2024 April01 Joey Logano 1 Main Image.jpg

Logano rebounds at Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. — Joey Logano’s 550th NASCAR Cup Series start nearly had the makings of his 33rd Cup Series victory, a would-be triumph that would have broken a yearlong dry spell. Instead, his Sunday night showing at Richmond Raceway yielded a building-block outcome that produced positives after a shaky launch to the season.

Logano finished second in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400, gaining one spot in an overtime scramble but winding up just 0.269 seconds short of eventual winner Denny Hamlin at the checkered flag. The result marked his first top-five finish of the season, providing a boost to the No. 22 Team Penske group. Even then, Logano admitted there was a bittersweet nature to the evening.

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“It feels good, and it hurts at the same time because we were so close to winning the race,” Logano said. “I mean, it’s a race track that we expect to run well at, it’s our best race track and we’ve been consistently in the top five and having shots to win.”

Top-five territory is where Logano spent much of the evening after working his way up from a 10th-place starting spot, evidenced by an average running position of 4.6, per NASCAR’s loop data. Stage finishes of fifth and third added to his points total, and by the time the final-stage pit strategies shook out, Logano had moved into second place and in a dogged pursuit of Martin Truex Jr.’s dominant No. 19 Toyota, which led the most laps (228).

Before Kyle Larson’s spin after contact from Bubba Wallace with two laps remaining in regulation forced overtime, Logano was methodically searching for ways to cut into Truex’s lead.

“I started pressuring the 19 at the end of that long run, and he got to racing hard with Ross (Chastain) trying to stay on the lead lap,” Logano said. “I said, ‘This is my opportunity.’ I got Denny to burn his stuff up trying to pass me, and I said, ‘OK, this is my chance,’ and I got close to him and burned my stuff up with about three (laps) to go, and I wasn’t going to get him.”

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Sunday’s result was Logano’s fourth consecutive top-10 finish at Richmond, and crew chief Paul Wolfe remarked that the performance was close to the best showing here for the No. 22 team since the advent of the Next Gen car in 2022. Wolfe said that the team made gains with learnings from Logano’s participation in a Goodyear tire test March 13-14 at North Wilkesboro Speedway, but that more gains were made in keeping up morale after a rough opening stretch to the season.

“I think it’s good for the team, for Joey,” Wolfe told NASCAR.com. “I mean, it’s not easy when you look at where we’re at in the garage and 22nd in points and you’re just in a place where you haven’t been before. You’ve got to be careful. It’s easy to get down and lose focus. So these next couple of weeks, I felt like it’d be good opportunities for us. Going to Martinsville next week is another good one. So yeah, it was a great day, came up a little short, but we’re going to keep working.”

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Logano has gained 11 spots in the Cup Series standings in the last three weeks with finishes of 22nd at Bristol and 11th at Circuit of The Americas swaying the pendulum back in a positive direction. In Saturday’s interview sessions, Logano said that there were no quick fixes to the team’s early struggles, but another three-spot jump up to 19th in the points Sunday night offers at least incremental help.

“I don‘t know if this completely takes us out of the deep end,” Logano said, “but I think ultimately it‘s a good momentum-builder, for sure.”