Joey Logano said after winning at Martinsville last month that missing the playoffs last year was 10 weeks of hell. He had previously described his 2017 season as a horror film, one that took him by surprise when he wasn’t a part of the postseason.
While the No. 22 Team Penske group had gone to victory lane at Richmond Raceway, the win was effectively stripped when it came to the playoffs. The car failed inspection at the NASCAR R&D Center, and Logano never won again, struggling through the second half of the season and by the time the year ended it was one of the worst of his career.
This year, there have been no such hiccups, and Logano is back in the Championship 4.
“I think it’s a humbling experience,” team crew chief Todd Gordon (pictured above, with Logano) said Wednesday when asked if 2017’s tribulations provided extra motivation for this year. “We had been very competitive. If you looked at it, I felt like we were capable of making the final four all ’14, ’15 and ’16. To not even make the playoffs in ’17 was pretty humbling, and I think it was something that allowed us to step back and say, ‘What do we need to do differently?’
“We’ve done things that have gotten us through the last three years, but how many of those things have changed with how this sport has evolved, and the aero package has changed.”
Logano has won twice this year, including in the playoffs when he dominated at Martinsville to clinch his championship spot. He has been one of the best drivers in the playoffs, scoring the most points with 343 as of last Sunday’s race at Phoenix. Kevin Harvick is second at 341.
Through nine races, Logano has led 515 laps. For the year, he has 854 laps led with a 10.9 average finish. Going into the summer, Logano was top three in the point standings and was quietly putting together numbers on par with the “Big 3″ of Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., who he now stacks up against in the title race.
The 28-year-old Logano and Gordon have never won a Cup Series title.
“I think that the frustration of the finish of ’17 motivated everybody here to figure out how we can have more speed in ’18 and execute better,” Gordon reiterated. “I think we did that as a group. We lacked some speed in our cars through the summer, but we’ve definitely continued to work forward on how we could stay, and I feel like we’re competitive.”