Joey Logano should not have finished second at Martinsville Speedway, but the No. 22 Team Penske team saw an opportunity to be different on pit strategy and made it work.
The Ford driver started last in the NOCO 400, having to drop to the rear of the field because of adjustments before the green flag. The reigning Cup Series champion was then lapped twice throughout the course of the afternoon and struggled to break into the top 20 on the leaderboard.
Paul Wolfe, Logano’s crew chief, made two critical calls in the final stage that finally gave his driver track position. Logano ran long during one green flag pit cycle and caught a caution with less than 100 laps to go, which kept him near the front.
On the next caution, with 58 laps to go, he stayed on track and inherited the race lead. Logano controlled the race until Kyle Larson, having taken only two tires, caught and passed him for the win with 30 laps to go.
“I knew the only way he was going to get by me is he was going to have to get physical,” Logano said. “I had to make the car wide. I had very little chance to win it when he had the two tires. He just got through traffic too quick for us, but, overall, it still was the right call to get us on the front row. You never know — you have a caution at the end, and some things can happen, but overall, I’m very proud of the Verizon Mustang team.
“We were not good. We went down a lap two times throughout the race and got one lucky dog and one lucky caution and then just some good strategy from Paul and getting the car better. We were awful to start, and he did a good job of getting me competitive at least and putting me in position to do something there at the end. There are days when you’re mad about second. Most of the time you are, but days like today you’re pretty happy to see the front at the end.”
Logano’s average running position at Martinsville was 21st and he did not earn any stage points. In fact, he wasn’t even running inside the top 30 at the end of the first stage, and he finished 26th in the second.
He spent 109 of 400 laps running inside the top 15.
At one point in the afternoon, Logano admitted he would have been happy to just finish on the lead lap. Finishing second after starting the race last was even better.
“After the second stage, I would have been stoked about second place,” Logano said.