joey logano

Joey Logano on slump: ‘As soon as we figure it out, we’re going to be really fast again’

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Joey Logano is deep in the dog days of his season, but the Team Penske driver is making the best of it on the final off weekend of 2017.

Helping promote a canine-oriented initiative for a sponsor, Logano seemed upbeat in a phone interview with NBCSports.com this week about his chances of qualifying for the Cup playoffs.

With two races remaining in the regular season, it’s win or else for Logano, who is 117 points behind the current cutoff for the last playoff spot awarded via the standings.

“I feel like we’ve got to go,” Logano told NBCSports.com. “Obviously, we don’t have an option at this point. It’s nice to have an off weekend, regroup, catch our breath and figure out how we’re going to attack these next couple of weeks. We have to win. We have to make it happen one way or another.

“We’ve been in this position before. We’ve been put in this position that we have to win multiple times the last few years during the playoffs and we’ve been able to do it. It’s no different than that. We’ve just got to be ready to execute when the opportunity strikes.”

The opportunities have been infrequent since Logano’s April 30 win at Richmond (which was declared ineligible for playoff consideration because of a postrace violation). In 15 races since, his No. 22 Ford has only two top fives (third at Michigan, fourth at Indianapolis) and is riding a skid of four straight finishes outside the top 10 entering the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway next week.

Echoing some of teammate Brad Keselowski’s assessment, Logano believes Toyotas have found an edge mostly via aerodynamics with the 2018 Camry introduced this year.

“They’ve gotten an advantage because of the hard work they’ve put in,” Logano said. “They were very strategic about their new bodies, and they’ve made some good decisions about the way they developed them, and it’s obviously a rocket ship currently on the racetrack. They did a good job, they are getting rewarded because of it.

“Now it’s up to us figure out how we catch up. So I’ve got to focus on what makes our cars go fast.

“We can’t hide the fact that they’re faster than us. That’s apparent. We know that. We talk about it. We can identify certain areas that we believe they’re better. But at a certain point, you just have to do the work. You have to figure it out.”

Logano said it’s possible a breakthrough could happen at Darlington or the regular-season finale Sept. 9 at Richmond, but whenever the team makes gains, he expects it to last.

“Believe me, there’s plenty of work going into it, but as soon as we figure it out, we’re going to be really fast again,” he said. “However that happens, I don’t know. I know this team will figure it out. Team Penske has been around for 50 years winning races. They’ve been through downturns before. This isn’t the first time (team owner) Roger (Penske) has seen this. That’s why he’s not panicking. At the same time, we want to get fast as quick as we can, because this isn’t the position we like to be in.

“I feel like our team is going to get back there, hopefully it’s in the next few races. If not, we’re going to get back there before the year is out. Hopefully, we’re in the playoffs when it happens. … You’ve got to stay confident in your abilities and stay confident in your race team and their abilities and make sure you stick together and don’t start pointing fingers here or there. It’s win as a team and lose as team. It’s a lot easier to say that when you’re winning, but it’s very true. You need to be able to stick together in these times, that’s the only way you dig out of it.”

The focus won’t be on racing this weekend for Logano, who is relaxing with his expectant wife, Brittany, and also celebrating Saturday’s National Dog Day (his sponsor, AutoTrader, is commemorating the occasion by raising awareness of pet adoption with dog smell air fresheners and a list of the best cars for dog lovers).

The Loganos’ French bulldog, Luigi, has traveled with the couple since last year and will remain on the road after they welcome a baby boy in January (the couple detailed their struggles with achieving pregnancy in a recent interview with NBCSN’s Krista Voda). “The whole family will be riding together,” Logano said with a laugh. “We’ll take our kid around with Luigi. It could be a lot at times, but we’re going to give it a shot.”

Joey Logano says part failure caused crash; requests ‘Everyone pray for Aric’ Almirola

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Joey Logano said a part failure caused the crash that sent Aric Almirola to the hospital in a violent wreck Saturday night at Kansas Speedway.

Logano lost control of his No. 22 Ford, hitting Danica Patrick’s No. 10 Chevrolet in the left rear. Patrick’s car spun into a fiery crash against the outside wall. Almirola’s No. 43 Ford spun into the aftermath of the crash, going briefly airborne as it made contact with both cars.

“I’m OK, I’m just saying prayers for Aric right now,” Logano told FS1 outside the track’s care center. “A lot of us took a hard hit. Something broke on my car. I don’t know what it was. I noticed it as I was going in (the turn). I tried to back off, but you’re going 215 (mph).

“It’s hard to check up. The car just took a big step sideways into the corner. I hooked Danica, and I don’t know what happened.”

The Team Penske driver then watched a replay of the crash.

“Oh my God,” he said. “Just out of nowhere. Everything was fine, then it just took a hard (hit).

“Everyone pray for Aric right now.”

After being cleared from the care center, Patrick also expressed concern for the Richard Petty Motorsports driver.

“I hope Aric’s OK,” said Patrick, who was eliminated by a wreck for the second consecutive race. “He definitely is feeling the worst of everybody. NASCAR has done everything they can to make our cars as safe as possible, but things happen. And his car looked the least damaged of all of ours.

“That’s what I said before I walked out, one of these times these accidents aren’t going to go good for me. They all are big. I’ve been very fortunate so far. One of these times it’s not going to go well.”

Austin Dillon starts from rear at Richmond; Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth penalized for swerving

Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
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RICHMOND, Va. — NASCAR announced several penalties from the Bristol Motor Speedway race weekend Friday morning.

The most notable punishment was to Austin Dillon, who will be held 30 minutes of practice, lose pit selection and start at the rear of Sunday’s race at Richmond International Raceway after his No. 3 Chevrolet failed the Laser Inspection System platform five times before the Bristol race.

Earlier Friday, Richard Childress Racing announced that Dillon’s crew chief, Slugger Labbe, would miss this race weekend at Richmond.

Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth are being held out of 30 minutes of practice at Richmond for swerving after the Bristol race. Last September NASCAR outlawed the practice of swerving to help put suspensions in alignment for postrace inspection.

Ty Dillon (15-minute practice hold, loss of pit selection for failing LIS three times) and A.J. Allmendinger (30-minute hold, loss of pit selection for four LIS failures) also were penalized for Bristol infractions. Aric Almirola also will be held out of practice for 15 minutes because template failures for failing inspection.

Five cars will be held out of practice for 15 minutes at Richmond for penalties were deferred from Texas Motor Speedway: Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Chris Buescher, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Kenseth will be held out 45 minutes total.

Ryan: The stages of anger after a strong comeback? Joey Logano knows them too well

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MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Following a fourth-place finish that featured an impressive comeback from two laps down, Sunday night’s ride home from Martinsville Speedway was fairly miserable for Joey Logano.

“I was mad because we left so much on the table,” the Team Penske driver said Monday morning at his team’s shop, where he was promoting Verizon’s new Innovative Learning initiative. “God, I drove home angry about fourth after being two laps down. If it was last year, it’d be like, ‘Hell of a recovery! Awesome!’

“Now I’m sitting here thinking we left 10 to 15 points out there. It’s like, ‘Arrrgh!’ ”

While much of the focus from the STP 500 was on Kyle Busch’s loss of a playoff point because of a bump by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., no one’s fortunes have been more indicative of the importance of stage points than Logano. He has been an unwanted poster child for the renewed importance of running well throughout an event now that stage points are awarded to top 10 twice during every race.

Logano earned zero stage points Sunday because of a pit penalty (the jack man went over the wall too soon) in the first stage and a cut tire in the second.

He rebounded from the unscheduled green-flag pit stop (after running over debris) to motor to his third top five of the season, but it still felt hollow.

Fourth place paid him 33 points – or two more than 15th-place Jimmie Johnson and three more than Martin Truex Jr. in 16th.

Even more importantly is the significant gap to teammate and race winner Brad Keselowski (55 points), runner-up Kyle Busch (52) and third-place Chase Elliott (50).

“That’s how important it is to run up front throughout the whole race,” Logano said. “We’re getting something out of it at the end of the day (with a fourth), but we’ve got to be able to clean it up a little bit.”

From the season’s first stage – when a loose wheel on his No. 22 Ford forced him into another rally (for sixth) in the Daytona 500 – squandered points have been a storyline for Logano, whose team has proven to be as strong or better than last year’s runner-up to Johnson for the championship.

Though tied for the series lead with five top 10s in six races, he is ranked fifth in the standings – and the biggest consequences still could be lurking.

The stage points could impact his finish in the top 10 of the regular-season points standings, which will be rewarded with playoff points that will carry all the way through to the championship round.

One point can make a difference in the playoffs. Ask Busch, who advanced out of the first round in his title-winning 2015 season by that margin.

“You can’t leave (points) on the table,” Logano said. “That’s what we’ve done. When I look at this year, we’ve had something go wrong in every single race, and we’ve had to recover.

“If I just had a couple more points, that could make the difference of getting to (the championship round at Miami). And yes, we think about that. That’s why I said, ‘Yeah, we finished fourth. Good but not so good.’ ”

Perhaps not good at all when the playoffs roll around.

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NBCSports.com colleague Dustin Long dug up some interesting talk about what modifications could lie ahead for the 2017 All-Star Race. This will be the first under Monster Energy, which could portend some radical departures in the format of an event where the title sponsor usually has influence.

At the risk of paraphrasing myself, the feelings from this corner haven’t changed much since this column nearly three years ago.

Before determining what the All-Star Race should look like or where it should be held, there is a fundamental question that needs answering:

What should it be?

Is it intended to be a skills competition like other sports? Is it a glitzy showcase for the title sponsor? Is it an opportunity to highlight the personalities of NASCAR’s stars with their helmets off (hint, hint)?

Maybe it’s all of the above.

Regardless, these hopefully are the questions being considered as the Drivers Council, RTA, NASCAR and Monster shape the future of a race whose relevance has been under scrutiny for years.

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Taken statically, the news of the Xfinity/Truck series awards ceremony’s move to Charlotte might seem to have limited bearing.

But it could be a test run for the Charlotte Convention Center’s ballroom (which was built as an offshoot of funding the NASCAR Hall of Fame) as host of the Cup Awards Ceremony in the future.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau ponying up $17.5 million over seven years to help bring a second annual Cup race to Las Vegas Motor Speedway probably means an end after 2017 to a seven-figure subsidy from Vegas for the Cup Awards Ceremony (which has been held in the gambling mecca with help from the city since 2009).

It seems feasible that Charlotte could become the home for all of NASCAR’s national series awards ceremonies in 2018 – which actually makes a lot of sense.

We always will be partial to the Waldorf-Astoria and Christmastime in Manhattan as an ideal home for the awards ceremony. But Charlotte’s massive event space would be a fine place to resurrect the incomparably fun Waldorf afterparty, which once featured the Starlight Orchestra playing into the wee hours of Saturday morning every year.

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Though Martinsville’s new lights weren’t used last weekend, they will be turned on for the finish of the Oct. 29 playoff race at the 0.526-mile oval, and speculation is natural about when a Cup race might be held at night on the short track.

Here’s a thought with Phoenix Raceway clamoring to change its early March date (which conflicts with spring training): Move another track into Las Vegas’ slot and start the West Coast Swing a week later, ending with Phoenix in Martinsville’s current spring slot. Then try a midweek night race at Martinsville in June or July.

By the way, don’t count on a night race necessarily bringing a sellout Martinsville, which seemed to have one of its weaker crowds Sunday despite beautiful weather and another highly entertaining 500-lap race.

So what’s the solution to lagging attendance at some tracks?

A humble suggestion (from someone who admittedly lacks expertise in economics or finance): Would cheaper tickets be an option?

NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 72: Jeff Gluck on the Kyle Busch-Joey Logano video at Vegas

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Longtime NASCAR reporter Jeff Gluck joined the NASCAR on NBC podcast to discuss his viral video of the Kyle BuschJoey Logano confrontation and his foray into self-service journalism.

Gluck, who started his own website (www.jeffgluck.com, which has a revenue model based on reader donations) to cover racing in January, captured Busch’s march through the pits at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and subsequent swing at Logano after the Cup drivers were involved in a last-lap crash.

For several years, Gluck’s postrace routine has been to canvas the garage and pit area for incidents such as this, but he had no inkling that he would capture this moment.

He was headed toward the No. 2 Ford of Brad Keselowski (who lost the lead in the closing laps because of a mechanical failure) when he spotted Busch.

“I see this yellow blur out of the corner of my eye, not walking super fast, but walking faster in the same direction I was,” Gluck said on the podcast. “And I turned around and thought, “Kyle! Why is he going this way? The care center is not this way? Oh he’s mad at somebody.’

“But I didn’t know who or why. So, the bottom line is when you see Kyle Busch angrily walking down pit road, you take your phone out.”

Gluck lingered in the pits and talked to Logano and briefly contemplated waiting on Busch outside the care center before deciding to upload the video, pronto.

“There was a huge moment of hesitation,” he said. “I stood there for about 30 seconds and was a little shocked.

“Judging by the Twitter mentions, I realized it wasn’t on TV. I should probably post this right away.”

The video quickly garnered more than 1 million views on YouTube and spread around the world (emails seeking approval of use arrived from Denmark).

“Thor from Denmark,” Gluck said with a laugh. “(He) said, ‘Hi, your great video has made it all the way to Denmark. We have much interest in this! Can we play it on our local sports broadcast?’ He of all people doubled back to me a couple of times to make sure there were no rights issues.”

Other topics discussed:

–The aftermath of the video and the decisions he made on distribution.

–The progress of his eponymous site through its first two months.

–Why he thinks there was such an overwhelming reaction to his site (he attributes some of it to the 2016 election cycle).

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone. It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.