In his most recent visit to Phoenix International Raceway, Joey Logano converted a front-row start into a fourth-place finish this past March.
If he can do that again Sunday at PIR, he’ll be racing for the Sprint Cup championship next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Logano is tied with Denny Hamlin for the Chase lead with a 13-point cushion over the cutoff to advance. A finish of 11th or better for him on Sunday will make him one of the four drivers battling for the title in South Florida.
But while he knows what he must do, Logano says he has to push that out of his mind during the Eliminator Round finale and keep focused on the task at hand like he and the No. 22 Team Penske crew did last week at Texas.
Late in the running, a slow pit stop and a spin could’ve spelled disaster for Logano’s Chase hopes. But he was able to rally and finish 12th, which was enough to get him to the top of the Chase Grid.
“We didn’t finish where we wanted to going into the day, but after losing that many spots toward the end of the race and being able to come home 12th – all things considered – it was a decent day,” he said. “We’ll have to do the same thing here – go out there and try to win the race and roll with the punches no matter what happens. No pun intended (laughs).”
In Logano’s mind, the strategy remains unchanged: Be aggressive to get up front and stay there. However, with his points lead in mind, he acknowledges that there may be a limit to his aggression late in the race.
“Maybe we won’t go three or four-wide for the win knowing you may wreck,” he said. “That’s probably not worth it, but, at the same time, I think we have to stay on the attack mode throughout the race to keep our track position and make sure we’re up towards the front.
“We proved it last week because as soon as we lost track position we got hit in the door, we had a flat tire, and it just snowballed the wrong way. So you’ve got to be up towards the front to feel safe, so you’ve got to be aggressive to be up there in the first place.”
As for the latest imbroglio involving his Penske teammate, Brad Keselowski (-5 points behind cutoff), Logano said that he would be as good a partner as he can be to the beleaguered Michigander.
He also said it wasn’t his place to judge Keselowski or anyone else that played a role in the post-race scuffle at Texas, which ended with Keselowski and an angry Jeff Gordon in the center of a brawl that also involved their respective crews.
“You don’t really know the situation unless you’re in the situation yourself,” Logano said. “I wasn’t driving the 24 [Gordon] or the 2 car [Keselowski] last week. I don’t really know what happened. We can all watch the film as much as we want and say, ‘Oh, it looks like this happened or it looks like that happened.’
“We’re all gonna have different opinions and most likely, both drivers are not gonna have the same opinion either because we all have big egos here and we’re all right. That’s how we think, but deep down inside they probably know what happened.”
NASCAR has since penalized multiple crew members on the teams of Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne, as well as their respective crew chiefs. All three drivers involved in the Texas fight – Gordon, Keselowski, and Kevin Harvick – escaped punishment of any kind.