Joey Logano didn’t win last Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at the Texas Motor Speedway. But, his third place result in his No. 22 Ford sure felt like one.
See, no one has fared worse among the leaders, in terms of vying for this years championship, since the COVID-19 break than Logano.
Prior to the hiatus, Logano has two wins in four races. Throw in his win in his Duel and that’s three wins in a five race span out of the gates.
Then, the break happened. In the last 14 races since we’ve come back, he has just two top five finishes in total now. One of which being last Sunday in Texas.
“We’ve had a little rough streak on these 550 races, so I’ll take it as a little bit of a momentum-builder,” said Logano of his first top five since Martinsville.
Part of the problem since the break is the lack of practice. Logano told me last month that the no practice now has cost them.
See, Penske swapped all three Cup teams this past offseason. All the driver and crew chief combos changed. So, Logano got Todd Gordon.
With practice, they figured it out. Without now, they’re guessing. They’ve both been to these tracks before, but not together. It’s taken them a while to gel with what each other needs to be successful. Hence the drop in performance.
“It’s harder to recover,” Logano said of the no practice. “You don’t have a chance to fix anything, right? You get done with the race, this, this, and this we need to make better on the racecar at least. We’ll try this, this and this next week, but it’s a different track. We’ll go and race, have no practice. Who knows if we’re going to make it better or worse, right? How do you find direction out of that?
“That’s where practice was so important. You could go out there, make a run, make one change, go back out and say, Was that better or worse? Now we’re done with the race, we have things we want to fix. Let’s go to a track that’s nowhere near the same as we just went to and make some changes to our car and tell me if it’s better or not.
“You can’t. You can’t. You only can tell just by overall finish compared to the field. That’s kind of what we worked on. Seems like there was some progress made.”
That’s why they needed this top five on Sunday to reverse the trend. They needed their confidence back.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s super important,” Logano said of his top five in Texas. “Our sport goes in cycles. It goes up, down. You go up, you go down. When you’re down, you got to fight harder than ever trying to figure out where is it.
“The first place you look is always inward before anywhere else. Then you try to find your weaknesses, start working on them, whether that’s myself or within the team, all the way through.
“I feel like we identified weaknesses, and we’ve been working on them to get them better. The progress that we’ve made, it feels really good. Like I say, we’re not there. I don’t feel like we’re all the way back. We weren’t the fastest car. The 12 was the fastest today. But we’re in the ballpark now. Before we were running down a lap, 20th or so.
“We’re closer. We can pass cars. The front end works now. We’re starting to see some reward for that.
“That was progress (Sunday),” Logano continued. “I would say we were a little bit of a lost puppy before the last couple races. But I thought Kentucky we showed speed. Once again (Sunday) we showed speed. Very similar racetracks, setups. We showed we had cars capable of winning with race scenarios happening and could run in the top two or three.
“That’s progress to me, that we ran well. Our pit stops have been great. Really it’s just been the speed that we’ve been lacking. We’ve made a good step to where we’re in contention to win again, like we were earlier in the year.
“If you asked me that two weeks ago, I wouldn’t know how to answer it because I wouldn’t know where to start. Now I think we’re finding some answers and clues that starting getting back to what we’re used to seeing out of the 22.”
Now it’s to Kansas where he has only one top five in his last five starts.