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NASCAR Cup Las Vegas II

Joey Logano thrilled with "second biggest win of the year"

Joey Logano was so excited about his playoff win Sunday he was already advocating moving the NASCAR Cup Series championship race to Las Vegas every season.

It’s no wonder.

After struggling on intermediate tracks earlier this season, Logano – and Team Penske in general – has come roaring back into contention, first at Texas last month and then Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Thanks to a late-race pit strategy call for new tires, Logano ran down and passed Ross Chastain with two of 267 laps remaining and held on for the victory, which locked him in as one of four drivers who will compete for the season championship Nov. 6 at Phoenix.

The 32-year-old native of Middletown, Conn., will run next two races without the building pressure the seven remaining playoff drivers will shoulder.

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“Even when I was horrible at all the race tracks, Vegas was I think my first top-10 came here. It’s just been one of those race tracks that has fit my style in the past, and now that it’s a very important race in the Round of Eight – heck yeah, it’s great,” an elated Logano said after the race.

“Let’s bring the championship here. This would be a good place for a championship race, wouldn’t it? You’d have a hell of a time afterwards. You could go down to the city. It would be great.”

Phoenix Raceway would likely beg to differ but it was hard to underestimate the importance of Logano’s No. 22 Ford team’s performance on Sunday.

In the first three races on intermediate tracks this season similar to Vegas, Logano finished 14th, 17th and 20th and led nine combined laps.

Finding the edge

Following an organizational test Sept. 20-21 at Homestead, Fla. – where teams got extended testing time on track with the Next Gen car – Logano finished second at Texas and picked up his third win of the season Sunday at Las Vegas.

The improvement couldn’t have come at a better time.

“It’s a clutch team. Everybody raises their game. I love the playoffs. It’s just the attitude that we bring to the table as a team is that you love this part of the year because you have the opportunity to just do something great and ultimately win the goal that you set back in February, to win the championship,” Logano said.

“I can’t help but get excited and love the opportunity to do something great like we did (Sunday), to have the moment, to do something big and really change the outcome of your season possibly. There’s no better feeling than that, and I guess I’m always in constant search for that feeling.

“When there’s this much on the line, there’s nothing like a playoff victory all the way through. But when you get it in the Round of Eight, it’s the second biggest win of the year.”

The biggest, of course, would be winning at Phoenix on Nov. 6 and earning his second career championship.

Joey Logano, Team Penske, Pennzoil Ford Mustang celebrates his victory

Joey Logano, Team Penske, Pennzoil Ford Mustang celebrates his victory

Photo by: Lesley Ann Miller / Motorsport Images

But the significance of Sunday’s win was not missed on Logano’s team.

“It’s everything. This is the race that you want to win,” said Michael Nelson, Penske’s vice president of NASCAR operations. “You want to peak at the right time. We had good cars, fast cars.

“The guys are really hungry. We haven’t been exactly where we’ve wanted to be. We’ve just been chipping away at it every week. Texas was a little better, and obviously this race was better, as well.”

Logano and his team will now turn their attention toward Phoenix, where he finished eighth in the spring race.

His Penske teammate, Ryan Blaney, led 143 laps and finished fourth in that race so the organization should have a good starting point on which to build.

“I was so focused in on these three races in this round. Now that we can take our focus off of those next two and really focus in for the one that really matters, it’s a great place to be. I think it definitely puts us in a good spot,” Logano said.

“We’ve got a one in four chance now. I feel like our chances are way better than that.”

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