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.

Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.