MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Joey Logano had been in this position before. Running second on the final lap at Martinsville Speedway, ready to use the bumper to claim victory.
He just didn’t use it hard enough.
Saturday’s (April 9) Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 didn’t see much on-track action, but Logano gave it his best shot on William Byron on the final lap. The No. 22 Team Penske Ford had to settle for second, his best finish of the season.
“Had a decent restart, was about to get to second and (Byron) messed up off (turn) 4 coming to take the white,” he said post-race. “I thought ‘OK, here’s my chance,’ and got to him, tried to root him up a little bit. And I did, but not quite enough, and then he was able to turn down and just stop me.”
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) April 10, 2022
“When we were going to the gas, he hit the brakes and it just checked me up big, which was the right move,” Logano added. “He brake checked the heck out of me, and he should’ve, and it worked for him. I was just too far back into (Turn) 3. Didn’t quite get the job done there.”
It was eerily reminiscent of 2018, where Logano moved Martin Truex Jr. out of the way coming to the checkered flag to clinch a spot in the Championship 4, where he ultimately “(won) the war.” That night, he left no doubt of hitting Truex hard enough to move him.
Does Logano wish he hit Byron a bit harder in the closing stages?
“Yeah, I do,” he said with a chuckle. “You gotta punt them a little bit harder with this car, it seems like. It was all I can do to get to him. That was kind of the tough part. His car was superior to mine into the corner, for sure. That’s where the Hendrick cars have been strong all year. They get into the corner harder than anybody. Getting to him, bumping him and me trying to make the turn was all too much and I couldn’t quite get there.”
So close… P2 at M’Ville
— Joey Logano (@joeylogano) April 10, 2022
Getting there was an accomplishment in and of itself for Logano, who earned stage points in the opening two frames despite starting 14th. On the final restart, he opted to take the outside lane on the front row. Austin Dillon chose the second row on the inside, which led Logano to expect a dive bomb.
“The No. 3 left the front row open, had to take that,” he said. “I was expecting (Dillon) was going to go in there and punt the No. 24 and I was gonna be stuck on the outside or it was gonna work out really good for me.”
With zero on-track passes for the lead over the course of 403 laps, there’s been much debate as to the cause. Was it the low temperatures? Next Gen car? Bigger tire? All of the above?
Logano thinks it was a mix, but the lack of wear in the tire was the biggest factor.
“The tires don’t wear out. That’s a big problem. We gotta make the tires wear out. You’ll run the whole run and slow down half a second. We gotta find some tire wear. That’s probably the biggest thing. We need to make sure (we’re not conservative) with the tire.”
“It’s no secret that this car is worse in dirty air if you’re directly behind (one). If you’re not, it seems to be able to recover better. You couldn’t move up the race track, turn across or do anything to try to pass. You really got stuck. I don’t think the racing was bad but it definitely was harder to pass. I don’t think anybody could pass without putting the bumper to somebody, so it’s a lot more challenging and it’s harder to get there.”
“I was faster than (Dillon) the whole run and I couldn’t get there,” he continued. “I was almost there, I get tight, piss my front tires off, cool it back down, make another run at it and I just couldn’t get to him to make the move. It was harder than I thought it’d be to pass.”
Logano and the No. 22 team will look to defend their Bristol Dirt victory from last year at the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track next weekend on Easter Sunday (April 16) at 7 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by FOX.
NOTE: Logano will also be the featured guest on the Frontstretch Podcast this week. Be sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
About the author
Davey is in his fifth season with Frontstretch and currently serves as a multimedia editor and reporter. He authors the "NASCAR Mailbox" column, spearheads the site's video content and hosts the Frontstretch Podcast weekly. He's covered the K&N Pro Series and ARCA extensively for NASCAR.com and currently serves as an associate producer for SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and production assistant for NBC Sports Washington. Follow him on Twitter @DaveyCenter.