Until last weekend in Michigan, Joey Logano and his Penske Racing 22 team had done almost everything they hoped for when starting the season together in February.
While it took the team much longer to win their first pole and race than anticipated, they’ve been relevant and competitive. Now that they’ve accomplished both though, it’s given Logano everything he wanted when starting fresh with a new organization. Even if it’s been a season full of ups and downs, which makes life fun, he says.
“That’s the cool thing about racing is you never know what’s gonna happen,” he said Friday at the Bristol Motor Speedway.
“You just kind of go with the flow, at least the way I live life, I just kind of go with it. I think this year has had a lot of ups and downs and about every situation you can go through in one season, so I look at it as being pretty entertaining and a lot of fun out there.”
Logano notes that the chemistry between he and crew chief Todd Gordon has been growing ever since they met. The organization knows how to build fast race cars and he and 2012 champion Brad Keselowski have worked well together. Everything as it was planned when the season was approached.
“The only thing we haven’t been able to do is have the points to back that up like we need.”
Even so, Logano is in Chase contention. After last weekend’s dominating win at Michigan he sits just outside of a wild card spot and less than 20 points from the top 10. Unfortunately, Logano feels there’s 150 points he’s missed out on because of troubles through the early part of the season. Fuel pressure issues, a wreck at Kansas, a rock going through the radiator at Talladega and then back-to-back 40th place finishes at Daytona and New Hampshire.
And don’t forget the NASCAR penalty following inspection at Texas. Had it not been for those, he’d be sitting pretty inside the top 10 in points. Instead, he enters Bristol fighting for a Chase spot with three races remaining. Making his win last weekend even sweeter.
“The win was huge. Obviously, it couldn’t come at a better time and at a better race track to keep our Chase hopes going,” he said.
“I felt like our two best shots were last weekend and this weekend. We capitalized 100 percent last week with the pole and leading the most laps and winning the race, and I feel like we’ve got another really good shot at it this weekend and do the same stuff after seeing the way we ran here in the spring.”
He and Denny Hamlin were racing in the top five when Hamlin spun him out. Logano made a beeline for Hamlin on pit road after the race, and then the two went at it a week later in California for the win on the last lap before wrecking again. Hamlin suffered a broken back in the accident and missed a few races, since his return he and Logano have steered clear of each other.
Saturday night the two are expected to be near the front again. It’s not on Logano’s mind however, his focus remaining on carrying his momentum forward. It’s just another race weekend.
“Go out there and get the best finish you possibly can, not racing other cars. Don’t focus on what the 16 [Greg Biffle] is doing, focus on what you’re doing to get the best finish you can,” Logano said about the conversation he and Gordon had coming into the weekend, which won’t include changing their strategy if they see their competition doing something different.
“Do what you’ve got to do to make sure you finish the best you can and not racing one car. You’re racing 42 cars and we can’t race like that. We can’t race scared. We’re coming from behind. We’re not in it, so we can still race aggressive and still go out there and go for wins, but we’ve got to be able to get the best finish we can out of every day no matter what.”
Logano qualified sixth for Saturday night’s race.