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Joey Logano doesn’t want repeat of ‘horror film’ 2017 season

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Joey Logano and his No. 22 team never want to experience anything close to their 2017 Cup season again.

Nobody ever wants to live through a “horror film” twice.

The Team Penske team failed to make the 16-car field in the Cup Series playoffs, which Logano thought was “kind of a given.”

Logano failed to score multiple wins for the second time during his five years with Team Penske. He visited victory lane once in his first year in 2013.

The failure to make the playoffs stemmed from Logano’s lone win, in April at Richmond Raceway, being encumbered for an inspection violation.

The team never fully recovered.

“I think after going through that and living that horror film, you don’t want to do that again,” Logano said last week during the NASCAR Media Tour. “There is plenty of motivation to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

After his encumbered win, Logano only managed one top-10 finish over the next eight races, placing third at Michigan.

“I would say it blindsided every one of us,” Logano said. “We didn’t think the penalty at Richmond was a big deal. We thought we would go win more races. No big deal. Then it was one thing after another and before we knew it our back was against the wall.”

MORE: Joey Logano adapting to being a first-time father

In the back half of the season, Logano earned only two top 10s prior to the regular-season finale at Richmond. Logano almost exorcised his demons when came one spot shy of winning his way into the playoffs.

“Figures,” Logano said. “It is a feeling we never want to have again. We did not see that coming at all.”

A lack of “raw speed” from the No. 22 was the primary ingredient in the team’s woes, Logano said. But there’s “only so much work you can do” in the offseason to correct what needs to be.

But Logano said the most important lesson his team learned from 2017 is to be “a little more open-minded” going forward.

“We started to be open-minded at the end of the season,” Logano said. “We probably waited a little too long. When you find something that works for you and you are able to keep evolving off of that foundation that you built that works and you keep building off of something and then the rules change and things change and then all of a sudden that doesn’t work anymore, it is really hard to just knock over what you built and start all over. It is very challenging to get yourself to think that openly.”

Logano, his crew chief Todd Gordon and everything else, including how the team built its cars, “had to change.”

“I think that is what happens a lot of times in sports,” Logano said. “You see some of these great teams go out there and win a championship and then the next year you are like, ‘What happened to these guys?’ The sport changes. It evolves and you have to evolve with it and we are a little late to the game. If you look at the last five or six races we started running in the top-five more often.”

After his runner-up finish in the regular season finale, Logano raced to five top 10s and one top five over the last 10 races. He capped the season with a sixth-place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Logano joined most Ford drivers at the NASCAR Media Tour in highlighting the possible benefits the new Hawkeye inspection system could have for the manufacturer.

“I have enough confidence and I am believing the stories my team is telling me that we are going to be really good this year,” Logano said. “I honestly do believe that. I think we will go out there and redeem ourselves. There is a little extra motivation there. … We know we are a championship team. Nothing has changed from two years ago when we almost won the championship. It is the same group. Nothing has changed. We know we can still do that. Let’s go.

“Is Daytona here yet?”

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Here’s what is new in 2018 for Cup teams

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A new year brings many changes. Such is the case for NASCAR teams. Here’s a look at some of the key changes heading into the 2018 season for Cup teams that have announced drivers for this season.

(Drivers are listed in order of their car number with where they finished in the points last year)

No. 1 Jamie McMurray (12th in points in 2017)

What’s new: Chip Ganassi Racing announced Wednesday that Doug Duchardt has been hired to be the organization’s chief operating officer.

What’s the same: McMurray is back for a ninth season with the team in his second stint there. Matt McCall begins his fourth season with McMurray.

 

No. 2 Brad Keselowski (4th)

What’s new: Discount Tire moves over to be a primary sponsor of Keselowski’s car for 10 races.

What’s the same: Keselowski is back with crew chief Paul Wolfe for an eighth consecutive season.

 

No. 3 Austin Dillon (11th)

What’s new: He has only one teammate, Ryan Newman, at Richard Childress Racing, with the team cutting back to two cars for 2018.

What’s the same: Crew chief Justin Alexander is back after being paired with Dillon in May 2017.

 

No. 4 Kevin Harvick (3rd)

What’s new: Wife DeLana delivered the couple’s second child, a daughter in late December.

What’s the same: Crew chief Rodney Childers is back for a fifth season with Harvick. Since they’ve been together, they’ve won one championship, scored 14 victories and captured 13 poles.

 

No. 6 Trevor Bayne (22nd)

What’s new: AdvoCare is back but with a new paint scheme for this season. 

What’s the same: Matt Puccia is back as Bayne’s crew chief. They’ve been together since the 2016 season.

 

No. 9 Chase Elliott (5th)

What’s new: A new number for the son of Hall of Famer Bill Elliott.

What’s the same: Crew chief Alan Gustafson is back and Elliott, who enters his third Cup season, seeks his first career series win.

 

No. 10 Aric Almirola (29th)

What’s new: A new ride for Almirola, as he moves from Richard Petty Motorsports to Stewart-Haas Racing. That’s just among the many changes. Almirola also will have a new crew chief. John Klausmeier, who has been an engineer with the organization since 2009 and filled in as in interim crew chief previously, moves into that position for Almirola’s team. And a new look. Smithfield joins Almirola in the move, but its car will be black and white.

What’s the same: Even with the move, Almirola is driving a Ford again. 

 

No. 11 Denny Hamlin (6th)

What’s new: No major changes have been announced.

What’s the same: Crew chief Mike Wheeler is back for his third season with Hamlin. They’ve combined to win five races and three poles the previous two seasons.

 

No. 12 Ryan Blaney (9th)

What’s new: A new team. Blaney moves from the Wood Brothers to a third entry for Team Penske. He’ll be teammates to Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Team Penske purchased a charter from Roush Fenway Racing for Blaney’s car.

What’s the same: Crew chief Jeremy Bullins joins Blaney in the move from the Wood Brothers to Team Penske.

 

No. 13 Ty Dillon (24th)

What’s new: Crew chief Matt Borland joins the team from Richard Childress Racing.

What’s the same: Germain Racing remains aligned with Richard Childress Racing.

 

No. 14 Clint Bowyer (18th)

What’s new: No major changes have been announced.

What’s the same: Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz is paired with Bowyer for a second season in a row.

 

No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (13th)

What’s new: Stenhouse is no longer dating Danica Patrick

What’s the same: Crew chief Brian Pattie and Stenhouse are set to begin their second season together after winning two races and making the playoffs last season.

 

No. 18 Kyle Busch (2nd)

What’s new: No major changes have been announced.

What’s the same: This will be the fourth Cup season for crew chief Adam Stevens and Busch. They’ve won 14 races and 11 poles the past three seasons together.

 

No. 19 Daniel Suarez (20th)

What’s new: No major changes have been announced.

What’s the same: Suarez is back with Arris and Stanley as sponsors in 2018.

 

No. 20 Erik Jones (19th)

What’s new: A new driver in this car that Matt Kenseth had run the past five seasons. Also, crew chief Chris Gayle moves with Jones, the 2017 Cup rookie of the year, from Furniture Row Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2018 campaign.

What’s the same: The car has the same number as last year.

 

No. 21 Paul Menard (23rd)

What’s new: A new home for Menard, who goes from Richard Childress Racing to the Wood Brothers. Greg Erwin will be the new crew chief, taking over for Jeremy Bullins, who moves from the Wood Brothers to Team Penske with Ryan Blaney.

What’s the same: The Wood Brothers.

 

No. 22 Joey Logano (17th)

What’s new: Logano’s wife is expecting the couple’s first child in January.

What’s the same: Crew chief Todd Gordon is back for his sixth season with Logano. They’ve combined to win 16 races and 14 poles working together.

 

No. 24 William Byron (Did not race Cup in 2017)

What’s new: A new driver and new number for what had been the No. 5 team at Hendrick Motorsports. The Xfinity Series champion moves up from JR Motorsports. He’ll have Darian Grubb as his crew chief.

What’s the same: Liberty University, a longtime backer of Byron, is back as a sponsor.

 

No. 31 Ryan Newman (16th)

What’s new: No major changes have been announced.

What’s the same: Caterpillar, which has been a partner with Richard Childress Racing since 2009, will sponsor Newman’s car in select races in 2018.

 

No. 32 Matt DiBenedetto (32nd)

What’s new: No major changes have been announced.

What’s the same: DiBenedetto is back with the team for a second consecutive year.

 

No. 34 Michael McDowell (26th)

What’s new: New ride for McDowell, who moves from Leavine Family Racing to Front Row Motorsports and joins David Ragan at that organization. Front Row Motorsports also has expanded its technical alliance with Roush Fenway Racing.

What’s the same: Team remains in the Ford camp.

 

No. 37 Chris Buescher (25th)

What’s new: The team purchased a charter after leasing one last season.

What’s the same: Buescher is back for his second year with the team.

 

No. 38 David Ragan (30th)

What’s new: He has a new teammate with Michael McDowell joining the team and replacing Landon Cassill.

What’s the same: Ragan is back for his fifth season (in two stints) with Front Row Motorsports.

 

No. 41 Kurt Busch (14th)

What’s new: Is what’s old. Busch is back with Stewart-Haas Racing as is sponsor Monster Energy after his contract option was not picked up last season amid questions about sponsorship. Busch also has a new crew chief. Billy Scott moves from the No. 10 team to be Busch’s crew chief this season. Scott replaces Tony Gibson, who moves into a position at the shop.

What’s the same: The car number for Busch, who will enter his fifth season at Stewart-Haas Racing. 

 

No. 42 Kyle Larson (8th)

What’s new: A new sponsor for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver. Credit One will replace Target on the No. 42 Chevrolet in 2018. Also Larson got engaged to girlfriend Katelyn Sweet in December.

What’s the same: Larson will be teamed with crew chief Chad Johnston for a third consecutive year. They’ve combined to win five races and three poles together. 

 

No. 43 Darrell Wallace Jr. (50th)

What’s new: Wallace joins the team after running four races for Richard Petty Motorsports when Aric Almirola was injured last season. RPM also has switched from Ford to Chevrolet and formed an alliance with Richard Childress Racing and will get its engines from ECR Engines this season. Team also is adding sponsorship with Smithfield putting most of its resources with Almirola at Stewart-Haas Racing. 

What’s the same: Crew chief Drew Blickensderfer returns to be Wallace’s crew chief.

 

No. 47 AJ Allmendinger (27th)

What’s new: No major changes announced.

What’s the same: This will be Allmendinger’s fifth season with JTG Daugherty Racing.

 

No. 48 Jimmie Johnson (10th)

What’s new: No major changes announced.

What’s the same: He’s back with crew chief Chad Knaus for a 17th consecutive year.

 

No. 78 Martin Truex Jr. (1st)

What’s new: A new moniker for Truex – reigning Cup champion. Also, the team is back to a one-car operation with the shuttering of the No. 77 team.

What’s the same: Champion crew chief Cole Pearn is back to lead this team.

 

No. 88 Alex Bowman (Did not race Cup in 2017)

What’s new: Bowman takes over the former ride of Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports.

What’s the same: Greg Ives is back as the team’s crew chief.

 

No. 95 Kasey Kahne (15th)

What’s new: Kahne joins Leavine Family Racing, replacing Michael McDowell. Travis Mack, who had been the car chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s team at Hendrick Motorsports, makes the move to be Kahne’s crew chief.

What’s the same: The car number for the team.

 

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Kyle Busch loses Cup title after ‘wasting too much time’ passing Joey Logano

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After Kyle Busch called out Joey Logano for hindering his chances of winning a second Cup title, Logano’s crew chief said his driver’s racing late in Sunday’s season finale was “clean.”

Busch finished second to Martin Truex Jr after a spirited battle over the final 18 laps around Homestead-Miami Speedway.

But after climbing from his No. 18 Toyota, Busch’s mind was on Logano.

“I had to fight way too hard with some other guys trying to get back up through there, but that’s racing,” Busch said. “Battling with (Logano) there. Just wasting too much time with him. He held me up. He was there blocking every chance he got, so got a real buddy there, but that’s racing. That’s what happens.”

The final restart of the championship race occurred with 34 laps to go and Busch starting third behind Truex, Kevin Harvick and in the same row as Logano.

Busch fell back to fifth on the restart, putting Logano in his way.

It took until there was 25 laps to go for Busch to get back by Logano and set his sights on Harvick. Busch passed the No. 4 Ford seven laps later to set up his duel with Truex.

Logano would finish sixth for his fifth top 10 of the playoffs.

Logano’s crew chief, Todd Gordon, defended his driver while appearing on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.”

“You have to race everybody hard,” Gordon said. “It is a race and it’s a race with 40 people. There’s four that are racing for a championship. When Kyle finally got to the inside of him, he let him go. Like I said, we were racing hard to try to hold onto a third-place finish. You can’t ever just lay over and give up because you never know when the next caution comes. Our fire-off speed for the first five laps, I would argue we were better than anybody.”

Gordon cited the 2016 finale, when Jimmie Johnson used late cautions to put himself in a position to win the championship.

“You can’t ever give up,” Gordon said. “We’re all programmed to be racers and you never know where the opportunity comes to have a restart. If you looked to last year, I don’t think the 48 was the fastest car, but by the time he got done with a couple of restarts he wound up winning the championship.”

The strong finish capped off a disappointing year for the Team Penske crew. Logano failed to make the playoffs after his April win at Richmond was encumbered because his car failed post-race inspection.

Logano finished in the top 10 twice in the next 10 races and just 17 times over the season. He finished the year 17th in points, the highest driver among those that didn’t make the playoffs.

“Definitely wanted to send this 22 team off with strong finish and a possibility of a win,” Gordon said. “If the cards laid right, we were in that position because our fire-off speed was so fast. You got to race everybody as hard as you can, but with respect. … (Logano) didn’t try to side draft (Busch) to pull him back and all that stuff. They raced clean at that point.”

It’s at least the second time Busch has been upset with Logano this season, though the first time resulted in a physical altercation. On the last lap of the March race at Las Vegas, Logano got loose and made contact with Busch in Turn 4, causing Busch to spin down pit road. 

Busch later approached Logano on pit road and attempted to punch him. Logano’s crew wrestled him to the ground and Busch wound up with cut on his forehead.

“That’s how Joey races, so he’s going to get it,” Busch said.

Maybe next year.

NASCAR America: Jeff Burton supports Todd Gordon’s pit call (video)

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Todd Gordon said he made a mistake in not bringing Joey Logano and his severe tire rub onto pit road late in Sunday’s race at Martinsville.

But on Tuesday’s NASCAR America on NBCSN, analyst Jeff Burton didn’t look at Gordon’s strategy as a mistake at all.

Burton said Gordon should be applauded for trying to get his driver a much-needed win — although it admittedly may have hurt teammate Brad Keselowski‘s bid for a win.

Burton pushed back against fans and others criticizing Gordon, saying:

“His decision was based on what was best for the 22 car. … They didn’t race each other that we needed to get the 2 in the playoffs, they raced each other as if we need the 22 car to win. Thank God for that, and thank Todd Gordon and Joey Logano to do things as a race team to do things for their own self. I applaud that. Could he have made a better decision for Penske? Of course he could. … They want to win races and contend for championships and put themselves in position.

“With the year they’ve had and all the disappointment, they had a win in right in front of them, and clearly with the tire rub, they weren’t going to make it. … But Todd Gordon had to go from ‘I have a chance to win this race’ to ‘my day is over’ and do it that quick and think about the 2 car. I think it is unreasonable to think he could make that decision that quick. Could he have done it? Yes. But the fact he didn’t do it, I’m fine with it.

“I understand the disappointment and the people on the 2 car … but he has to race for him, his sponsor, his crew members. Everybody needs to get off Todd Gordon. … What’s in the best interests of the fans? (Multi-car teams) operate together Monday through Saturday, but on Sunday, they operate as individual teams because you pay to go watch your driver, mash that throttle, to give 100 percent and that team give 100 percent and that’s what NASCAR races should be about. That’s my opinion.

“I know some people disagree and that’s fine. But I want each individual team digging for what they can get because that’s what the people pay to watch.”

Check out all of what Burton said in the video above.

 

Bump & Run: Should NASCAR have penalized Denny Hamlin at Martinsville?

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Should NASCAR have penalized Denny Hamlin for wrecking Chase Elliott at Martinsville?

Steve Letarte: Absolutely not. NASCAR has been clear in every conversation I’ve ever had with them that they’ll get involved in a case like Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano when one car is multiple laps down and it’s true retaliation. When it comes to two cars running for position, whether it was on purpose or not on purpose is between the drivers. I don’t think we want the sanctioning body becoming referees. They are the officials, and they have to run the race and make sure everybody runs the race according to the rules, but as far as rough driving or not rough driving when it comes for a position on the race track, I don’t think that’s the sanction body’s position to get involved.

Nate Ryan: No. NASCAR shouldn’t penalize a driver for trying to win a race, particularly when a championship berth is on the line.

Dustin Long: Why start now? NASCAR has made it abundantly clear that if two cars are racing for the lead they’re not likely to get involved. NASCAR Chairman Brian France says this is a contact sport. So NASCAR is going to let there be contact.

What are the chances Chase Elliott makes it to the championship round in Miami?

Steve Letarte: Without a doubt, it’s going to be an uphill battle. I think when you look at Chase’s numbers throughout the playoffs, they’ve been outstanding. While Martinsville was chaotic, I think Texas will be chaotic as well. No telling what can happen at Phoenix..

Nate Ryan: He has to win at Texas or Phoenix. He still has a shot at doing the former.

Dustin Long: With Kyle Busch locked in and Martin Truex Jr. penciled in with his big points advantage, it likely leaves two spots. The question is can Chase Elliott win one of the next two races to earn a spot in Miami? I still need to be convinced about this team.

Should Joey Logano have pitted when he had a tire rub to ensure there was no caution since his teammate, Brad Keselowski, was leading in the final laps and close to earning a spot in the championship round?

Steve Letarte: I don’t think this falls on Joey Logano at all. The real question is should his crew chief, Todd Gordon, have called him into the pits unless it’s a safety situation, which then of course the driver should make the decision. Obviously, Joey Logano felt like it was safe to continue. Then it’s purely on Todd Gordon to pull him into the pits if looking at the bigger picture. To be honest, I think that’s a conversation these bigger companies need to have. It’s easy to throw stones at Todd Gordon now. Todd Gordon is hired to present the best case for the No. 22 car. He obviously felt that was to stay on the race track. Numbers would say it’s stay on the race track. Even if you spin out at Martinsville, normally you don’t make severe contact. It’s easy to say now that he absolutely should have pitted. Perhaps that’s a conversation that should have happened before now. What if a guy has an engine down a cylinder and your other car is leading? Should you just park that car so it doesn’t blow up and bring a yellow? I think that conversation is worth having at all the big teams.

Nate Ryan: Ultimately, the decision should rest with the team and driver on whether it’s worth the risk to continue (though NASCAR also could intervene). But given the playoff implications in this instance, Logano probably should have pitted and ensured his teammate gained passage to Miami.

Dustin Long: Yes. Someone in upper management should have made the call for Logano to pit. Both Brad Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe said after their Talladega win that Martinsville was a must-win situation for them based on how the other tracks likely would play out in this round. Joey Logano’s team might cost Keselowski and his team a chance at the championship and that is inexcusable.