Logano: “We’re still not to where we want to be”

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Penske Racing’s Joey Logano rattled off six consecutive Top-10s (which included a win) and then survived at Richmond to make this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. But the post-season has not been kind to him.

An engine failure in the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway effectively buried his chances of contending for a title, and as the post-season moves to Martinsville Speedway this weekend, he finds himself 12th out of the 13 Chasers.

The only consolation is that he’s likely not to finish last among them, as he has a 27-point gap between himself and 13th-place Kasey Kahne with four races left in the season.

Logano still sees 2013 as a decent year, but in a teleconference this afternoon, he also admitted that “we’re still not to where we want to be” – we’re being himself and his No. 22 Penske Racing squad.

“We’re 12th in points and we’re not happy about that,” Logano said. “We want to show the reasons why we’re in the Chase and I feel like we’ve definitely had some fast race cars – that’s why we’re here.

“But at the same time we haven’t shown the finishes that we deserve since we got in the Chase. We’ve had a few top-five finishes since we got in it, but that’s not enough to move ourselves to where we need to be.”

Logano is hopeful that Martinsville will yield a more positive result. He was one of multiple drivers that tested there earlier this month and the opportunity allowed him to learn, in his words, “some things to do and some things not to do, which are equally valuable.”

In fact, the whole Chase – Logano’s first – has been a chance to learn, even as he and his team do all they can to finish the year strong.

“For one, I know it’s really hard to make up points when you have a bad race because these guys running for the championship that are first, second, third and fourth right now, they don’t have any bad races,” he explained.

“It’s hard to recover, so those little mistakes and where we need to fine-tune is where we need to be better to be that championship-winning team, but we’re not far from it right now.”

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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