Photo Credit: Crystal Clay
By Adam Carabine
Even before winning Sunday’s Cup Series Round of 8 Playoff race in Las Vegas, Joey Logano was a big favourite. The 32-year old Connecticut-born driver has always excelled at the track in the desert, and this weekend was no exception.
Coming into this weekend’s playoff race, Logano’s average finish at Las Vegas was 8.89 – best of all current full-time Cup drivers. It’s also the only track where his average finish is below 10 (minimum 5 starts).
“It’s just one of those tracks that, I don’t know why, it just suits my style a little bit,” said Logano before practice and qualifying.
And suit his style, it did. The #22 Shell Pennzoil Mustang ran near the front all day long, but a late race strategy call to give up a little track position for slightly fresher tires sent him to the lead when it counted.
Crew Chief Paul Wolfe, on the decision to take 4 fresh tires with 26 laps to go: “I felt like tires meant something today, and everyone had 8 or 9 laps on our tires. Honestly, I was just surprised that more guys in front of us didn’t peel off to come down for tires as well. That was a better scenario for us when everyone in front of us stayed out, and I think there were only three cars that were running behind us that stayed out. So really, we gave up three spots for four new tires, I thought that was a pretty good trade-off.”
Then leader Ross Chastain tried his best to hold Logano off, but it was not to be. After the race, he told media, “Losing today hurts really really good. Competing for wins, in the Cup Series, in the playoffs, relevant, leading laps, both [teammate Daniel Suarez] and I, that’s all I’ve ever wanted. I don’t want the trophy, I just want a chance for it. But now that we’re here, of course, we’re human, and it hurts to lose. But we’re going to go to Homestead and have some fun.”
With both Logano and Chastain having reputations for a “win-at-all-costs” mentality, the late-race pass for the win was respectful and clean. Logano said, “[Chastain] and I, we have a great relationship. I’ve talked to him a lot, and we have a mutual understanding of how each other races, and honestly we work together pretty well on the race track.”
“I thought, boy, he’s going to be willing to do a lot to get in [to the Championship Four], and my thoughts were, I need to make sure I am 100% positive that when I break the plane of his bumper, I am going to pass him. And don’t give him a chance to door-bang me down the straightaways or do anything. People are willing to do a lot of things when they’re desperate.”
With this win (his 3rd at Las Vegas), Joey Logano can now look forward a few weeks to Phoenix, rather than worrying about whether he’ll be in contention when they get there.
Logano may not know exactly why he performs so well at Las Vegas, but he recognizes his strength at the track, and is happy it sits where it does on the schedule, with maybe one little suggestion…
“It’s a very important race in the Round of 8, heck yeah! It’s great! We should bring the Championship here! [laughs]”