Joey Logano looks ahead to Martinsville, not behind

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Joey Logano is focused on what’s ahead this weekend at Martinsville Speedway, but car owner Roger Penske can’t help but look back at this race a year ago.

Penske sees how strong Logano’s car was and how his driver was in position to win and earn a spot in the championship round until Matt Kenseth intentionally wrecked Logano in retaliation for an incident a few weeks earlier at Kansas.

“I hope we can (return) where we left off, not against the wall, but leading the race,’’ Penske told NBC Sports after Logano’s victory last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

Logano has moved on from that race.

“We just want to go there and win,’’ he told NBC Sports. “I don’t really focus on what happened last year or think about it or anything like that.

“It would be really cool to win at Martinsville. We’ve never won there.’’

What Logano has won there is the pole three consecutive years, tying what Jeff Gordon (2003-04), Mark Martin (1990-91), Darrell Waltrip (1979-80) and Glen Wood (1959-60) have done.

The pole didn’t prove too helpful in the spring race, though, as Logano struggled with the car’s handling and was lapped within the first 80 circuits. Logano recovered to finish 11th on the lead lap.

Logano led 207 laps in this race a year ago. That was before Kenseth, also upset about an earlier incident with Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski, issued his payback. 

MARTINSVILLE, VA - NOVEMBER 01: The #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford of Joey Logano is towed into the garage after an incident with Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on November 1, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Joey Logano’s car is towed into the garage after an incident with Matt Kenseth during last fall’s Chase race at Martinsville Speedway. (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)

Logano finished 37th and could not recover from the points deficit in the next two races and failed to advance to the championship round. It is the only time Logano has been eliminated since this format debuted in 2014.

Logano says that competing for the title in 2014 at Homestead has helped him excel in the playoffs.

“The Chase, there’s a lot of pressure but I’ve found a way to be excited about it,’’ he said. “I love this part of the season. I really enjoy it, can’t wait for it all year.

“Going through Homestead a couple of years ago, I learned a lot about myself. I think our race team learned a lot about themselves, individually, kind of handling that pressure.’’

Logano and crew chief Todd Gordon both say what gives Martinsville added importance is that a win there gives a team two extra weeks to prepare for the season finale in Miami instead of focusing so much on races at Texas and Phoenix before the field of eight title contenders is cut to four.

The Chase field includes all four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers — Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth — along with Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch and Hendrick Motorsports’ Jimmie Johnson.

Gordon isn’t worried about competing against all four Gibbs cars.

“It’s one vs. 39 every weekend,’’ he told NBC Sports. “Yes, they have four opportunities, but if we want to win a championship, we’ve got to beat everybody and that means all four of their guys. I don’t see it as a negative for us.’’

Should Logano make it to Miami, he could help Penske achieve something he’s never done before — win the IndyCar and NASCAR Sprint Cup titles in the same year.

“This being our 50th year and you go back and you think back to all the great results and the great people and the great drivers and then to finish 1-2-3 in the IndyCar championship, obviously, is something very special,’’ Penske said. “In the back of your mind, you keep thinking, ‘I wonder if I can get the Cup job done again in 2016?’ Believe me it’s on our minds, but we’ve got to earn it, we’ve got to race for it, no one is going to give it to us. That would make this year real special.’’

Kyle Larson moving on from Bristol finish, looking to win again at Richmond

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After losing the lead with six laps to go and finishing second to Kyle Busch at Bristol, a frustrated Kyle Larson headed back to his motorhome.

He was greeted by son Owen, who had a question for him.

“Did you get me some Skittles?’ ‘’ Owen asked.

Even though the candy sponsors Busch, Larson admits he managed to smile at his son’s request.

‘That wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but it kind of lightened the mood, so it helps to get over it a little bit,’’ Larson said Friday at Richmond Raceway.

The runner-up finish for Larson marked the third time he’s finished second to Busch in a Cup race (2014 Auto Club Speedway, 2017 New Hampshire and 2018 Bristol).

Larson enters this weekend having won the most recent race at Richmond. He took the lead from Martin Truex Jr. with five laps to go on pit road and held on in overtime to win in September.

“Typically this hasn’t been a good race track for me, but for whatever reason, the last time we were here we were about a top-three car all race long,’’ said Larson, who starts tonight’s race fifth. “Truex was really fast. But, I was a little bit lucky there at the end with a caution to beat him off pit road and get the win. I think that adds a little bit of confidence coming back here.

“Even though I’ve struggled in the past, I enjoy this track because it is different than what we typically go to.”

Larson enters the weekend with three top-three finishes this season, including the Bristol result.

“I feel like our short track program has become really competitive over the last few years,’’ he said. “Aside from Martinsville, I don’t even know if our package is good or bad there; I think I’m just not very good there. But, for us to get a couple top-two finishes here at Richmond now the last couple of years, at a track that I struggle a lot at, I think says a lot about our short track program. Even Bristol, I think Bristol is my best race track, but a few years ago I would just kind of run around eighth to 12th. But now lately, I’ve been able to lead the most laps and get close to wins.’’

Larson’s Bristol race also included a spin after contact with Ryan Newman but Larson doesn’t blame Newman for the incident.

“I get along with Newman,’’ Larson said. “The line that I run in (Turns) 3 and 4 throughout a run is really fast, but I can get myself in trouble if people poke their nose in on me. That’s the second time I’ve gotten spun by running that line, so I think I just need to be a little more cautious. I don’t think he did anything wrong there. It was getting somewhat toward the end of the race. You’re trying to race for lead-lap spots. So, I cut it a little too close, I think, and ran across his front end.”

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Results, point standings after Xfinity race at Richmond

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Christopher Bell led a race-high 120 laps to win the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway. It’s his second career Xfinity win.

Bell beat Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Noah Gragson, Elliott Sadler, Matt Tifft and Austin Cindric.

Elliott Sadler won the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus.

Click here for the race results.

Points

Elliott Sadler continues to lead the point standings through eight races. He has a 29-point lead over Bell.

Completing the top five is Tyler Reddick (-31 points), Daniel Hemric (-38) and Justin Allgaier (-48).

Click here for the point standings.

Christopher Bell wins Xfinity race at Richmond

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Christopher Bell fended off teammate Noah Gragson to break through and win his first Xfinity race of the year Friday night at Richmond Raceway.

Bell led the final 79 laps around the .75-mile track to score his second career win. He had finished in the top five in four of the first seven races this season.

“That was pretty special there, buddy,” Bell told Fox Sports 1. “Had to work for it. My teammate was really good and I knew throughout both practices that both of our cars were going to be really strong. Joe Gibbs Racing has been producing really, really fast Camrys for last couple of weeks and it’s really shown.”

Gragson placed second in his first career Xfinity start. He bounced back from an uncontrolled tire penalty early in the race.

He hounded Bell for much of the last 15 laps, but could never pull even with him.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Gragson told FS1 of his first series start at the short track. “I found a little something in the track, a little speed there at the end of the second stage on old tires. I kept it in my memory bank until the end and I told me team, ‘I got something, when it’s time to go tell me when.’ About 18 to go, I told them, ‘Can’t wait any longer, I don’t have any more patience.”

Gragson, who drives full-time in the Camping World Truck Series, led 10 laps.

The top five was completed by Elliott Sadler, Matt Tifft and Austin Cindric.

With his third-place finish, Sadler won the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus.

Bell, Sadler, Tifft and Cindric will be eligible for the third Dash 4 Cash bonus next week at Talladega.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Daniel Hemric

STAGE 2 WINNER: Elliott Sadler, first stage win of season

MORE: Race results, points

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Austin Cindric earned his first career top five after starting from the rear for an unapproved adjustment … Matt Tifft earned his fourth career top five … Ryan Truex placed seventh to give Kaulig Racing its fourth top 10 of the year. It earned five last year … Jeremy Clements placed eighth, earning his first top 10 since he won at Road America in August.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: After winning Stage 1, Daniel Hemric lost his right front tire with three laps to go in Stage 2, but made it to the end. He finished 29th, four laps down … Justin Allgaier spun after ramming into the back of Spencer Gallagher with 86 laps to go. Chase Briscoe was also received damage in the incident. Allgaier finished 14th. Briscoe placed 26th.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “My wife’s already spent it.” – Elliott Sadler to FS1 after winning the Dash 4 Cash bonus.

WHAT’S NEXT: Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega Superspeedway at 3 p.m. ET on April 28 on Fox.

Starting lineup for Cup race at Richmond

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Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott will start on the front row for Saturday night’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway.

Truex won his third pole of the season.

The top five is completed by Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson.

Kyle Busch, who is trying to win a third consecutive race, qualified 32nd.

Click here for the starting lineup.