Pop­u­lar Logano pushes for a fi­nal play­off spot

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SCOREBOARD -

LOUDON, N.H. — Joey Logano can al­ways count on top billing when he races at what counts as his home­town track.

Take a walk at the New Hamp­shire fan zone and Logano’s name is on the mar­quee high above the ground for the film Cross-Threaded. Logano stars with drag racer Robert Hight in a trailer for the faux film spon­sored by AAA that cen­ters on the buddy team search­ing for the missing Golden Lug Nut.

“Turn right!” Hight urges dur­ing a high-speed chase.

“I can’t! I don’t know how!” Logano says.

Cut to the next scene, the driv­ers watch in mock shock, the car en­gulfed in flames.

Yes, the pre­view clip lived up to its “AAA” rat­ing for bad act­ing and cheesy catch­phrases. Fans wait­ing in line to col­lect Logano bob­ble­heads got a kick out of the film and perked up when it was an­nounced Logano would ap­pear this morn­ing to sign au­to­graphs.

“I’d be here nice and early,” the cheery MC an­nounced.

Logano, a na­tive of Mid­dle­town, Conn., will surely find a line a few hours be­fore he slides into the No. 22 car for to­day’s race, the Over­ton’s 301. Site of his first ca­reer Cup vic­tory, Logano has al­ways en­joyed a ro­bust fol­low­ing at the speed­way.

“I feel like I am Dale Ju­nior be­cause ev­ery­body likes me,” Logano said, ref­er­enc­ing NASCAR’s most pop­u­lar driver.

Logano needs more than sit­ting atop the NASCAR Q Score among New Eng­land race fans as he makes a push for one of the fi­nal play­off spots.

Logano, 27, is seven points out­side the 16-driver field to se­cure a spot in NASCAR’s ver­sion of the post­sea­son. Most driv­ers au­to­mat­i­cally qual­ify for a spot with a vic­tory, but not Logano. NASCAR es­sen­tially stripped him of all ben­e­fits that came with his April vic­tory at Rich­mond be­cause of a rear sus­pen­sion vi­o­la­tion. His vic­tory stands in the record book but he was docked sig­nif­i­cant points and his crew chief was sus­pended.

Logano reeled off six top­five fin­ishes in the first nine races that ended at Rich­mond. Since his team was busted, Logano posted just two top10 fin­ishes over the last nine races and four times he fin­ished 25th or worse.

A reg­u­lar in the post­sea­son, Logano needs to get his

car al­most as hot as the one in his movie with eight races left be­fore the field is set.

“Very sur­prised. This isn’t what you ex­pect when you start the sea­son,” Logano said. “You go out there ex­pect­ing to win the cham­pi­onship and the play­offs — you just as­sume you would be there. I

still as­sume we are go­ing to be there.”

He tries to dis­miss the spec­u­la­tion swirling in the garage or from crit­ics that what­ever win­ning for­mula Logano had early in the sea­son came cour­tesy of the fi­nagling his Team Penske crew worked on the Ford.

“If I was on the out­side look­ing in, I would say the ex­act same thing, but it is not. I prom­ise you that,” Logano said. “It is not that sim­ple. It never is in our sport. There are a lot of things that add up to it. But when you crash three weeks in a row, it takes the wind out of your sails.”


At what he calls his home track in Loudon, N.H., Joey Logano has never failed to draw a crowd and this year is no ex­cep­tion.

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