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Joey Logano has two things on his wish list: more speed and more wins

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Sometimes, you have to go back home to get back on the right path.

That’s what Joey Logano is doing this weekend. The Middletown, Connecticut native has long considered New Hampshire Motor Speedway as his home track.

And given where Logano is in the NASCAR Cup standings, he definitely can use some good old fashioned home cooking this weekend.

The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford comes into Sunday’s Overton’s 301 in a difficult position.

First, he’s 17th in the NASCAR Cup standings, seven points out of the top 16 drivers. In other words, if the playoffs were to begin today, Logano would likely not qualify.

Second, even though Logano has one win this season (Richmond), the result was encumbered due to a post-race inspection violation.

That means Logano does not get credit for the win in terms of qualifying for the playoffs. Things got even worse after that encumbered win: in the nine races since then, he’s finished 20th or worse six times (including five in a row).

Admittedly, he finished third at Michigan and eighth last week at Kentucky, but there’s no question the pressure is on Logano even more to get at least one win over the next eight races, between now and the final playoff qualifying race at Richmond in September.

Logano admits he’s ‘very surprised’ to be in such a position.

“This isn’t what you expect when you start the season,” he added. “You go out there expecting to win the championship and the playoffs you just assume you would be there. I still assume we are going to be there. We just have to work hard to get there. It is going to be a battle to the end for sure.”

Logano has rarely been in this kind of position. At this time of season, he’s typically focusing on winning a championship.

But now, he’s not even thinking championship. He knows he has to walk before he can run – and that means he needs at least one more win between now and Richmond to all but assure he’ll make the playoffs in the first place.

“It is kind of interesting that we’re in this unique position right now trying to make the playoffs,” Logano said. “A lot of times you kind of take that for granted in a way. The last few years you are thinking about winning (the championship).

“Right now we are thinking about needing to get in first. The mindset has changed a little bit but that is just a situation that we are in after a few bad races.”

Part of that problem is both Logano and teammate Brad Keselowski have struggled for speed over the last several races in their respective Ford Fusions.

“Our team is still capable of winning,” Logano said. “We do have to get a little more speed in our cars. I think that is apparent. We have to be able to make our cars faster. I thought last week we executed a great race, got a good finish out of it. We have to score more stage points for sure.

“Ultimately we need to win a race, or two, or three. As it comes closer you start thinking about that more but I also think about how this team has won three races in a row. You do that and all of a sudden the whole story is changed and we would have the most points starting the playoffs. It can change in the snap of a finger. Any team can take off on a streak like that.

“It is a matter of getting the speed back. I feel the team is where it needs to be. Pit stops are where they need to be. We are racing well and we just need to get faster. That is the biggest thing right now.”

New Hampshire’s “Magic Mile” has indeed been magical for Logano. In 17 prior NASCAR Cup starts on the 1.058-mile flat oval, he has two wins, six top-fives and eight top-10s.

And while it will be good racing in front of a number of family members and friends, Logano says the strategy for Sunday isn’t radically different than any other track he’s been at up to this point – or will continue to be until the Richmond playoff cutoff race.

“It is all race to race, none of this is new,” Logano said. “If you think about it, we do this throughout the playoffs. You have a cut-off every three races and you know the points are close.

“They will be closer this year than ever with the stages and how that works. I think of Phoenix last year. We went into that race do or die and we won. Talladega was the same thing. Do or die and we won.

“We are going to get in a situation that is do or die and I have more faith in this team that it is going to happen than not. This team rises to the occasion for sure. When the pressure is on, they show up. It is just a matter of time before that happens.”

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Cole Pearn to honor late friend with fundraiser for family next month in Toronto

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A testimonial to Cole Pearn’s best friend, who unexpectedly passed away in early August, as well as a fundraiser for his family will be held Friday, Jan. 5, at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Pearn’s lifelong friend, Jacob Damen, died unexpectedly after contracting a fast-moving bacterial infection on August 3.

Pearn, crew chief for the 2017 NASCAR Cup championship for Furniture Row Racing, will oversee the gala event, which will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. ET.

The evening will also include an appearance by 2017 NASCAR Cup champion Martin Truex Jr., silent and live auctions, the opportunity to meet both Pearn and Truex and other events.

All net proceeds from the evening will be given to the Damen Family Fund.

“We miss our buddy Jacob dearly,” Pearn said in a media release. “We all have family and friends that fill a space in our hearts that is irreplaceable.

“Jacob filled the hearts of his wife Carolyn, his sons Lucas and Nolan, his parents Jerry and Kim Damen, twin brother Tyler, sister Julia and countless friends.

“We are going to celebrate his life at the perfect spot, the Hockey Hall of Fame, to support his beautiful wife Carolyn and the two boys, Lucas and Nolan. I can’t wait to get home to celebrate with everyone.”

Click here for more details and to purchase tickets to the ‘Jacob Damen Friend and Fan Remembered’ event.

NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day scheduled for Jan. 20

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The annual NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day will return to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, next month.

The event is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 20, the day after the 2018 Hall of Fame class is inducted.

Fans will be able to take part in an autograph session with current national series drivers, Hall of Famers and members of the NASCAR Next class, as well photo opportunities and question-and-answer sessions with a number of NASCAR legends.

Admission to Hall of Fame will be free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis

Admission to driver autograph sessions is free but will require a ticket for participation. Fans can register for the driver autograph sessions at nascarhall.com beginning Saturday, Jan. 13 at 10 a.m. ET. A full driver autograph session schedule will be announced at a later date.

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Ryan Blaney to guest star on NBC’s ‘Taken’ next year

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Ryan Blaney has a particular set of skills; skills that he’s developed through years of professional auto racing.

The Team Penske driver will get to display those skills next year on NBC’s “Taken” TV Series.

The show serves as a prequel to the 2008 Liam Neeson film of the same name.

Blaney, 23, will guest start on the second season of the series, which premieres Jan. 12. He will appear in an episode titled “Imperium” as a special agent who knows his way around a car.

Here’s the plot synopsis for the episode.

“When a dangerous weapons dealer smuggles his wares into New York City, Bryan Mills (Clive Standen) teams up with the FBI in a race to stop him before he reaches the safety of international waters.”

This won’t be Blaney’s first time in front of a camera playing someone else. He had two movie cameos this year in Logan Lucky and Cars 3.

Blaney was filming his role in “Taken” on Tuesday in Ontario. See his tweets from the set below.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram update: Leaves ICU, moves to acute care facility

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram’s condition continues to improve following a serious car crash in his native Asheville, North Carolina on Dec. 3.

According to an online post by his daughter, Ingram was taken out of Intensive Care on Tuesday and moved into an Acute Care facility, which is not as serious as ICU is.

Ingram did suffer a small setback in his recovery, developing a slight infection that is being treated with antibiotics.

Added the note from Ingrid Jones, Jack’s daughter, “The acute care facility will work to start decreasing his pain meds, over time, and put him on less narcotics and more simple analgesics (like really strong Tylenol, but without narcotics).

“Also they will continue his therapies, physical and occupational, as he’s able. It is still hard to know what his long-term health future will be, but we think his color looks really good, and we have no doubts that he has the will and determination to see this through.

“So if it is humanly possible for him to overcome, he will.”

We’ll continue to have periodic updates on Ingram’s condition as they become available.