Crew chief Todd Gordon: Joey Logano’s lack of experience won’t hurt him at Homestead

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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.”

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.