Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano didn’t forget how to drive. They didn’t lose focus on how to win a NASCAR Cup Series championship either. In saying that, some have the past champions on the back burner entering this year’s playoffs.
See, both are backing their ways into the postseason. They each won early with Logano in March on the Bristol Dirt Track and Truex in Phoenix, Martinsville and Darlington. Since?
We’ll the finishes haven’t been there.
Truex has just two top five finishes in his last 10 starts on the year. He’s only had four in the last 17 in general. Logano, has taken a similar path. He’s had just one top 10 in his last 7 races and four top fives in the last 17 as well.
So, why are they so confident entering this year’s playoffs?
“I do. I feel like we’re right there,” Truex told me on if his team is on a championship level right now entering the playoffs. “We’ve had a tough summer. Circumstances that we couldn’t control, hurting our chances, etc. But I feel like our speed in our cars, decision making and the confidence is all there. We have what it takes and we’ll see if we can finish it off.”
“We’ve had a few races that have been pretty tough on the finishing side, but if you look at the race as they’ve gone, they’ve been races where we can run in the top five in every single one of them,” he said. “The confidence and what we can bring to the racetrack is up pretty high. I think the speed is there. Our pit crew is there. I feel like I’m firing on all eight as well.
“We’ve just run into everything you can possibly imagine. It’s just the craziest things have happened and it is what it is and that just happens sometimes.”
Both say that they can win Darlington on Sunday. Truex, just did back in May and also led the most laps in last year’s Southern 500 too. Logano, says that he’s just hoping to have a quiet race that could lead to a trip to victory lane in the end.
“Darlington would be great to just have a normal day, but a win would be even better and that’s still our goal,” he continued.
As far as even with their results entering the playoffs, do they feel a need to be on a championship level at the moment or can that come as the postseason comes along?
“You got to be there (now),” Truex says. “You may not have had the results lately, but you’ve got to have that team and that confidence and that ability. Whether that being the speed in your cars or the people making the decisions. You’ve got to have it all. You can’t just turn it on and flip a switch and change who you are. You’ve either got what it takes or you don’t.
“At the same time we’ve seen the best teams all year hit a speed bump in the road. That’s one thing about our sport is it’s not 1-on-1. There’s a lot that can happen. There’s a lot of things out of your control in racing. You can’t always control your own destiny. As much as you try to, there’s a lot that can happen. That’s something that’s totally different in our sport. You’ve got to have it. You can’t overcome it if you don’t have it. The best team doesn’t guarantee anything either which we’ve seen. It’s a difficult time. It’s high pressure but it’s a hell of an opportunity. I always look forward to being part of it.”
For Logano, this is also his second playoffs since the crew chief swap which sent his old crew chief Todd Gordon over to the 12 team with Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski’s crew chief in Paul Wolfe, Logano’s way. On top of that, Logano had a spotter swap a few weeks ago in getting Coleman Pressley as the voice in his ears now.
How does this affect him? For Pressley, he said that the two have been friends since their childhood, so that wasn’t as drastic as a swap as the crew chief factor was. But, almost two full years into it, Logano feels comfort with Wolfe as he did with Gordon.
“Yeah, I think so. Paul and I have been able to work together the last few years now and be able to kind of grow in this COVID environment, which has been a lot more challenging I think than any of us expected when we made the crew chief change — without practice and limitation on seeing each other or not, all of those are evolving day by day, but I do feel like our ability to connect at this point and have some history from the notebook behind us and how to be better every week. I feel like we’ve grown a lot and I feel ready to go. I feel better this year than I did last year.”