Not the most popular among his peers in 2016, Logano was one of the circuit’s most brash competitors. He didn’t care who got in his way or about the on-track chaos he created.
Logano ended up paying a stiff price for his attitude.
But along the way, he proved he could earn his promotion into the postseason’s next round by beating the field.
NASCAR Cup Series driver Joey Logano facing long odds to qualify for Championship 4
Logano opens the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 31 in eighth place of the Round of 8 elimination event. Twenty-six points below the cutoff line, Logano likely will need to win to overcome No. 4-seeded Kyle Busch, No. 5 Ryan Blaney, No. 6 Martin Truex Jr., and No. 7 Brad Keselowski.
Busch, Blaney, Truex, and Keselowski are within six points of each other. Ryan Larson, who has captured three consecutive postseason races, is the lone driver to qualify for the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 7.
No. 2-ranked Chase Elliott is plus-34 points above the cutoff line, and No. 3 Denny Hamlin is plus-32. If they can avoid early technical problems or accidents, they should advance.
That leaves one more qualifier.
Logano: ‘Man, it just feels good to win at a clutch moment like that’
Entering the Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway five years and one week ago, Logano was tied with Austin Dillon for eighth place.
Logano and crew chief Todd Gordon executed a near-perfect gameplan after serving a penalty for leaving the pits with a jack stuck to his undercarriage after the team’s first stop. He also overcame loose debris on his grill.
Biding his time through the early stages, Logano assumed the lead on Lap 147, taking advantage of Keselowski’s engine issues. He controlled the pace through much of the remainder of the race and clinched the title after beating then-rookie Brian Scott to the finish line following an overtime restart, reported by nascar.com.
“Man, it just feels good to win at a clutch moment like that,” Logano said, celebrating from Victory Lane. “We come in here with the pressure on, and this team excels when that happens. It feels so good to win here because you never know you have it ’til the end.
“We’re going to the next round.”
Kenseth eliminates Logano from the chase race
Because of his bold driving style, the result wasn’t as simple as the previous season.
Logano captured three consecutive races in 2015 but angered some drivers en route to the checkered flags. Taking revenge, Matt Kenseth intentionally wrecked Logano to knock him out of the chase.
“I learned some valuable lessons,” he said. “I learned a whole new level I didn’t know I had, which was really cool.”
To move on to the Championship 4 in 2021, he will have to reach another “whole new level,” perhaps by winning again in the “clutch.”