Joey Logano sure didn’t think he was going to finish second in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte the way the night had started. Or, more accurately, the way it started and progressed through not one, not two, but through the first three stages.
So when Logano crossed the finish line second to Martin Truex Jr., he radioed his team as much and then credited their never-quit attitude in his post-race interviews.
The No. 22 Team Penske Ford had been “junk,” he said, and needed massive adjustments from crew chief Todd Gordon and the group throughout the 600-mile race.
“I can’t say the track came to us much; we did quite a few rounds on wedge bolts, track bar, air pressure,” said Logano, who didn’t lead a lap on Sunday night. “We fought as hard as possible, and that’s the advantage of having a 600-mile race: You have the opportunity to work on it, and we had a lot of cautions to try to fix it up.
“But, man, if you told me early in the race we’d finish second, I’d say that’s a dream. But when you finish second and see you’re that close to the lead … it hurts a little bit.
“Proud of the effort. Proud of the never-quit [approach], but dang it — [Truex] was right there, and I was right on his bumper. I knew the only way I was going to pass him was on the outside; I don’t think I was going to be able to clear him if I went down to the bottom, and I was pretty sure I was going to lose a spot. It’s the Coke 600 though — it’s such a big one and you want to win it so bad. Second stings. I thought we had a good shot when that caution came back out, gave me another chance; just didn’t quite get it.”
Logano and Truex burst through the traffic when the race restarted with five laps to go, Truex from third and Logano from sixth after being the first two drivers down pit road under the caution. By then, Logano had already hounded Truex for the race lead for several laps, but was watching the No. 19 Toyota drive away before the field was bunched back together when the caution flew on Lap 392.
David Ragan restarted as the race leader having stayed on track while Ryan Newman was second having taken just two tires. Logano and Truex had four fresh tires and made quick work of the competition, but Logano never mounted another challenge for the lead.
“[Re-starting] sixth, I wished I was closer to the front, but being on the outside row I thought I had a good shot,” Logano said. “When they were four-wide in front of me I went to push the 38 (Ragan) ahead and got there, but I just didn’t quite get clear of Truex to come all the way down the racetrack.
“The 38 ran really high and I thought he was gonna run in the middle, and I kind of misjudged it. That’s what just killed a little bit of momentum to where Martin had just enough momentum to clear me off that corner. At that point, I shoved him ahead to try to make the pass to the outside, but he defended well.”