Joey Logano’s NASCAR Cup Series title defense is over after three races. A multi-car crash on lap 262 of Saturday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway ended his night.
Logano piled in when Corey LaJoie spun on the backstretch, hit the inside wall, and came back across the racetrack. But he had already been struggling with his No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang and was off the lead lap.
“I knew my situation and what I needed to do, but it’s Bristol, and there’s not really many things you do differently depending on your scenario,” Logano said. “There’s nothing I could have done there in that wreck. It’s just a product of being back there, and the way we raced or anything like that didn’t affect that. The only thing that affected that is we were back there, so that’s it.”
Logano entered Bristol only 12 points above the NASCAR Cup Series playoff grid cutline. He missed advancing by four points after finishing 34th, while Bubba Wallace, who earned the final spot in the next round, finished 14th.
In the three-race round, Logano’s average finish was 17th. A late caution at Kansas Speedway allowed the team to make a strategy call to stay on out for track position, which earned Logano a fifth-place finish after running 15th. It was his best finish of the round.
“Inconsistent, not fast enough, not scoring stage points,” Logano said of the season. “When you don’t score stage points that just says you’re not fast enough. We’ve been able to manufacture finishes like we did last week – Paul does a great job of giving me a chance to finish good.
“If this was a few years ago and there wasn’t stage racing, we’d be sitting in a lot better shape because we would figure out a way to close races. But we don’t score the points during the race because we’re just not fast enough.”
Logano did not earn stage points in three of the last five races (including Bristol). His stage point total through Bristol is 135.
A lone victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the spring earned Logano his postseason berth. However, Logano and his team have not been as dominant as shown in previous years, with 260 laps led through 29 races and five DNFs.
It’s been a season of struggle for Ford teams, particularly on high-speed, downforce racetracks. Logano felt optimistic his team was heading in the right direction as the postseason approached, but it wasn’t enough.
“I haven’t really felt like we’ve made any big gains that we need to and unfortunately, it seems like it’s at every track,” Logano said of the uphill battle. “Typically, you may say, ‘Oh, we’re off on a mile-and-a-half, but our short tracks are okay, or your road courses are okay.’ It just seems like we’re off everywhere right now, so we’ll see what happens here … and if we get knocked out, it gives us a few races to swing big and try to figure it out for next year.”