Logano heading to NASCAR title showdown with a score to settle

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Logano heading to NASCAR title showdown with a score to settle

NASCAR

Logano heading to NASCAR title showdown with a score to settle

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Joey Logano is back in the Championship and has a take-no-prisoners attitude about the NASCAR Cup Series title fight.

Sunday is a revenge tour. It’s been two years since the 2018 series champion last raced for the title, and the result still doesn’t sit well with him. Logano finished third in the race and the championship that day, but felt he was in control of the fight until something out of his control took it away.

“Absolutely, there is no race that sticks in my mind more than (the) 2020 Phoenix fall race,” Logano said Thursday. “It’s just a race that I feel like, as a race team, we did everything perfect. (We) ran down Chase (Elliott) there, made a green flag stop, cycled out of ahead of him (and) after the pit stop, we’re over a second ahead and then having that shaky tire. And then going all the way back to fourth on the final fuel run with 40-whatever laps to go.

“It pisses me off to this day. I literally can’t get over it. I probably never will. This is revenge for that.”

Logano has had two years to stew in what could have been.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I think about it a lot.”

Of the four title contenders going into Sunday’s race (3pm ET, NBC), Logano is the most experienced. And that’s not only because Logano is the oldest driver of the bunch at 32 years old (Elliott is the youngest at 26) but in knowing what to expect, how to handle the week and all it brings, and not being overwhelmed by the opportunity to race for a championship.

This time around is Logano’s fifth appearance in nine winner-take-all season finales, and having won the first race in the Round of 8, Logano and Team Penske have had two weeks to get their car – and minds – right.

“It’s not another race,” Logano said. “I like how people do that and say it’s just another race; that is just a way to minimize the situation that you can’t truly, honestly believe. Because it’s not, it’s racing for a championship. It’s bigger than any other race. It absolutely is. So you have to learn to handle that pressure, and the only way to know how to do that is going through it multiple times.

“I feel like that’s what gives not just myself but my whole race team a clear advantage going into this race, on top of some of the other things we already know. I feel great about where we’re at. I feel great that we’ve been here so many times, and we can focus on doing our job.”

Once Logano and his rivals get to the racetrack, he acknowledges things become chaotic, especially race day. Cup Series teams have a full 50-minute practice Friday to dial in their cars and gather information before qualifying Saturday. It’s a more traditional weekend the garage is used to.

The No. 22 team has been working on Phoenix for weeks and hardly put much thought into the races at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Martinsville Speedway. If they had an idea, it was quickly implemented before going right back to focusing on Phoenix preparation. Logano’s deep dive on being ready for this weekend — aside from the chip on his shoulder — has been not making enemies the last two weeks and taking in all information available.

“I’ve always kind of dug into a lot of the details of the race itself,” Logano said. “I look into obviously what our car did the last time we were here and what other tracks are similar to Phoenix as we’ve evolved so much. You think about Phoenix (race) 1 was so long ago, it was the beginning of the year, we were really learning a lot about our cars, and we’ve evolved a lot from there. So, you kind of throw a couple things out there, even just reviewing the race and things like that. You have to take some of it with a grain of salt because it’s so different now.

“We’re all smarter. All the racers are smarter out there now. So it changes up a lot of things from that standpoint. But just looking at everything you can. Just constantly thinking about it and, ‘Oh yeah, I should think about this. I should think about that.’ There is a lot that goes into this, for sure.”

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