Without the cushion on the playoff grid cutline that he’d like, Joey Logano will be one of those feeling the stress at Talladega Superspeedway.
“Your whole season can be decided this weekend, and that may be somewhat out of your control,” said Logano, who is six points above the cutline. “I believe some of it is in your control in the decisions you make on the racetrack or your strategy to go along with that, whether it’s on pit road or how you work the draft. That part is stressful.
“The round that we’re in trying to be in the top eight, it’s challenging. If we can move (Talladega) to the first round, maybe that’s a little more comforting, because… I’ve said this since the playoffs started – this is the round that a true championship contender can be a surprise knockout. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be tight. Especially in our position, being only six points to the good, it’s going to be tight all the way through the end of the Roval.”
The former series champion is seventh on the playoff grid while Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski is on the bubble. Las Vegas, Talladega (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBC), and the Charlotte Roval will cut the playoff field from 12 drivers to eight.
Fortunately for Logano, he is a three-time Talladega winner and usually a player at the superspeedway events. But in his last three Talladega races, Logano hasn’t finished better than 17th.
As has become the norm on the superspeedways, Logano expects manufacturer teammates to stick together. Logano feels keeping teammates around is the safest play and the best way to get to the front. And even though the best-laid plans can quickly be wiped away at Talladega, because of his position, Logano thinks he’s going to have to race for stage points.
“Then maybe just reevaluate where everything is at after that, and figure out what we want to do for the finish of the race,” Logano said.
Logano clinched his way into the second round on points, doing so before the final stage in the elimination race at Bristol Motor Speedway. He finished no worse than 11th in the first round, but most importantly, Logano’s team was one of the few who didn’t have any significant issues or made mistakes through the first three races.
Execution, or the lack thereof by championship contenders, has been a prevailing trend in the postseason.
“I feel like up until last week (at Las Vegas), we’ve done a tremendous job through the playoffs by getting every point,” Logano said. “That’s been our slogan – every point. Get every one. We left eight to 10 points on the racetrack last weekend, so we’ve got to regroup and be better, and that’s on all of us. We’ll regroup and try to find a way to make up those eight points.”
Logano starts eighth at Talladega. Earlier this year, Logano finished 39th and earned 10 points after being involved in a crash that sent him airborne and out of the race on lap 59.