Logano ea­ger to atone for Martinsville mis­takes

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Jenna Fryer The As­so­ci­ated Press

Joey Logano was ini­tially un­re­pen­tant, in­sis­tent he had done noth­ing wrong in a feud with Matt Kenseth that ul­ti­mately cost Logano a chance to win his first Cup cham­pi­onship.

A year later, Logano has a new per­spec­tive about the soap opera that fu­eled the Chase for the Sprint Cup cham­pi­onship. He re­turns to Martinsville Speedway on Sun­day with a ma­tu­rity about him that could put Logano in po­si­tion to win that elu­sive ti­tle.

“I learned some valu­able lessons last year,” Logano said. “I learned a whole new level I didn’t even know I had. Now I know how to reach that level men­tally in­side a race­car to make things hap­pen and be a great leader for my team.”

Logano was en route to NASCAR’s cham­pi­onship race last year as per­haps the driver to beat for the ti­tle. He’d swept the three­r­ace seg­ment of the sec­ond round of the Chase, and was dom­i­nat­ing at Martinsville, headed to­ward a win that would have ad­vanced him to the sea­son fi­nale.

Then Kenseth in­ten­tion­ally wrecked Logano as pay­back for a spat that started dur­ing the sec­ond round of the play­offs. Logano had al­ready won at Char­lotte to se­cure his spot in the third round, and Kenseth was clos­ing in on a must-win vic­tory at Kansas that would have ex­tended his play­offs.

But Logano, who only had a tro­phy on the line that day at Kansas, raced Kenseth hard in the clos­ing laps and spun his ri­val. Kenseth was livid at how hard Logano had raced him. Logano didn’t care.

The hard feel­ings sim­mered for two more weeks, then with Kenseth out of the play­offs, he ex­acted his re­venge.

Look­ing back, Logano knows now his shoul­der-shrug at­ti­tude to­ward Kenseth flamed the fire. Had he picked up the phone, called Kenseth or sent him a text, it might have changed the en­tire sea­son. Kenseth might have let it go, Logano would have won at Martinsville, maybe would al­ready have a Cup cham­pi­onship.

That’s all in the past as the third round of the play­offs be­gins Sun­day at Martinsville, and Logano and Kenseth are both still in play. Logano scored a must-win vic­tory last week at Tal­ladega to ad­vance , while Kenseth used con­sis­tency and a play-it-safe strat­egy at Tal­ladega to en­sure Joe Gibbs Rac­ing got all four of its Toy­otas into the round of eight.

Logano is the only Ford driver still in the play­offs. He’s got to face the en­tire JGR or­ga­ni­za­tion — the team he raced for be­fore they let him go and he was scooped up by Roger Penske — as well as six-time cham­pion Jim­mie John­son, who leads 2014 win­ner Kevin Har­vick and a trio of Chevro­lets.

Penske be­lieves Sun­day is a crit­i­cal race, for his driver and his team, in this Chase.

“It’s a level play­ing field. We’re sat­is­fied where we are,” he said. “I think we need to get through what hap­pened last year at Martinsville and get some good suc­cess there so we can move on hope­fully to the next round.”

Logano, who starts sec­ond Sun­day, very much wants this do-over. He had a bull’s-eye on his back last year, in part be­cause of that three-race sweep in the play­offs, in part be­cause of his supreme con­fi­dence. But he had to de­liver last week to get to this round, and he’s not yet stamped him­self as a fa­vorite in this Chase.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.