When the 2021 schedule wound up with seven road courses on it, Joey Logano understood right away how important every race would be. Fortunately, the former series champion felt confident his No. 22 crew from Team Penske was close with their left- and right-handed package.
It is hard to argue that now. Logano and crew chief Paul Wolfe fought their way to a fourth-place finish Sunday at Sonoma Raceway, their best result at the track together. And in three road course races this season, Logano has finished no worse than fourth.
“I like to think we’re getting pretty decent at them,” Logano said. “I’m a little bit more confident and racing better. I feel like around cars, I’m pretty aggressive. I’m making the passes and can make it happen. You watch drivers like AJ [Allmendinger] and [Marcos] Ambrose and watching those guys over the years, for me, maybe I’m dating myself a bit, but you watch them, and how they make passes, and I feel like I’m to a point where I can feel confident sending it down in there and making a clean pass, but an aggressive pass, and I’ve got a car that can do it.
“I wouldn’t say we’re clicking because we didn’t win, but I think we’re in the ballpark, and we’re making small gains. It’s hard to make the big gain. The Hendrick cars are just better no matter where you’re at. They’re just better right now, so we have to keep our heads down and keep digging, but know that our 750 stuff is in the ballpark, so that part is nice to know. Overall, to overcome the tire issue that we had early in the race and then our Autotrader Mustang got some stage points in the second stage, and having good long-run speed made the strategy work at the end to get us to the front and hang onto it.”
Logano complained of a vibration that ended up being a tire coming apart before the lap 10 competition caution, which sent him to pit road. It shifted the team’s strategy and Logano failed to score points in the first stage as he was 14th on lap 20.
Solid day in my No. 22 @AutoTrader_com @FordPerformance #Mustang at @RaceSonoma. Scored stage points, led laps and finished P4. On to the #NASCAR All-Star Race at @TXMotorSpeedway pic.twitter.com/kN5JXOJNvu
— Joey Logano (@joeylogano) June 6, 2021
Wolfe kept his team in the hunt through his pit calls the rest of the afternoon and Logano was running second by the end of Stage 2. By keeping Logano on track under caution on lap 71, he inherited the race lead and, by having track position, was put in contention for a good result.
“We’ll take it,” Logano said. “We had nothing to beat the 5 (Kyle Larson) if I’m being honest, but our AutoTrader Mustang was good enough to finish top three or four. We kind of did that one-stop strategy the last run there and got to where we were probably a third-place car if we had the same tires as the cars racing around us. But overall, we’ll take that considering how it was looking in the beginning.”
But like the rest of the competition, Logano left Sonoma knowing there is plenty to do as Hendrick Motorsports separates itself from the field.
“It’s hard to say it’s good when you’re not winning; at least that’s for me,” Logano said of his team. “You get paid to win. Top fives are great, and running towards the front is good, but we need more speed to beat them. The 5 (Larson) is the class of the field right now. You’ve got a really good driver and a really good car, and that’s what you get. We’ve got to keep working, keep grinding. I have to keep grinding as a driver. We’ve got to keep grinding as a team and finding it.
“Everything goes through cycles, so we’ve just got to make sure we’re on the top end of the cycle when the playoffs come around.”