Confident Logano hopes to keep rolling right into post-season

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One more good result. That’s all that separates Joey Logano from his first-ever berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup after what has been a superb run in the last six races.

Logano’s post-season hopes seemed pretty much done for after back-to-back 40th place finishes at Daytona and New Hampshire in July. But since then, it’s as if “Sliced Bread” and his No. 22 Penske Racing team have flipped a switch.

Now, a stretch of three straight Top-5 finishes (including a win at Michigan) and six straight Top-10s in the last six events have him on the verge of completing an impressive rally. Logano can lock up a Top-10 spot in the Chase with a finish of 11th or better tonight.

“I will say I kind of thought we were close to being out of it after [New Hampshire],” Logano said Thursday at Richmond International Raceway, site of tonight’s Federated Auto Parts 400 – the last race that will determine the 12-driver Chase field this fall.

“We were 10th [in the standings] going into Daytona. Then after two races you’re 18th, way out of it, 50-something points back.  Think we’re in really big trouble here.

“Then we started racking up Top-10, Top-10, then you get a win – ‘we’re back in it, we got a shot.’ You knock off two more Top-5 finishes, you’re sitting eighth all of a sudden.  Good thing we didn’t give up and quit on this thing.”

Considering what Logano and his team have done to get to this point, it’s easy to see why he’s brimming with confidence going into tonight’s Chase decider.

“The momentum that this team has got right now, it’s hard not to have confidence right now,” said Logano. “I feel like if we just do our deal, be smart – obviously, we’ll be aware of what’s going on out there, what the bubble cars are doing. At the same time, we’ve got to run our race and get the best finish out of it we can.”

He’s also hopeful that his Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski can somehow overcome the odds and make his way into the Chase with a win tonight and some help.

Keselowski is 15th in the standings (28 points out of the Top 10) after suffering an engine failure last weekend at Atlanta, and his own hopes of defending his 2012 Sprint Cup title are fading fast. But Logano expects his Penske partner to come out firing.

“I’d be willing to put money on him that after last week, he’s twice as motivated to come into Richmond right now and win this thing and get in the Chase and prove everybody wrong – probably more than most people out there,” said Logano. “That’s how tough he is.”

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/