It’s hard for a defending champion to win a second consecutive Daytona 500 without help from either a teammate or fellow drivers under the same manufacturer’s banner.
That’s the situation Joey Logano found himself in the final laps of Sunday’s 58th edition of the Great American Race.
Logano, who won last year’s season-opening race, was in position to make a move – but the nearest fellow Ford driver was several rows back.
As it turned out, help was too far away in reaching Logano, who finished sixth and failed to defend last year’s win in NASCAR’s annual edition of its own Super Bowl.
Logano admits he did all he could, but having some assistance would have helped.
“You have to try,” Logano said. “This is the Daytona 500 and you try to win this thing no matter what.
“I was the only Ford up there though. I was the Lone Ranger. It was tough.”
The next closest driver with a blue oval on the front of his car was Aric Almirola, who finished 12th.
Further back was the kind of pack that could help Logano – if only it had been closer: Ryan Blaney (19th), Brad Keselowski (20th), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (22nd), Landon Cassill (23rd) and rookie Brian Scott (24th).
“It is hard because I am competing against a bunch of other cars that aren’t my teammates or manufacturer,” Logano said of the closing laps. “You are on you own out there. It makes it very challenging for sure.
“The Toyota group were really good today. They were working together better than anybody and they had the fastest cars and they deserved to win the race. We were in the hunt. We got close. We made good adjustments on our car but just never were quite fast enough to being in contention.”
Logano kind of knew any last-second bid for him to move even further up in the pack was dashed when former teammate Denny Hamlin split between Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr. on the final lap and went on to take the checkered flag.
“It was a heck of a finish,” Logano admitted.
“I don’t like being behind watching it. I want to be involved with it.”