Joey Logano has won the most races out of NASCAR’s Championship 4 this season with five, but compared to the three drivers he’ll be racing against for the Sprint Cup this Sunday at Homestead, he’s still somewhat lacking on experience.
Thanks to his early start, it feels like the 24-year-old Logano has been around longer than he really has been. But this is only Logano’s second Chase, and his first with a true shot at a title.
However, his crew chief, Todd Gordon believes that with everyone getting used to the new Chase format, such a potential drawback is neutralized. Furthermore, he thinks Logano has already proven this post-season that he’s capable of going wheel-to-wheel with veterans Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, and Ryan Newman.
“I think if you look at the performance that Joey is able to give on every restart that we see, if you look at what he’s able to do on the last run of every race, and the ability to maximize points and positions, I think we’ve had some races — if you look at our average finish through the Chase, it’s been exceptionally good,” Gordon said during a NASCAR teleconference this afternoon.
“A lot of that is given to Joey and what he does on late restarts. I think we’ve recovered from — he’s recovered great finishes out of average race cars a couple times here throughout the Chase.”
Over the last two races, Logano has overcome various degrees of adversity to keep his championship going.
Two weeks ago at Texas, Logano was running up front when lugnut problems on a late-race stop and a subsequent tire failure on-track knocked him as far as 26th place. But a rash of late cautions gave him chances to get back much of the lost ground and finish 12th.
Then, in last weekend’s Eliminator Round finale at Phoenix International Raceway, Logano was hit with a penalty for removing his gas can from the pits and fell a lap down – only to rally out of the hole and finish sixth, which was enough to earn him a spot in the Championship Race by nine points.
After those instances, Gordon’s faith in Logano is resolute.
“Yes, he’s young and he’s never been through this race, but I don’t think anybody has been through this race,” he pointed out. “There’s always a difference. Kevin was in the championship run last year, but he was 30 to 40 points behind. [Logano] was in an ‘All I’ve got to do is win.’ It’s a different thing because there’s four cars that are tied, all equal in points.
“It’s a different format and it’s one race to get it done. I think Joey has the mental maturity and his ability to focus in when he needs to be very successful in this format.”
That same faith also applies to the whole of the No. 22 Team Penske squad, whom Gordon also feels has performed admirably during less-than-ideal circumstances.
“I’m proud of the way that the guys, everybody here has responded to the adversity the last two weeks and identified what we can do differently to resolve those situations and move forward,” he said.
“And also trying to look at other things, what else can happen, the what-if factor. Guys have done an awesome job here, and Team Penske has done a fabulous job preparing us for that with all the support here at the shop.”