Joey Logano fastest in Sprint Cup Happy Hour, Jimmie Johnson woes continue as he hits wall

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CONCORD, N.C. – When you’re hot, you’re hot – and when you’re not, you’re not.

NASCAR’s hottest driver, Joey Logano, has won two of the last three races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

And by being the fastest in Friday’s Happy Hour practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Logano took a big step towards potentially making it three out of four in Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 on the 1.5-mile fast track.

Logano topped the 43-driver field with a best speed of 190.597 mph.

“It’s not fast enough, for sure,” Logano said. “It was fast for one lap. … I don’t think we’re that bad, we’re just trying to get the balance a little better.”

And then there was the opposite end of the spectrum: six-time and defending Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson. After running 63 laps, Johnson reportedly planned to take two more laps when he pushed his Chevrolet a bit too much, hitting the outside retaining wall.

It’s not much consolation but Johnson, who is last in the standings and in dire need of a strong finish in Saturday’s race, was eighth fastest (189.354 mph).

Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus and team owner Rick Hendrick surveyed the damage to see if it was repairable or whether they’d have to go to a back-up car.

But in a post-practice interview with ESPN, Johnson said it appears the damage is minimal and, more importantly, fixable.

“The car’s really fast,” Johnson said. “We were feeling really good about things. The good news is that it’s just a big scratch. Just a little drama.”

If the car would not been able to be repaired, Johnson would have to start at the back of the field in Saturday’s race – and with a car that has not had any on-track time this weekend.

Kurt Busch, who was eliminated from the Chase after falling short of advancing past the first round of eliminations, was second fastest at 190.463 mph, followed by Kevin Harvick (190.087) and Jeff Gordon (190.007), the only other drivers to exceed 190 mph.

Brad Keselowski, who slipped to 10th in the 12-driver Chase standings after this past Sunday’s race at Kansas, was fifth fastest (189.893 mph), followed by Denny Hamlin (189.687) and another driver who was eliminated after the first round of the Chase, A.J. Allmendinger (189.553), followed by Johnson.

Roush Fenway Racing drivers Carl Edwards (189.308) and Greg Biffle (189.188) brought up the rear of the top 10.

From 11th through 20th were Aric Almirola (189.095), Paul Menard (189.076), Austin Dillon (189.062), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (188.043), pole-sitter Kyle Busch (189.023), Matt Kenseth (188.976), Tony Stewart (188.587), Martin Truex Jr. (188.521), Kasey Kahne (188.449) and the slowest Chase driver in the pack, Ryan Newman, 20th fastest at 188.350 mph.

Clint Bowyer was 21st fastest (188.245), followed by Jamie McMurray (188.075), Justin Allgaier (187.702), Brian Vickers (187.474), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (187.227), Michael McDowell (187.968), Danica Patrick (186.961), Marcos Ambrose (186.948), Landon Cassill (186.896) and Kyle Larson (186.864).

Then came the back of the pack from 31st through 43rd: Cole Whitt (186.361), Reed Sorenson (186.290), Alex Bowman (186.765), Casey Mears (185.491), David Gilliland (185.459), Michael Annett (185.058), Josh Wise (185.052), Corey LaJoie (184.887), David Ragan (184.250), Brett Moffitt (182.574), Timmy Hill (182.550), JJ Yeley (181.849) and Blake Koch (181.439).

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Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?