With his back against the wall, Joey Logano finished second in a must-win scenario on Saturday night in the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway.
Nothing short of a victory would have permitted him into the NASCAR playoffs but not even a late caution and restart were enough to let him take advantage. Instead, the driver that made it all the way to the Championship Race two of the past four years will spend the rest of the season racing for 17th.
“Came up a little bit short overall,” Logano said after the race. “Yeah, it stings a little bit. Last time we were sitting here after a race, it was after a win, and this time it’s after a second, which overall if you look at our Richmond overall for a season with the two races, you’d say, that’s pretty good, a first and a second.
“But just overall, obviously it stings to come up one spot short and not be able to get into the playoffs. It is what it is. It’s reality, and we will move on.”
Logano won at Richmond back in April but his win was deemed encumbered when NASCAR found an unapproved part in the rear suspension of his Team Penske Ford. That meant that his win did not count toward a playoff berth. He spent the rest of the regular season in a perpetual slump and just couldn’t snap out of it.
Logano qualified 12th for Saturday’s race and spend most of it just outside the top five. He went from 10th to second during the green-white-checkered that ended the race, but simply ran out of time.
“This is the test of our character, not only as a driver but as a team and the way we handle these next 10 races,” Logano said. “We don’t want to roll over. We want to help our teammates try to win a championship, and ultimately we want to win 10 races. That’s what the goal is at this point. It may be the end of our championship run this year, but it’s not the end of our season. There’s still a lot of races and a lot of stats we can rack up to make up for what still hurts right now.
“Like I said, we were close. I said before the race, second is a failure, and we finished second. Go figure. But overall, I’m proud of our race team, proud of the way we handled the pressure this week. I said before the race started that this is kind of like Homestead last year for us. It’s just come a little bit early, so we knew how to handle these situations, and we executed as good as we knew how to, just wasn’t fast enough to make it happen when we needed to.”
But again, the most remarkable aspect of Logano’s season was that it occurred one year after he came agonizingly close to winning the 2016 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship. That effort ended when he and Carl Edwards tangled on a late restart inside the final 10 laps of the race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
He was expected to contend and maybe even close out this time.
“We came up one spot short last year, and this year we came up one spot short just being in it,” Logano said. “Yeah, it’s a humbling sport. It’s just how it is sometimes. We put ourselves in this position, and we’ll live with it, and we’ll fight hard to come back.”
Logano will begin the playoffs 19th in the standings. He can do no better than 17th. He hasn’t finished worse than eighth in the standings since joining Team Penske in 2013.
He finished 17th in his final season with Joe Gibbs Racing.
“We want to win, right? Like I said, the goal for the last nine years has been to win the championship, and we keep getting close,” Logano said. “This year we didn’t, but in the past three, four years we’ve been in the hunt to make it happen. You know, to me is the pressure on to win one? I’m only 27, man. I’ve got a long ways to go in this deal, and I like the position that I’m in. I like the race team I’m with.
“I think if you let your job define who you are, it would hurt a lot more. But I’m able to know that life is a lot bigger than just driving a race car, and I’m able to handle these situations a lot stronger as a man than just being a racer and that’s it.”
Where your donation goes: Technology: Servers, bandwidth, maintenance, development.