Joey Logano came into Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway facing long odds. He knew it, his opponents knew it, and fans knew it.
The only way Logano could make it into the 16-driver playoffs was ending up in victory lane. Win and he’s in. The task was pretty simple.
Still, Logano has prided himself throughout his NASCAR career of being a driver who thrives on pressure-packed situations.
And Saturday was one of the most pressure-packed situations Logano has faced in his NASCAR Cup career.
He gave it everything he had but in the end, finished one spot short of making the playoffs. Logano needed a win, but could do no better than a runner-up showing to race winner Kyle Larson.
“We just weren’t close enough to the lead to capitalize,” Logano told NBCSN after the race. “We knew that second (place) wasn’t going to be worth anything and yet we finished second.
“I’m proud of the effort we gave all weekend. … Our championship season was on the line and we just came up one spot short. It stinks, it hurts, but it’s not the end of our season.”
Logano now faces the prospect that no matter what he does in the 10-race playoffs, the highest he’ll be able to finish the 2017 NASCAR Cup season will be 17th, his worst Cup showing since 17th in 2012.
That, after making the playoffs and finishing the previous four seasons eighth (2013), fourth (2014), sixth (2015) and second (2016).
Logano enters the playoffs ranked 19th in the Cup standings.
How could a driver who was runner-up in the NASCAR Cup playoffs last season, fall so far, so fast?
NBCSports.com’s Nate Ryan gave his take on Logano, including saying, “If you look at it in the last four months, it’s not a surprise. It was trending this way for a while, ever since he won that race at Richmond (in April) and then had that finish declared encumbered, the car was deemed illegal and the win didn’t count toward the playoffs.
“Ever since then, the team was just trending in the wrong direction until tonight. I give them credit for a yeoman’s effort tonight … they came up one spot short.”
Check out the NBCSN interview with Logano (above video) after Saturday night’s race.