Joey Logano may have been a lap down, but he took advantage of one final opportunity in order to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup on Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.
A controversial spin from Clint Bowyer with seven laps to go in tonight’s Federated Auto Parts 400 brought out the yellow and bunched up the field. Logano rolled off 25th for the final restart with three laps left, but was able to gain three spots to finish 22nd, which proved enough to give him the final Top-10 berth in the Chase by just one point over the winless Jeff Gordon.
That final yellow also aided Logano in another way. Ryan Newman looked set to win in the closing laps, and if he had, he would’ve taken the second Wild Card spot and knocked Logano out of the post-season. But on Newman’s last stop, he dropped from the lead all the way to fifth place.
He couldn’t make up all of the lost ground and finished third – enabling Logano to make it into the Chase with the one position he grabbed in the last sprint to the checkered flag.
“Thank God for the last caution, I guess, because I think we were out before that,” a relieved Logano said after the race.
Logano had problems from the start on Saturday. He faded horribly in his opening stint, falling all the way to 25th before making his first pit stop at Lap 90.
The young New Englander was stuck in mid-pack for the rest of the night, and when Newman made his charge late to the front of the field, Logano was basically powerless to do anything in regards to his Chase hopes.
But then came Bowyer’s spin and one last shot to race for a championship. Logano made the most of it.
“It feels really good after having such a rough night,” he said. “Man, the car was just struggling all night, and I kept asking [crew chief] Todd [Gordon] where we were, if we were good, if we were bad, and he didn’t really answer me. So I don’t think that’s good.”
Logano had been one of the best drivers on the circuit going into Richmond, with a win, three Top-5s and six Top-10s in the six races leading up to Saturday.
With that in mind, he still felt good about his chances going forward in the Chase despite his difficulties in Virginia.
“All our finishes leading up to this race were really, really good,” he said. “I feel like we were the hottest team in NASCAR coming into this race. We’re going to try to take this momentum off of getting into the Chase here and let her rip and have some fun.”