Puzzled Logano falls out of Cup Series title contention

Image by LAT

Puzzled Logano falls out of Cup Series title contention

NASCAR

Puzzled Logano falls out of Cup Series title contention

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Joey Logano couldn’t wrap his head around what went wrong with his Ford Mustang in the second half of Sunday’s race at ISM Raceway.

Logano told the NBC Sports broadcast he had “no clue” what changed and followed that up in additional interviews by saying, “I don’t know” and “I have no idea.” Having started on the front row, Logano led 93 laps (second-most of any driver) in the Bluegreen Vacations 500 and finished ninth. However, he had to take the wave around on the final caution and didn’t finish ahead of Kyle Busch while Denny Hamlin won the race and bumped him out of the final four.

“It went from a really good car to a car that couldn’t stay on the lead lap with changing tires and a half-pound of air,” said Logano. “A lot of things don’t line up there. That doesn’t make any sense. The car shouldn’t do that, but it did, and once we put tires back on it we got to where we could run competitive at least again, but we were so far back, and I was running so hard trying to get back to the 11 (Hamlin) that we ended up using it up again. But we just needed a caution at the right time and we didn’t get it to try to get back up there.”

The first half of the day went really well, Logano admitted. He challenged inside the top five for much of it before beginning to find trouble with the handling just past the 200-lap mark. Among the first complaints was that the car wouldn’t turn, and slowly Logano started to fall backward.

Hamlin put Logano a lap down on lap 239 while Logano was running 11th. When Hamlin lapped his teammate Erik Jones with 18 laps to go in the race, it put Logano in further peril.

It took only a few laps for Logano to realize he was in real trouble as the car kept getting tighter and he started abusing the right front tire. As he fell farther back, he couldn’t pass the lapped cars he needed to.

Logano: “We had a fast car in the beginning …” Image by Jarrett/LAT

“We had a fast car,” said Logano of the first part of the day. “We scored a ton of stage points (17) and to the point that we could tie the 18 (Kyle Busch). All I had to do was finish in front of him, which was the goal; (but) it went bad from there. I don’t get it, but it just wasn’t our year, I guess. I don’t know what to say. You’re up there wishing that somebody gets up there and passes him (Hamlin), but the 18 wasn’t gonna pass him. He could have, but wasn’t going to, obviously, to have all their cars in; so it is what it is. We’ll move forward.”

On two fresh tires, Hamlin won the race, putting three Gibbs cars into the Championship 4. Busch took on four tires on the final restart and finished second.

Logano said “it stinks” that he won’t get to defend his title. He and the No. 22 team can fight to be the best driver outside of title contention, though, by finishing fifth in the overall standings.

“We scratched and clawed and made a race out of it with a lot of adversity throughout these playoffs,” he said. “We’ve had a pretty ugly run. We’ve had some good cars, but something has happened every single race, so it is what it is. It stinks.

“I don’t have the answer to what happened. I wish I did — I really want to know. But no one has it right now.”

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