FORT WORTH, Texas – A week after Matt Kenseth wrecked him, earning a two-race suspension and unleashing a vitriolic reaction from fans, Joey Logano is back on track, seeking a spot in the championship round of the Chase.
Kenseth’s action at Martinsville Speedway left Logano last among the eight remaining title contenders. Jeff Gordon, last week’s winner, is the only driver so far guaranteed a spot in the championship round in two weeks at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Logano, who swept all three races in the second round, is focused heading into today’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, knowing he likely has to win either today or next to week at Phoenix International Raceway to advance.
“Our team is fired up and ready to go,’’ Logano said. “We know what we have to do. We have to go out there and win. The nice part about it is we know we can do it. We have done it a lot here recently and this is a good track for us.’’
If Logano can bounce back from last week’s race to score his fourth victory in the last five races is among the storylines for today’s race.
THIRD TIME: Erik Jones substitutes for the third different Joe Gibbs Racing driver this weekend. After filling in for Kyle Busch at Kansas and subbing for Denny Hamlin after a rain delay in the Bristol spring race, Jones will drive for Matt Kenseth, who is serving a two-race suspension for wrecking Joey Logano last weekend.
This also is Jones’ third race of the weekend. He won the Camping World Truck race on Friday and finished fourth in Saturday’s Xfinity race. Can he score top-10 finishes in all three races this weekend?
DROUGHT: Joe Gibbs Racing is winless in its last five races – tying its longest winless streak of the season. The team’s last win was by Matt Kenseth at New Hampshire. That victory marked the fourth consecutive win for JGR. It started with Carl Edwards’ win in the Southern 500 followed by Kenseth’s win at Richmond, Denny Hamlin’s win in the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway and Kenseth’s Loudon win. Does the drought end today?
HARD FEELINGS: NASCAR’s two-race suspension of Matt Kenseth this week likely ends the notion of blatant paybacks, but that doesn’t mean there’s not an undercurrent of ill feelings in the garage. It’s common late in the year. The pressure builds, conflicts occur and patience wanes.
There are many ways to make life difficult on a competitor from not laying over when they are faster to getting them loose, among other things. Will emotions boil as they did in this race last year?
NO PRACTICE: Sprint Cup teams didn’t get to practice on a sunny Saturday afternoon because of water seeping through the track from rain earlier in the day.
Brad Keselowski, who starts on the pole and won Saturday’s Xfinity race said he didn’t run with his race setup Friday. He likely won’t be the only driver whose first laps with the race setup on the car come when the green flag waves today. With an early competition caution, see which teams will have plenty of work ahead with their setup.