For 16 laps, Joey Logano did all he could to prevent the inevitable from happening.
But with 17 to go in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, new prevailed over old.
On old tires, the lead slipped from Logano’s grasp and into Jimmie Johnson‘s, who went on to win Sunday’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Logano successfully kept Kyle Larson behind him until two laps remained, when the No. 42 Chevrolet finally got Logano loose enough in Turn 2 to get by.
The Team Penske driver finished third for his best result of 2017, a week after placing fourth at Martinsville Speedway.
“That is Todd’s (crew chief Todd Gordon) top-three there,” Logano said. “He did a good job giving us a shot to win.”
Gordon kept Logano out of the pits during a debris caution with 35 laps to go. That was after Logano went several laps longer on the previous green-flag run than the other lead-lap drivers, putting the No. 22 Ford out front for 17 laps.
“I tried to hold off (Johnson), he was just faster,” Logano said. “There is nothing to say besides that. I was in the clean and had the clean air, and he was still faster behind me. Once he passed me, my car kind of came to me a little bit, and I was able to run him back down a little bit. If he had made a mistake, I was going to be there. He was loose, I could tell, then all of a sudden, he wasn’t loose anymore.”
Johnson streaked off to his seventh win at Texas Motor Speedway and his first win of 2017. Logano leaves Texas still looking for his first victory of the season. Last year, he didn’t earn it until the 15th race at Michigan International Speedway.
“My car started falling off like it did all day,” Logano said of the last green-flag run. “I needed a 15-lap run instead of a 30-lap run, or a couple cautions in there, and we would be standing in victory lane with a 12th-place car, and that would have been something. We just have to get faster. We weren’t fast, and that is why we didn’t win. We had a good execution race, something we haven’t had really all year. We executed and finished third with a car that wasn’t as fast as we have had all year.”
Gordon attributed Logano’s lack of speed to his team focusing more on aero than balance with the track’s repave and reconfiguration. Logano had an average running spot of 7.61.
“You have to give him a good race car, and if you can’t do that, you have to work on something else,” Gordon said. “We were a little off on speed and balance, especially in traffic.
“Repaves you worry about aero so much that I think we got a little off on where our balance needed to be. He dug all day long, and the opportunity was there. When we went long on the first pit stop there in the last stage, the final part of the race, we actually picked up speed once we got clean air.”
A week ago, Logano lamented a lack of stage points earned in his fourth-place run at Martinsville. He managed to earn two by finishing ninth in stage one at Texas.
Logano heads into the Easter break fifth in the standings and 72 points behind Larson.