Joey Logano didn’t lose the Instacart 500 at Phoenix Raceway because of a lousy last restart or a vibration. Logano admitted afterward that even if he had broken away from Martin Truex Jr. on the final restart, he would probably have been overtaken by Truex at some point during the run to the checkered flag.
Logano, however, was still left puzzled Sunday night.
For the second consecutive Phoenix race, the No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang had a vibration late in the race. Fortunately for Logano, the vibration developed as he was getting ready to make a green-flag pit stop, and unlike last November in the title fight, it did not affect his chances for the win. But the fact that it happened again has Logano questioning its occurrence.
“It’s definitely keeping me up right now,” Logano said. “I wish I knew what it is. A lot of times, you change the tires, and it goes away, so it’s not a loose wheel. We don’t believe it’s a misbalanced tire either. Not sure what it is.
“But when it happens, the lights shut off for a little bit, and the car goes backward quickly. It cost us a championship – it didn’t cost us the race today – but we lost some track position in the beginning of the final stage here. I don’t know. I wish I knew what the answer was on that. Maybe we can take a look at it, cut the tire apart. I don’t know how you fix it; I’m not a tire engineer.
“I don’t know if it’s consistent through the field and other cars have the issue or not. I know a lot of cars had it in the fall race. I know my teammate had it in the fall race as well. So, just something we need to look into and at least try to find the answer. I don’t know if we have the capabilities to fix it. I think it might be out of our hands. But at least try to help find it.”
Logano led the most laps at Phoenix, 143, and he also claimed the second stage. It was a near-flawless and perfect day for Logano and crew chief Paul Wolfe, as they finished second in the first stage and were leading on the final restart.
Having won the race off pit road on the final round of pit stops, Logano had control of the race. Having chosen the inside lane all day, Logano did so for the final restart with 26 laps to go. He fired off the line well, but Truex stayed to his outside and then powered by in Turns 1 and 2 and drove away for the win.
Finishing P2 sucks, but it was definitely a solid day at the track. Led the most laps. Finished P2 in Stage 1. Won Stage 2. And the 22 Pit Crew nailed it all day long. We’ll be in Victory Lane soon! pic.twitter.com/yAAiwUIkPo
— Joey Logano (@joeylogano) March 14, 2021
It was the only time that the inside lane didn’t work for Logano.
“I was battling a thousand on the bottom the last, I don’t know, two years here,” Logano said. “I was kind of actually surprised that Truex was still out there. I felt like I created enough distance down there on the bottom shortcut in the dogleg that typically I can have someone at my quarter(panel) to where I can control them. I looked down, gosh, he’s still door-to-door with me. Their car accelerated really well, surprisingly well. I didn’t see that one coming.
“They just had a fast car all the way through. They had a fast car from the get-go. Once they tuned it in (during) the end of the second stage, they were lights out. To be honest with you, I’m not sure even if we got in front of him on the last restart, I’m not sure I’d have been able to hold him off or not. It would have been a hell of a battle. He probably would have gotten me eventually.”