Forget points, Logano racing to win at Talladega
Joey Logano knows he is in the most precarious of positions heading to the Chase elimination race at Talladega, tied for the eighth and final spot for advancing to the next round of NASCAR’s playoffs.
There are two clear strategies his Penske Racing team could employ.
The first is the relatively low-risk option: They could spend the entire race at the unpredictable superspeedway spying on Austin Dillon, who is even with him in points, and Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski, who are also within striking distance, and ensure they get through on points.
The riskier option? Race to win, points be damned.
“That’s the way I race. I don’t know a different way,” said Logano, whose third-place finish behind Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards on Sunday at Kansas at least made the points route possible.
“I’m sure we’ll talk about it this week,” Logano added, “but I’m a racer.”
At least three Chase contenders don’t have the same dilemma. Harvick and Jimmie Johnson are already locked into the next round by virtue of their wins in the first two stops of the round, and Chase Elliott’s trouble for the second straight week left him in a must-win situation.
The other nine drivers are much like Logano, racing to win but keeping a wary eye on points.
“The big thing that swung everything around was Kevin winning. We would have been in pretty good shape if he had finished second,” Logano said.
“It isn’t disappointing because we still should be proud of the effort we had, but it would have meant a lot if he finished second.”
That’s because Harvick had problems of his own in the round at Charlotte, which means even second place at Kansas would have put him squarely on the bubble heading to Talladega.
Logano should at least have some confidence heading to the volatile restrictor-plate track. After years of mostly terrible results, he won there to complete a sweep of the entire round last fall.
Meanwhile, Dillon was third there earlier this year, Hamlin won there a couple of years ago and Keselowski won for the fourth time there earlier this year.
“I don’t think it’s a mustwin situation,” said Keselowski, who spun into the grass and tore up his car before finishing 38th at Kansas.
“I’m not worried about it. I’m going to go there and bust my butt to try to win, but I don’t think it’s a must-win yet.”
Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Edwards and Kurt Busch are relatively safe after steering clear of major trouble the last two rounds, and Martin Truex Jr. has a 13-point cushion over eighth place.