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Joey Logano headed for the exits of Daytona International Speedway on Sunday night a frustrated man after missing out on his second career Daytona 500 victory by just one spot — the equivalent of a foot or so on the 2.5-mile race track.

Running side-by-side for the lead with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. when NASCAR froze the field — effectively ending the race — for a crash in the second and final overtime, Logano saw his hopes of leaving The World Center of Racing with a big trophy end abruptly.

And he was none too pleased about it.

“Second is the worst, man,” Logano, being his usual candid self, said during post-race interviews. “You’re so close. Leading the white flag lap there, I was up front. … You think you’re racing to the checkered flag, and you put yourself in the best position to try to win at the start-finish line, and just the caution came out — and you wish you could race to the end.

“Obviously, you can’t when they wreck that much. Congratulations to Ricky. There’s nothing like winning the Daytona 500. That’s why it stings so much finishing second.”

Sting though it did for the Team Penske driver who went to Victory Lane at the 2015 Daytona 500, Logano actually has a lot to be happy about entering Sunday’s second race of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season and final race ever at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway layout that’s set to undergo a future reconfiguration to a short track.

Joey Logano laments Daytona 500 miss, but Speedweeks wasn’t a total loss

Despite falling short of his second Daytona 500 triumph in the opening race of 2023, Joey Logano arrives at Auto Club Speedway this weekend in a super-enviable — and familiar — position.

The reigning and two-time Cup Series champion is atop the standings with a series-high 52 points — 42 of them earned in the Daytona 500 and the other 10 earned by virtue of his win in last Thursday night’s Daytona 500 qualifying race in which he spent 25 of 60 laps atop the leaderboard.

Logano is winless in 15 starts at Auto Club Speedway but boasts a stout record at the Southern California track: eight top-10 finishes that include seven top-fives. The 32-year-old Connecticut native came home fifth at Fontana one year ago in a race that marked the formal non-superspeedway debut of the Next Generation Cup Series car.

Whether Logano goes to Victory Lane this weekend or not, you can rest assured he’s turned the page on 2022 and his biggest achievement: becoming only the second active full-time Cup Series driver with two championships.

“I mean, it’s nice —  don’t get me wrong,” Logano said during Daytona 500 Media Day prior to the season opener. “It’s a cool accomplishment to have, but I also feel like it was last year, and it’s over. The championship stuff is over to me. In my mind, it’s over. It’s nice to run out the season as, you can say, a reigning champion or previous champion, whatever it is, but it’s over in my mind.

“We had our moment to enjoy it, to celebrate, and now it’s back to work. We’ve got to do it again. The goal is the same again this year. We can’t do the same things. We’ve got to find more. We’ve got to adjust again, so nothing changes.”

Joey Logano’s heartbreaking defeat at the Daytona 500 isn’t the only reason he’s raring to go

To circumvent any possibility of Joey Logano lacking a little bit of fire in his belly for 2023 on the heels of winning his second NASCAR Cup Series championship in five seasons, Ford Motor Company CEO Jim Farley made sure during the offseason to give Logano — one of Ford’s flagship drivers — some extra motivation.

“We go up in his office, and it’s me and Paul,” Logano, speaking during Daytona 500 Media Day, said in reference to himself and his crew chief, Paul Wolfe. “He sits down, and the first thing wasn’t, ‘Congratulations, you won the championship. This is great for Ford.’ He goes, ‘Well, it’s good you guys won. You probably are not going to win next year because you’re probably a little bit more comfortable, and you guys already did it. You’re probably not as hungry.”

Logano didn’t take too kindly to Farley’s words — and that’s putting it mildly. Later, though, he realized what the Ford CEO was really trying to do.

And it worked.

“I was like, ‘What?’” Logano said of Farley’s comment. “I was instantly pissed off, like, ‘What did this guy just say to me?’ After letting it set in for like a month, I realized what he was doing. He’s really smart, and now I’ve got a chip on my shoulder because now it’s to prove a point.

“He found another way to fire me up, so I’m appreciative of it. At the moment, I was kind of mad at him, but it kind of made sense at the end.”


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