Chase Capsules: Joey Logano

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22 – Joey Logano
Team: Team Penske
Crew Chief: Todd Gordon
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Best Finish: 8th (2013)
Chase History: 2nd Chase Appearance, Best finish of 8th in 2013

Regular Season Recap: As part of Team Penske’s overall resurgence in 2014, Joey Logano has enjoyed his best season yet in the Sprint Cup. Logano has as many wins so far this season – three – as he’d had within the first five full-time seasons of his career. They’ve come on diverse circuits as well, tasting wins at Texas (1.5 miles), Richmond (0.75) and Bristol (0.533). His qualifying has also been excellent as well; he has one pole and only six starts outside the top-10 in the year’s first 25 races. Consistently sixth through ninth in points, Logano’s recent run of form has now brought him to fourth, a season-high.

Chris’ Take: It took some time, but Logano has proven that the hype on him was correct. Winning on very different tracks this season is definitely a good sign, and with Team Penske’s overall speed, he has the potential to at least get through the Challenger and Contender rounds.

And like I am with his teammate Brad Keselowski, I’m impressed with the amount of confidence he now possesses. Of course, the matter of driving for a top-flight operation like Penske and having “Kes” the former Sprint Cup champion as a teammate helps, but it seems that as Logano’s grown up in this series, he’s gotten wiser as well.

Jerry’s Take: For the first time in his career, Joey Logano is definitely become a bonafide championship contender. Of all the drivers in the Chase, next to Dale Earnhardt Jr., Logano has arguably had the most improvement of the 16 Chase contestants.

We think Logano has a good chance to win at either his home track in New Hampshire or the following week at Dover, which would advance him to the second round. Unfortunately, we see him eliminated before Homestead, most likely after the second round. One consolation for Logano fans: he’s only 24. If he doesn’t win the Sprint Cup championship this season, there’s lots more seasons to come for him.

Tony’s Take: Logano overachieved in 2013 in his first season with Team Penske, and has improved to the next level in 2014. He has the experience of going through the pressure cooker of a Chase once, which is good to have in play heading into the new format this year.

With no obvious, glaring issues, Logano’s best chance at advancing through the Chase will come if he and the No. 22 team continue their qualifying prowess. He hasn’t done much at the Chase tracks throughout his career, but he’s peaking at the right time. Perhaps not an outright title favorite but in theory, has enough to make it through at least one knockout phase.

Joey Logano’s Career Statistics at Chase Tracks
Chicagoland (1.5 mile) – No wins, no Top-5s, 1 Top-10 in 5 starts
New Hampshire (1 mile) – One win, 2 Top-5s, 4 Top-10s in 12 starts
Dover (1 mile) – No wins, 2 Top-5s, 7 Top-10s in 11 starts
Kansas (1.5 mile) – No wins, 2 Top-5s, 2 Top-10s in 10 starts
Charlotte (1.5 mile) – No wins, 3 Top-5s, 6 Top-10s in 11 starts
Talladega (2.66 mile) – No wins, 2 Top-5s, 4 Top-10s in 11 starts
Martinsville (half-mile) – No wins, 2 Top-5s, 3 Top-10s in 11 starts
Texas (1.5-mile) – One win, 4 Top-5s, 4 Top-10s in 12 starts
Phoenix (1 mile) – No wins, 2 Top-5s, 5 Top-10s in 11 starts
Homestead-Miami (1.5 mile) – No wins, no Top-5s, 1 Top-10s in 5 starts

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.