B.J. McLeod

Long: Will Joey Logano’s actions lead to repercussions or another title?

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Joey Logano isn’t making friends in the playoffs, but does it really matter?

For the third time in the last eight playoff races, a driver climbed from his car upset with how Logano raced them and suggested a form of payback could be coming.

* Martin Truex Jr. called Logano’s bump-and-run on the final lap of last fall’s playoff race at Martinsville a “cheap shot” and said days before the championship race in Miami: “I won’t just wreck a guy … unless it is the 22.” (Logano did take part in the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation Catwalk for a Cause event in May). 

* Aric Almirola was upset with how Logano raced him in last fall’s playoff race at Texas, which was a week after Logano had assured his spot in the championship event by winning at Martinsville. Almirola said then: “He just continues to make things harder on himself. … When Homestead comes around if I’m not in it, he’ll know it.” Asked how, Almirola responded: “Just make it really difficult on him.” (Almirola and Logano talked a day later).

* Denny Hamlin expressed his frustration with Logano after last weekend’s playoff race at Dover. Logano was 24 laps down when Hamlin, who was leading, couldn’t get around him late in stage 2. Hamlin lost the lead and finished third in the stage, costing him a playoff point. “He just pissed off some guys that he’s racing with now,” Hamlin said of Logano. “So now we’re going to race him extra hard for what? For the reason he didn’t want to go 26 laps down? Anybody would tell you that’s just not a good choice.”

So far nothing has happened — except Logano winning last year’s Cup title.

That Logano races hard is no surprise. It’s a part of his DNA. His second career Cup win came in 2012 after he did a bump-and-run on Mark Martin in the final laps at Pocono. Logano has had issues throughout his career with Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Truex, Almirola and Hamlin, among others. So, yes, this is Logano’s style.

But even Logano admitted during last weekend’s race at Dover he was in a tough position. This was his radio conversation with crew chief Todd Gordon after stage 2 ended:

Gordon: Did a good job there, man. I know we got eaten up there at the end, but you did a good job of hanging in the whole time.

Logano: Yeah. I dunno. Trying to do the right thing by everyone.

Gordon: Yeah. You’re in a tough spot. You are. I totally understand it.

Logano: What’s our situation now? How many more laps do I have to make up?

Gordon: 54 is 14 laps down. We’re 24 laps down. The 52 is 13. The 51 is 12. Some of those guys won’t end up having enough tires to run the whole race, so, we’ll see where it gets. We’re 36 right now. Every spot we can get from here is a point.”

Logano would not pass the 54 (Garrett Smithley), 52 (JJ Yeley) or 51 (B.J. McLeod). Logano finished 34th, gaining spots only after mechanical issues caused Chris Buescher and Ryan Blaney to the garage.

While Logano’s conversation was taking place, other team radios were lit about his driving.

Hamlin didn’t realize Logano was so many laps down. Told he was, Hamlin said on his radio: “Then what the (expletive) is he doing racing us like this? Twenty-four laps?”

Logano also was a discussion point on Kyle Larson’s radio.

Larson: He’s racing awful hard, huh?

Crew chief Chad Johnston: You sound like you’re surprised. Nothing new.

Larson: I am surprised that he’s racing that hard at 24 laps down, I can see one up.

Johnston: Yeah. I think it is all things we have to put in our memory bank. And when we get the opportunity to do the same thing to him, we remember that, don’t cut him any slack. But, for today we have to race to win, so, we’ll let him go to the back or do a wave around and get one of ‘em back so he can be 23 down. And we’ll go race for a win.”

Memory bank is the key word. Drivers and teams don’t forget. Should Logano advance to the third round, he could face quite a challenge.

Two of the three races in the third round are at Martinsville and ISM Raceway near Phoenix. Both feature plenty of traffic and can be difficult to pass at — and that’s without someone mad at you. NASCAR is expected to approve a traction compound to help drivers pass at ISM Raceway, the last chance for competitors to earn a spot in the Championship 4 race the following week in Miami. 

Will Logano’s actions catch up to him in the coming weeks? Or will he be on his way to a second championship while divers are left to mutter about how the No. 22 Team Penske Ford races?

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Potential can be such an overbearing description for some. While Kyle Larson exudes California cool, many have expected him to win more often. In some cases, his team needed better cars or pit stops. In other cases, Larson needed to be better.

He said that last weekend’s win at Dover was an example of how he is improving.

“It takes focus to win in any type of car, but it takes a different type of focus to win a 400‑ or 500‑mile race,” Larson said after his sixth career Cup victory, which moved him to the next round. “You know, in a sprint car race, it’s 30, 40 laps, and they don’t have an opportunity to work on their car at any point in the race to make it better, where in this I’ve tried to get better at my communication and tried to make it easier for the team to figure out what adjustments to make because it felt like when I look at other people in the past, I’ve been good the first half of races or even past that, but then it seems like as other people get to work on their cars, that’s where they maybe get better than me at the end and that’s what they find to go out there and win.

“(Sunday) I felt like I was struggling, I was getting frustrated in the early part of the race, and then took a deep breath, changed up what I was doing behind the wheel, and we also made our car better at the same time, and here we are with a win.

“I think that’s just the things that guys like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick and Logano, Truex, Keselowski are really good at just staying focused, and not that I wasn’t focused, it just takes a different level of focus.”

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It was easy to miss Kyle Busch’s finish Sunday at Dover. Other than the speeding penalty he incurred on Lap 122, he was not noticeable on the way to a sixth-place finish.

Busch had expressed his disappointment not only with the racing but his result at Dover in May when he finished 10th and did not exude confidence heading into the playoff race. He qualified 18th, worst of the remaining playoff drivers. He said his car’s setup was similar to what teammate Martin Truex Jr. used to win at Dover in May but still didn’t work for him.

That Busch came out of a race that he didn’t seem to feel good about with nearly a top-five finish could be viewed as a good sign for his fans. Those points earned could mean more should he encounter problems in Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC). Busch enters the race third in the standings, 48 points ahead of Joey Logano, who is the first driver outside a transfer spot.

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Entry lists for Cup, Xfinity at Daytona

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Get ready for lots of fireworks this 4th of July weekend – both on and off the race track at Daytona International Speedway.

This race marks the first time the 2.5-mile track hosts a Cup race without restrictor plates since 1988, utilizing instead the tapered spacer – which we’ve already seen used once this year at Talladega Superspeedway.

Both the Cup and Xfinity Series will be in action at Daytona. The Truck Series is off until July 11 at Kentucky Speedway.

Here are the updated entry lists for this weekend’s races:

Cup – Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC)

There is a full 40-car field of cars and drivers entered for this race.

For the second time this season, Garrett Smithley is entered in Premium Motorsports’ No. 15 Chevrolet.

Quin Houff will drive the No. 15 for Premium Motorsports.

Ross Chastain will be in the No. 27 for Premium Motorsports.

B.J. McLeod makes his ninth start of the season for Petty Ware Racing in the No. 51 Ford

J.J. Yeley makes his third start of the season for Rick Ware Racing in the No. 52 Ford.

Joey Gase makes his first start of the season for Rick Ware Racing in the No. 53 Chevrolet.

Brendan Gaughan makes his third start of the season for Beard Racing in the No. 62 Chevrolet.

Justin Haley is back in the No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet.

And Parker Kligerman makes his eighth start of the season in the No. 96 Toyota for Gaunt Brothers Racing.

Last year, Erik Jones earned his first career Cup win in this race. Martin Truex Jr. was second and A.J. Allmendinger finished third.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Circle K Firecracker 250 (7:30 p.m. ET Friday on NBCSN)

There are 42 cars entered. Four cars will not make the race.

Sheldon Creed makes his third Xfinity start of the season and the first for JR Motorsports in the No. 8 Chevrolet.

A.J. Allmendinger makes his first Xfinity start of the season in the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet.

Joe Nemecheck makes his second Xfinity start of the season in the No. 13 Motorsports Business Management Toyota.

Riley Herbst makes his fifth start of 2019 in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Joe Graf Jr. makes his second start of 2019 in the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

Chris Cockrum makes his third start for ACG Motorsports in the No. 25 Chevrolet.

Shane Lee makes his third start for H2 Motorsports in the No. 28 Toyota.

Austin Hill makes his Xfinity Series debut in the No. 61 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota.

Jeffrey Earnhardt is on the entry list with the No. 81 XCI Racing Toyota but stated on Twitter that the team would not be competing this weekend. 

A spokesperson for True Speed Communications, which had done PR for XCI Racing, said they had no additional info and that its agreement with the team was only through Chicagoland.

Caesar Bacarella makes his third start of 2019 in the No. 90 DGM Racing Chevrolet.

Cody Ware makes his second Xfinity start of the season in the No. 99 B.J. McLeod Motorsports Toyota.

Kyle Larson won this race last year, followed by Elliott Sadler and Christopher Bell.

Click here for the entry list.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Entry lists for NASCAR at Talladega

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This weekend will mark the first time Talladega Superspeedway will hold a NASCAR Cup race without restrictor plates in more than 30 years.

Instead of restrictor plates, NASCAR requires Cup teams to use tapered spacers to limit the engine’s horsepower. 

Both the Cup and Xfinity Series will be in action this weekend at the 2.66-mile track. The Truck Series does not race again until May 3 at Dover International Speedway.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for each race:

Cup – GEICO 500 (2 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox)

There will be a full 40-car field in Sunday’s main event.

Cody Ware will once again be back in the No. 51 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet.

Stanton Barrett will make only his second Cup start since 2008 in the No. 52 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet. He finished last in the 2018 Cup playoff race on the road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Justin Haley will make his NASCAR Cup debut in the No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet.

Jeffrey Earnhardt will be in the No. 81 Xtreme Concepts Inc. (XCI) Racing Toyota. It will be the first Cup race for XCI.

NASCAR on NBC analyst Parker Kligerman will be in the No. 96 Gaunt Brothers Racing Toyota.

Joey Logano won this race last year, leading 70 of 188 laps and beating Kurt Busch and Chase Elliott. Aric Almirola won last fall’s playoff race at Talladega, beating Clint Bowyer and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Click here for the preliminary entry list.

Xfinity – Money Lion 300 (1 p.m. ET Saturday on Fox Sports 1)

There are 37 cars entered.

B.J. McLeod will be in the No. 15 Chevrolet for JD Motorsports.

Brett Moffitt will make his third career Xfinity start – and first since 2017. He’ll be in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.

Chris Cockrum will make his second Xfinity start of the season in the No. 17 Chevrolet for Rick Ware Racing.

Jeffrey Earnhardt will make his fourth Xfinity start of the season – and his third for Joe Gibbs Racing – in the No. 18 Toyota.

Max Tullman will make his fifth career Xfinity start – and second of the season – in the No. 42 Motorsports Business Management Toyota.

Brandon Brown returns to the No. 86 Brandonbilt Motorsports after competing for RSS Racing at Richmond.

Canadian driver Alex Labbe will make his third start of the Xfinity season in the No. 90 DGM Racing Chevrolet.

There is no driver listed yet in the No. 99 B.J. McLeod Racing Toyota.

Spencer Gallagher won this race last year, leading just one lap. Brandon Jones was second and Justin Allgaier was third.

Click here for the preliminary entry list.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Entry lists for NASCAR at Texas

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Here are the entry lists for this weekend’s races at Texas Motor Speedway:

Cup – O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox)

Forty cars are entered. The No. 97 Chevrolet of Obaika Racing has not named a driver yet.

Non-Cup regulars entered include B.J. McLeod (No. 52 Ford of Rick Ware Racing), Timmy Hill (No. 66 Toyota of Motorsports Business Management), Garrett Smithley (No. 77 Chevrolet of Spire Motorsports) and Parker Kligerman (No. 96 Toyota of Gaunt Brothers Racing).

Kyle Busch, who will once again go for the third weekend sweep of his career, entered in the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series races. He’s the only driver in NASCAR history to have won races in three national series at the same track in the same weekend. Both of those previously came at Bristol Motor Speedway (2010, 2017).

Click here for the Cup Series entry list.

Xfinity – Bariatric Solutions 300 (1 p.m. ET Saturday on Fox Sports 1)

Forty cars are entered.

Cup drivers entered: Busch (No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) and Brad Keselowski (No. 12 Team Penske Ford). 

Click here for the Xfinity Series entry list.

Trucks – Vankor 350 (9 p.m. ET Friday on Fox Sports 1)

Thirty-two trucks are entered.

Cup drivers entered: Busch (No. 51 Toyota of Kyle Busch Motorsports), Bubba Wallace (No. 22 Chevrolet of AM Racing and Ross Chastain (No. 45 Chevrolet for Niece Motorsports).

Click here for Truck entry list

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. responds to Martin Truex Jr.’s criticism from Atlanta

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. countered Martin Truex Jr.’s claims that Stenhouse, running a lap behind the leaders, held Truex up late in last weekend’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Stenhouse told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Wednesday that he was “confused” by Truex’s assertion and wondered if Truex thought that “lapped cars have dirtier air coming off the car (than those on the lead lap).”

Truex was upset with Stenhouse after the race, saying Stenhouse should have gotten out of the way sooner. 

“(Stenhouse) rode there in front of us forever and ever, running the bottom,” Truex said after the race. “I kept telling him I needed the bottom, and these cars are just so bad in dirty air that he was holding me up really bad.”

Of lapped cars, Truex said: “They just have no respect for the leaders running for the win. It’s completely uncalled for, ridiculous. It’s a shame.”

Stenhouse didn’t see things that way, telling Claire B. Lang on “Dialed In” on Wednesday:

“To me I didn’t feel like we really held him off. If he was that fast, then he could have closed up to us. If leaders get within five car lengths of me, I let them go. Mike Herman Jr., my spotter, was updating me how far back (Truex) was. We were racing to try to get back on the lead lap.

“I felt like there at a moment we were going to be able to catch (Brad Keselowski, who led the final 33 laps to win). We were running faster lap times than he was. So, we were thinking, ‘hey, let’s just old school get our lap back (by passing the leader) and see how it falls.’

“But also (Keselowski) was catching (Chase Elliott) and was going to put him a lap down, and we wanted to make sure that if (Elliott) got lapped that we could get by him as quick as possible in case the caution came out and we could get the lucky dog that way as well.

“The way I see it, if Truex is fast enough and that much faster than me, then he could have caught us. If he would have caught us and got to within five car lengths, I would have let him go. He didn’t have any problem getting within five car lengths of (Keselowski).

“He talks about dirty air and things like that. I don’t know if he thinks that lapped cars have dirtier air coming off the car. Kind of confused me. Brad Keselowski, he restarted behind me, actually nose to tail with Truex and he passed us on the outside.

“Generally, when I have a faster car, I just drive around the lapped cars that I’m lapping. It’s one of those things that I felt like me and my spotter and our team did the right thing for what we had going on.

“Once I slipped up a little bit, Truex closed within five car lengths and I pulled almost on the apron on the back straightaway to give him whatever lane he wanted and slowed up for him. That’s the way I play it. When the leaders get to me, I give them a lane one way or the other when they get close, but he wasn’t close enough to just give up our whole lap or the positions I was racing for either.”

Issues began when there was a caution during a green-flag pit cycle for Ryan Preece running into the back of B.J. McLeod’s car on pit road. McLeod’s car spun, injuring a member of Chris Buescher’s pit crew.

Joey Logano and Kurt Busch were the only cars on the lead lap that hadn’t pitted. They restarted on the front row. Per the NASCAR Rule Book, cars one or more laps down restart next.

That put Stenhouse, a lap down, inside of the second row with Jimmie Johnson to his outside. The third row had Bubba Wallace on the inside and Ty Dillon. Both were two laps down.

Keselowski, who received the free pass, was positioned on the inside of the fourth row for the restart, ahead of cars that had pitted and did the wave around. Truex restarted on the inside of the fifth row, directly behind Keselowski.

Keselowski maneuvered by the four lapped cars ahead of him quickly after the restart. Truex did not.