Tough Pocono race adds pressure in Joey Logano’s bid to make playoffs

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Joey Logano, who has made it to the championship race in two of the last three years, likely needs to win one of the next five races to avoid missing the Cup playoffs.

Logano’s victory at Richmond in April doesn’t count toward playoff eligibility because his car failed post-race inspection. He is 69 points out of what would be the final playoff spot heading into this weekend’s race at Watkins Glen International on NBCSN.

Logano’s 27th-place finish Sunday at Pocono Raceway marked the third time he’s placed 25th or worse in the last five races.

Even with those struggles, crew chief Todd Gordon told “The Morning Drive” on Monday he sees tracks that Logano can win at to ensure a playoff spot.

“We finished first and second the last two years at Watkins Glen,’’ Gordon said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We get to go to Michigan after that, which we’ve won twice, been a really strong track for us. Bristol, we won the night race twice. I think Bristol night race is a better race for us than the Bristol spring race. Look forward to that. We won Richmond in the spring. Let’s not leave that one out.

“I don’t think you’ve got to swing for the fences. I think you’ve got to put yourself in the right positions, but you can’t do stupid things and try to get there. We’ve got to find a little more speed in the race cars and that’s something that has been a consistent need for us. I think we’ve found some but I don’t think we’ve found enough, and we’ve got to continue to work forward on that and put ourselves in position.

“Unfortunately with the weekend we had, yes, it does put us further down in points and more in a position where we need to win, but I feel very strongly about the next five races and getting that done.’’

Logano is in that hole after a combination of woes Sunday at Pocono.

A lug nut got stuck in the air gun on an early stop, costing Logano track position.

“It buried us on track position,’’ Gordon told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Pocono, once you get buried back in traffic, it’s tough if you don’t have astronomical speed like a couple of cars did to get yourself back out of it.’’

Logano was penalized for speeding on pit road on Lap 124. When he came to serve the penalty, he stopped in his box and his crew serviced the car, leading to another penalty. Section 10.7.1.2.a of the Cup Rule Book states that “the vehicle must enter pit road and drive the entire length of pit road without stopping.’’

Gordon explained the penalty: “A combination of coming back to pit road to serve the pit road speeding penalty on low tire pressures, the car lands on the splitter and then we locked up a tire, and I didn’t want to ruin the run on a flat-spotted tire. Had to put another set of tires on. Kind of a day that we never got ourselves right back in position. Kind of missed it on the car setup to start with and we made a few mistakes, and we just didn’t have enough to recover from those mistakes.’’

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