Joey Logano comes close, but falls one spot short of playoffs (video)

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Joey Logano came into Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway facing long odds. He knew it, his opponents knew it, and fans knew it.

The only way Logano could make it into the 16-driver playoffs was ending up in victory lane. Win and he’s in. The task was pretty simple.

Still, Logano has prided himself throughout his NASCAR career of being a driver who thrives on pressure-packed situations.

And Saturday was one of the most pressure-packed situations Logano has faced in his NASCAR Cup career.

He gave it everything he had but in the end, finished one spot short of making the playoffs. Logano needed a win, but could do no better than a runner-up showing to race winner Kyle Larson.

“We just weren’t close enough to the lead to capitalize,” Logano told NBCSN after the race. “We knew that second (place) wasn’t going to be worth anything and yet we finished second.

“I’m proud of the effort we gave all weekend. … Our championship season was on the line and we just came up one spot short. It stinks, it hurts, but it’s not the end of our season.”

Logano now faces the prospect that no matter what he does in the 10-race playoffs, the highest he’ll be able to finish the 2017 NASCAR Cup season will be 17th, his worst Cup showing since 17th in 2012.

That, after making the playoffs and finishing the previous four seasons eighth (2013), fourth (2014), sixth (2015) and second (2016).

Logano enters the playoffs ranked 19th in the Cup standings.

How could a driver who was runner-up in the NASCAR Cup playoffs last season, fall so far, so fast?

NBCSports.com’s Nate Ryan gave his take on Logano, including saying, “If you look at it in the last four months, it’s not a surprise. It was trending this way for a while, ever since he won that race at Richmond (in April) and then had that finish declared encumbered, the car was deemed illegal and the win didn’t count toward the playoffs.

“Ever since then, the team was just trending in the wrong direction until tonight. I give them credit for a yeoman’s effort tonight … they came up one spot short.”

Check out the NBCSN interview with Logano (above video) after Saturday night’s race.

 

Truck practice report at Atlanta

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Justin Haley was the fastest in the first of two practices Friday for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He had a top lap of 178.029 mph.

Daytona winner Johnny Sauter was second with a lap of 177.040 mph. He was followed by Myatt Snider (177.040 mph), Stewart Friesen (176.995) and Noah Gragson (176.589).

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Truck practice will be from 4:05 – 4:50 p.m. ET.

Click here for Truck 1 practice

Police investigating vandalism, theft at North Wilkesboro Speedway

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The Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a report of vandalism and theft at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, the track, which last hosted a NASCAR Cup race in 1996, suffered damage of about $10,000 when several trespassers were on the grounds last weekend. No arrests have been made.

The report states that several windows were broken and other damage was done to the structures. Also, large amounts of electrical wire and circuit breakers were reported missing.

The investigation continues.

North Wilkesboro Speedway hosted NASCAR Cup races from 1949-96. Winners included Fireball Roberts, Buck Baker, Junior Johnson, Lee Petty, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte, Rusty Wallace and Jeff Gordon, who won the final race there.

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Others’ predictions motivating Austin Dillon after Daytona 500 win: ‘I guess they don’t believe it yet’

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HAMPTON, Ga. – Fresh off the greatest victory of his NASCAR career, Austin Dillon already has motivation to win the next.

The Richard Childress Racing driver heard others predict this week that the Daytona 500 would be his only victory this season.

“I think on Race Hub, Brad (Keselowski) and Chad (Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson) saying that we weren’t going to win again,” Dillon said Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “So, that was good to hear. That was something to get me fired up a little bit more and our team, get those competitive juices flowing again. So, we will just keep rocking it however we can. We still have a lot to work on.”

Prior to Daytona, Dillon’s lone win in four seasons as a full-time Cup driver came in the 2017 Coca-Cola 600. His No. 3 Chevrolet qualified for the playoffs the past two seasons, but his top 10s (13 to four) and average finish (15.9 to 18.6) slipped demonstrably from 2016 to ’17.

“So yesterday in my group text with my buddies they watched Chad Knaus and Brad Keselowski, and it was like, ‘All right, it’s time to keep knocking them down, I guess they don’t believe it yet,’” Dillon said. “We’ve got to step up though at RCR. We’ve still got a lot to prove. It’s a speedway race, even though it’s the biggest race in our deal, it’s a speedway race.  We’ve got a lot more to prove.

“(Competition executive) Andy Petree and all the guys are RCR are working hard. I think coming down to a two-car team move is big for us. We’ve got to take advantage of that. I’m not going to lie, I’m tired right now, but we are going to kick butt this weekend and get back regrouped and get in the groove and try and gain as many bonus points as we can.”

But qualifying for the playoffs by winning the season opener should be a morale booster that avoids any letdown.

“The one thing they don’t have right now that we have is a win,” Dillon said. “So, we are on top right now, and no matter what they can’t take that away, and we are going to keep working.  I don’t expect us to lay down at all. I feel like now more than ever we need to go head on and go after it.”

Xfinity practice report from Atlanta

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Christopher Bell posted the fastest lap in the first of two Xfinity practice sessions Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Bell posted a lap of 178.447 mph. He was followed by Joey Logano (177.323 mph), Cole Custer (175.933), Ryan Reed (175.688) and Kevin Harvick (175.487). Daytona winner Tyler Reddick (175.388) was sixth on the speed chart.

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Xfinity practice will be from 3:05 – 3:55 p.m. ET

Click here for practice 1 report