Pit road setbacks are coup de grace for Joey Logano’s title hopes

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Like the rest of the Championship 4, Joey Logano was fast in tonight’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title tilt at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

But toward the conclusion of the Ford Ecoboost 400, everything went wrong for the youngest member of the quartet that put it all on the line for stock car racing’s biggest prize.

A brush with the wall on Lap 182 ultimately caused Logano to lose second to eventual race and title winner Kevin Harvick.

Damage sustained in that incident led to his No. 22 Team Penske crew taking extra time to repair the damage under a caution at Lap 195. That had Logano slip from fifth to 10th.

Logano battled back to get up to fifth with 50 laps to go in the 267-lap race. But a dropped lug nut on a stop with 45 laps left knocked him down to 12th.

He once again rallied to sixth place before a debris yellow came out with 20 to go. During that yellow, Logano suffered what proved to be a lethal blow: His car fell off the jack while his crew was changing his left side tires.

A second jack was needed to complete the stop, and Logano tumbled to 22nd as a result. He would finish 16th, worst among the Championship 4.

“When you’re pushing hard to try to make 11-second pit stops or better, mistakes happen,” Logano said. “We can’t have that happen, obviously. We can’t afford to have a mistake like that. But without re-watching the tape, I’m not going to say it was pressure or whatever it was. We’re all trying really hard, we’re all trying to go as fast as we can.

“It’s like everyone running the wall out there going as fast as you can. Sometimes, you make a mistake, and we knew coming into this race, you can’t afford to make one mistake and put yourself behind. We just made a couple tonight which put us back. Obviously, our pit crew has done a good job this year. I’m not putting them down over one thing. It just was bad timing on one of them.”

And so, an otherwise stellar season for Logano – five victories, 16 Top-5s, and 22 Top-10s – ends on a sour note and with a fourth-place showing in the championship standings.

Nonetheless, Logano figures that he has a lot to be proud of.

“It’s been a spectacular year,” he said. “I’m a biased opinion right now, and kind of like [teammate] Brad [Keselowski] said, I’m probably too close to the fire to comment much about how it went. But as the car that scored more points than anyone in the Chase – it’s hard to say you’re in love with it, but I do think it was a good thing for the sport.

“I think the race was very exciting today, and just unfortunate, like I said, we didn’t execute today. It was a great experience. We had fun with it, learned a lot for next time in my career that we get to compete for a championship again and how I can maybe do a few things differently and then learn from my mistakes.”

Meanwhile, Logano will now turn his attention to even more important matters than what he’s been dealing with over the last couple of months. He’ll be getting married on December 13th.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.