans as he makes a push for one of the final playoff spots.
The 27-year-old Logano is seven points outside the 16-driver field to secure a spot in NASCAR’s version of the postseason. Most drivers automatically qualify for a spot with a victory, but not Logano. NASCAR essentially stripped him of all benefits that came with his April win at Richmond because of a rear suspension violation. His win stands in the record book but he was docked significant points and his crew chief was suspended.
Pagenaud claims IndyCar pole
Simon Pagenaud took the pole Saturday for the IndyCar race Sunday at Exhibition Place in Toronto.
Pagenaud had a track-record lap of 58.9124 seconds at an average speed of 109.138 mph on the 1.786-mile street course for his first pole of the season and 10th overall.
The Frenchman, the winner this year on the oval in Phoenix, gave Team Penske its eighth pole in 11 races this season.
“It was a really good lap, one of the best I’ve ever put together,” Pagenaud said. “Certainly, there is not much more in it, but the whole qualifying I worked on details and driving. My teammates, they are tremendous, it’s such a good atmosphere when we work together.
“Each practice we talked about how we manage the corners and we keep improving each other. I feel like I really extracted the best out of my car, the best out of my setup today. It’s obviously the most satisfying thing and that is what I’m always seeking for.”
Graham Rahal was second Saturday for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, followed by Penske’s Helio Castroneves and Will Power, and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon. Hometown favorite James Hinchcliffe qualified sixth for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
“Honestly, I think on used tires, it’s probably the best lap I’ve ever put together to put us P2,” Rahal said. “The Penskes looked like they were going to run away with this thing. I’m so geeked for this team.
Hamilton earns Formula One pole
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the fifth time at the British Grand Prix on Saturday, ahead of Ferrari rivals Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel in rainy conditions.
But whether Hamilton starts from the front of the grid could depend on how stewards assess his alleged blocking of Romain Grosjean’s Haas car during qualifying.
Hamilton sped around Silverstone in 1 minute 26.6 seconds in front of his home fans. They cheered the three-time Formula One world champion at the end of a week when he faced criticism for being the only driver to snub a promotional event in London.
“I feel amazing, especially with a great crowd like this around the track,” Hamilton said. “These typical English conditions are what we grew up racing in. I’m comfortable in it.”
Hamilton, who is 20 points behind leader Vettel in the drivers’ championship, is now one short of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record 68 poles. Valtteri Bottas was fourth fastest, but he has a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race after being forced to change the gearbox in his Mercedes.