Despite earning an average finish of 10th in the first round of the Playoffs, Joey Logano doesn’t seem concerned.
Maybe that’s because, earlier in the year, his average finish was 8.6 at the next three tracks—Dover, Talladega and Kansas. Maybe it’s because, after finishing third last year at Dover, Logano vaulted from sixth to fourth in the standings, where he currently sits following the Bank of America Roval 400.
Or maybe after gaining the experience of running the table to the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway last year, the defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup champion has a better understanding of what it takes to repeat.
“We had a pretty good car, something that could compete,” Logano said following the race at the Charlotte Roval. “We were in the top five there the first stage and looked like we were going to have a car that could contend, and then I just made a mistake on pit road and hit the wall.
“It’s not speed. I keep saying that. It’s not that we’re far off on speed. We just have to clean up the races, and (Sunday) is on me. We’re OK. We’re going to be fine. I still feel confident that everything is going to be OK. We got through the first round. We got the points reset. I’ll take it.”
Logano picked up 34 points on Sunday after finishing fourth in the first stage and 10th at the checkers. Once the points were reset following the Roval, Logano vaulted from sixth to fourth again—one race earlier than in the Playoffs last year.
His 29 Playoff points—one less than Denny Hamlin and one more than Kevin Harvick—have been padded by nine stage wins this season, second only to Kyle Busch’s 11.
“We worked hard at scoring bonus points during the season to put ourselves in a good position,” Logano’s crew chief, Todd Gordon, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
But as Busch has cooled entering the Playoffs, Logano has maintained.
Gordon remains optimistic with seven races remaining in the Playoffs. While Logano has been fast on the 1.5-mile tracks, his average finish is 9.625. Gordon believes the Team Penske Fords are lacking a bit of speed overall compared with the competition.
“The positives to take out of this round is the speed in our mile-and-a-half program is decent, and we have more to get,” Gordon added. “And the team has done a good job at recovering from adversity. Those are positives.
“The takeaways on the other side is we just have to clean up our execution. That’s something we’ve all talked about—and try not to put ourselves in positions that create that anxiety, like getting stuck in the back where you can get damage.”
Logano has averaged a 10th-place qualifying effort. However, at Las Vegas and Richmond, he started 22nd and 28th, respectively, uncharacteristic for the 29-year-old racer.
“We have some things to work on,” Gordon said. “We still have speed to find. Our guys are working hard on it at the shop. But I think we're in a good spot so far, and I look forward to what we can do in the second round with Dover being a really good race for us in the spring—one that has been a weakness but one we’ve kind of conquered. We’re more on track with what we need to do there.
“I really like this round with Talladega and Kansas—those are two really good tracks for the 22 team.”
Although Logano has never won at the Monster Mile, his average qualifying effort and finish in the last two Dover races is fifth. Five of his 23 career Cup wins were earned at Talladega Superspeedway and Kansas Speedway.
With numbers like that, it’s no wonder that Logano isn’t concerned entering Round 2.