Joey Logano is flying under the radar no more.
With a victory Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, the No. 22 Team Penske group should be mentioned in any conversation about this year’s legitimate contenders. As Logano shouted over the radio after taking the checkered flag in the GEICO 500 for his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory in almost exactly a year: “We’re back!”
Back in Victory Lane? Yes. Back in the playoffs? His spot is nearly secure. But even before Sunday’s race, Logano already had been quietly making waves, sitting second in points with the second-best average finish only to Kyle Busch.
“We haven’t had a win,” team owner Roger Penske replied when asked if the team had been overlooked. “We’re never satisfied at Team Penske without getting in the winner’s circle. I would say the monkey was on our back. Getting through that today, it’s not just a win for Joey and Todd [Gordon, crew chief], it’s a win for the whole team, which is certainly key.
“Going under the radar screen, I don’t know how you go under the radar screen in this sport. Certainly, Stewart-Haas deserved every bit of the credit they’ve had up to this point. At Daytona, we were strong in the 125’s, the Clash, things like that. We were out there. It was a matter of executing. I think today we put ourselves in position and guess what, we won.”
While Logano was clicking off top-10 finishes and racking up stage points, drivers like Busch and Kevin Harvick were earning the headlines with race wins. The conversation in recent weeks has also been whether the 18 of Kyle Busch or the 4 of Kevin Harvick is this year’s Martin Truex Jr., aka the driver to beat.
With a victory of his own, Logano remains second in points to Busch and still has the second-best average finish this year (6.7 to Busch’s 5.7). He has also already led over 200 laps. In Richmond, Logano finished fourth in the race after winning stages one and two.
“I feel great about the consistency, especially the last two weeks,” Logano said. “Last two weeks we’ve picked it up, Richmond and then here. Obviously, two unique racetracks, a lot of different things going on.”
Talladega also extended Logano’s streak to six consecutive top-nine finishes. He has nine top-nine finishes in 10 races with the outlier being a miserable day in Phoenix that resulted in a 19th-place result.
Oh, Logano also has the third-most stage points through the first 10 races with 101.
“Just staying consistent, staying a team, staying confident in each other, knowing that Todd is the guy for the job, I’m the guy for the job, our engineers are in the right places, our road crew and our pit crew are all in the right places,” Logano continued. “Knowing that and being able to focus on what’s ahead and work together is a very big piece. When you start pointing fingers at each other, that’s when teams start to implode from the inside out.
“As a race team, we’ve been able to stick together through the tough times. Hopefully, all that’s over, and we don’t have to wait another year and a race to get back here. Not that I was counting.”