Joey Logano struggles but leaves the Lone Star State with the points lead
FORT WORTH, TEXAS – Joey Logano has been solid all season – until Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway.
It didn’t matter.
With two races to decide the title, Logano still left the AAA Texas 500 tied for the Sprint Cup points lead with Denny Hamlin on Sunday. Ryan Newman (-2), Jeff Gordon (-12) and Matt Kenseth (-13) round out the top five. Carl Edwards is sixth (-13).
Logano qualified 10th and ran in the top 10 for most of the day – until pit stops during the eighth caution when the No. 22 Team Penske pit crew had an issue with the lugs on the rear right tire. Logano entered the pits fourth and exited 23rd. After the race went green, Logano spun in Turn 2 after contact with Marcos Ambrose then dropped to 25th.
Over the remaining 33 laps, Logano battled back to 12th. Despite problems in the pits and with the tire, Logano was grateful “to salvage something decent out of tonight.”
We lost all our track position with 30 to go and I came off the corner and the 9 hit me and popped my right rear and then we spun out.
“We were a top five car and possibly a winning car if scenarios played out right,” Logano said. “I don’t know what happened with the glue on the pit stop and I haven’t gotten the full story yet but we had a hell of a time trying to put rear tires on the car.
"We lost all our track position with 30 to go and I came off the corner and the 9 hit me and popped my right rear and then we spun out. We put tires back on it and then just held on til the end and got something decent out of something that could have been way worse.
“I am proud of everyone that kept their heads down and kept digging. That isn’t the way we wanted to do it, that is for sure.”
Hamlin, who started 20th, moved from the top 15 to first when the team called for a two tire stop on Lap 224. Although Hamlin wasn’t able to maintain the position, he finished a respectable 10th.
"We had a bad car,” Hamlin said. “We made the best of it. Other guys made mistakes. We weren't really that good. Luckily other guys had problems. That's what happened."
Under the radar
With a 15th-place finish following contact with Kenseth, Newman dropped to third in the point standings. Newman ran in the top 10 for the majority of the race until the restart on Lap 318. With damage to the fender, Newman was forced to pit and restarted 21st.
They went three and four wide there and put me in the middle of it.
“We just got our quarter panel knocked in,” Newman said. “They went three and four wide there and put me in the middle of it. There wasn’t a whole lot of respect out there. We saw that before, during, and after the race. But it was a good fight back for the Caterpillar Chevrolet to be 15th.
“We’re just happy the guys have done a good job of fighting back. Some guys had some misfortune and some guys are going to find out what’s going on next Tuesday. We’ll keep digging. We’ll let the focus be on them.”
The battle off the race track
Newman was referring to the dustup between Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick. Keselowski and Gordon made contact on the race track in the late stages of the race. After Keselowski slammed into Gordon, Harvick returned the favor coming to the white flag lap. All three driver were involved in a post-race scuffle on pit road.
After leading 49 laps, Gordon got the worst of it. He finished 29th and dropped from the point lead to fourth. Keselowski finished third and is currently seventh in the point standings, 17 points behind the leaders. Harvick, who ended up in the Chase cellar last weekend following a wreck with Kenseth, finished second on Sunday but remains eighth in the point standings.
Out of time
Kenseth had a solid car and led 59 laps before a lugnut hung during the stop on the sixth caution. He entered the pits fourth and restarted 18th. After he was mired in the back, it was difficult for the No. 20 Toyota to recover.
Today was a disaster as far as where we finished and how at the end of the race I couldn't pass cars that got lapped earlier in the race.
"The way my car drove -- I was kind of afraid of how it would be in traffic,” said Kenseth, who finished 25th. “We got most of our track position back, stayed out on tires and just couldn't get by Kurt (Busch) there -- and got to the back again having to get tires. Then we got caught up in a restart deal that was three-four wide which did some damage, and we could just never overcome it.
“Obviously, today was a disaster as far as where we finished and how at the end of the race I couldn't pass cars that got lapped earlier in the race -- by the end of the race. So, it was a poor performance on the scoreboard. Just the same approach going to Phoenix. Just go there and try to do the best job we can."