Race Weekend Central

It Gets Late Out Here: Three Drivers In Need of a Vegas Bounce Back

The iconic Hall of Fame New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra, an 18-time All-Star who won an incredible 10 of 14 World Series he appeared in, was famous not just for his baseball prowess (which was immense) but also his quotes.

Many of his Yogi-isms, as they became affectionately known, such as ‘It’s like deja vu all over again’ have entered the American lexicon. And there’s one Yogi-ism that’s pretty appropriate for several drivers even at this stage of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series Season: ‘It gets late early’.

Now, it’s important to set some context here too; we are just two races into the season.

There are a full six months and 24 races to go until we hit the regular season finale. Add that to the ‘win and you’re in’ factor, and it’s even more the case. And after two drafting tracks and all the inherent chaos and unpredictability, this weekend’s visit to Las Vegas Motor Speedway is in many ways the real start of the season.

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LVMS is a bread and butter mile-and-a-half track on which performance will go a long way to assessing form for the long term. But as the late, great Yogi said, it gets late early and before you know it, you need to extricate yourself from a deep points hole.

So here are three drivers for whom it’s late early and are in need of a solid finish this weekend in Sin City.

Joey Logano: 31st in points, 30th place average finish, 72 laps led

After winning his second championship in 2022, it’s fair to say that Logano’s 2023 season was a bitter disappointment. With just one win and a first-round playoff exit, Logano appeared to lack speed all year.

So, to bounce back in 2024 with a pole in the Great American Race was just the start he needed. Logano paced the field for a race-high 45 laps in the 500 but a wreck (not of his own making) with nine laps to go finished his day. This past weekend, Logano led 27 laps but an ill-advised late Stage 2 block saw him caught up in a wreck that would finish his day as a contender.

To add to his woes, Logano was fined $10,000 on Tuesday for using a glove that had webbing between his thumb and forefinger — a modification that could have created an aerodynamic advantage. All told, it’s not been an auspicious start to the season for the 17-year, 545-race veteran. But with the new Fords appearing to be fast, don’t count the hard-nosed Logano out just yet. He’ll rebound just fine, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he has a solid top-5 this Sunday, maybe even better.

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Brad Keselowski: 33rd in points, 33th place average finish, 5 laps led

This Sunday will mark race No. 100 in Keselowski’s winless streak. It’s an unwanted milestone for a driver who has won 35 times in his illustrious career, but not since his victory at Talladega Superspeedway in the spring of 2021. And it wasn’t a stretch to say he could be looking at a pair of wins or at least a pair of top fives to start the 2024 season.

Instead, the points standings show quite the opposite. Looking to make a pass for the lead with eight laps to go in the Great American Race, Keselowski was turned by William Byron and ended his 500 in yet another disappointment. It was more of the same in Atlanta with Keselowski positioned well as the laps ticked down in the final stage. This time, the mistake was his own making.

“My car just took off in the middle of the corner,” noted Keselowski post-race. “Once I got up to the wall I couldn’t get it off the wall. It’s a shame. We were in good position. It’s a bummer, but we’re running up front and that’s a good thing. We just weren’t able to finish it off.”

While the winless streak will be of concern, the good news for Keselowski is that his teammate Chris Buescher has won four times in the last 46 races and the new Fords seem stout. Like Logano, Keselowski will be just fine, and my bet is he breaks the long stretch of not making it to victory lane before we hit the playoffs.

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Tyler Reddick: 24th in points, 29.5 place average finish, 0 laps led

Now to be fair, Reddick already has a win under his belt — albeit in his Daytona 500 qualifying Duel race — and a heartwarming moment when his young son ran out to celebrate with him on the frontstretch. But since then, it has been anything but a good start to the regular season. At Daytona, Reddick finished a lowly 29th after being caught up in the Big One nine laps from the end.

“Pretty solid day for us on the speedway, honestly,” said Reddick of his afternoon, “We were right in the mix there, they just started wrecking at the end. Tried to get by them on the apron, just didn’t make it.”

Last Sunday at Atlanta, Reddick was caught up in the lap 2 wreck and ended up 17 laps down for a dispiriting 30th-place finish with his Twitter/X post summing up the day.

Like Logano and Keselowski, I expect Reddick to bounce back strongly. It would not surprise me at all if he won this weekend.

About the author

Danny starts his 12th year with Frontstretch in 2018, writing the Tuesday signature column 5 Points To Ponder. An English transplant living in San Francisco, by way of New York City, he’s had an award-winning marketing career with some of the biggest companies sponsoring sports. Working with racers all over the country, his freelance writing has even reached outside the world of racing to include movie screenplays.

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