After not issuing penalties earlier in the week, NASCAR officials further reaffirmed it’s point of view when it met with both drivers Friday morning at Phoenix Raceway, telling the drivers what it expected from both of them from here on out.
After the 15-minute meeting, both drivers then went out for practice and qualifying for Sunday’s Camping World 500 Cup race. As it turned out, Logano went out and made the biggest statement by winning the pole, while Busch will start ninth.
“I woke up this morning thinking about our race car and how we can end up sitting here at the end of the day,” Logano said. “That is the goal. In between, do I have to think about other things? Yeah, obviously we had that meeting today and there were a lot of distractions that we don’t typically have.
“But it is a matter of managing those distractions and getting your head back in the right spot for when it is game time. I was able to use everything the right way, use our tools and our people around me to help me get my mind back where it needs to be and be able to focus and lay down a good lap.”
Busch began a post-qualifying interview with Fox Sports 1 by saying pretty much the same thing he said after he left the morning meeting with NASCAR.
“Everything’s great, I’m back at the racetrack and I’m in my race car, so that’s why everything is great,” Busch said.
But then Busch got serious, hinting about dodging a possible penalty from NASCAR for his swing at Logano on pit road after Sunday’s race at Las Vegas.
“You had the opportunity to have something else happen during the week and it didn’t, so it’s good to be back at the track, here at Phoenix and the west coast swing,” Busch told FS1. “I’m loving the time out here.”
But Busch likely is not loving the start of the 2017 season for him and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry.
He comes into Sunday’s race ranked 19th in the Cup standings, the result of having finished 36th in the Daytona 500, 16th at Atlanta and 22nd after wrecking on the last lap at Las Vegas.
That’s why it’s so important he does well Sunday at Phoenix, a track where he has one career Cup win, six top-fives and 15 top-10 finishes in 23 starts there.
“All-in-all, just looking forward to being able to get a good solid run here,” Busch told FS1. “We haven’t had one yet this year, we need one and just get our rhythm going.”
Logano, meanwhile, is having a stellar start thus far in 2017, with sixth-place finishes at Daytona and Atlanta and fourth at Las Vegas. He comes into this weekend fifth in the NASCAR Cup season standings, 13 points behind series leader Brad Keselowski.
So where do the former teammates go from here?
“I think we will race the same as we always have,” Logano said. “If you think about it. We have been racing each other for nine years and you think about the amount of Xfinity races and Cup races that is, because we both run a lot of races together.
“Not only running them but we have raced each other for first and second a lot and we have never had an issue. I look at Kyle as one of the drivers I had the best relationship with. I am sure we will get back to that point. Obviously it will take a little time, that is just part of it. We have never had an issue. It wasn’t anything intentional. We will be able to push through this.”