MARTINSVILLE, Va. – If you ignore his lack of race wins and his amount of stage points, the first six races of Joey Logano‘s 2017 season have been pretty good.
That was Logano’s sentiment after finishing fourth in Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, his third top five and his fifth top 10 of the season.
The No. 22 team was plagued by a pit road penalty and a bad tire over the course of the 500-lap race. During pits stops on Lap 72, after running at the front with teammate Brad Keselowski, Logano was penalized for a crewman going over the wall too soon.
“Every time we got ourselves in position to get some stage points something happened and, I don’t know, we’d be about 30th,” Logano said on pit road.
On Lap 232, after working his way up back through the field, Logano had to revisit pit road for a bad left-rear tire. After concerns that it was the result of contact with Keselowski, the tire was found to have a cut in the middle of it.
With the second stage set to end on Lap 260, the Penske driver yet again missed out on stage points.
Logano rejoined the field in 30th, two laps down. He wouldn’t stay there. His average running spot was 10th, but he didn’t return to the top 10 until around Lap 411, a task that took almost 200 laps.
He was helped along the way by well-timed cautions and receiving the wave around.
“I think the whole field finished on the lead lap with so many cautions at the end,” Logano said.
There were 14 cautions, with 10 coming after the halfway point.
Logano said it would be nice “not to beat up our car coming through the field” on the way to the front.
“Everyone checks up, you knock the nose off at some point or knock fenders off trying to pass cars, it happens,” Logano said of the normal wear and tear that comes with a Martinsville race. “It’s part of it. It would be nice to have a smooth race, that would be nice. I wouldn’t mind having that next week. If not, we’re showing that we’re really good at recovering.”
Logano eventually returned to the top five by Lap 434. Outside his crash and 31st-place finish at Phoenix, Logano has not finished worse than sixth in the first leg of the season.
He heads to Texas Motor Speedway, where he won in 2014, fifth in points. But after six races, he has only 38 stage points, the same total he entered the weekend with. He also has one playoff point so far. Meanwhile, Keselowski, who won Sunday’s race, has 73 stage points and 10 playoff points.
“We’ve had eventful races every time, we’ve been finishing top five or top six for most of these races,” Logano said. “Proud of our recovery. We’d be in really, really good shape if it wasn’t for stage points. Because while we’re recovering, we’re missing the stage points.”