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Up to Speed: Has Joey Logano’s Season Turned the Corner?

In the first five races of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season, Joey Logano’s year got off to a nightmarish start.

Buried 26th in points with only one top-20 finish to show for his efforts, Logano was facing a serious climb to get back into playoff contention.

Yet one month later, thanks to a few faster cars and some good fortune, Logano finds himself back above the playoff cut line.

After a chaotic race at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend, Logano now stands 15th in overall points. Although the No. 22 team still has work to do, their prospects for 2024 are looking a whole lot brighter.

To be fair to Logano and Team Penske, their initial struggles this season were not for a lack of fast cars. Logano led 45 laps in the Daytona 500 and arguably had the best car, but a crash while battling for the lead on lap 191 ended his shot at victory. Things got worse at Atlanta Motor Speedway the next week.

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Half a lap from the end of stage two, Logano threw a late block on Chris Buescher, triggering a stack-up that sent the No. 22 into the wall nose first. That made two races where Logano looked like a potential winner but came away with nothing more than a wrecked car.

The No. 22 team then soldiered to a top 10 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but encountered more trouble the next two races. Logano was struggling at Phoenix Raceway when he got collected in a multi-car fracas shortly after a restart on lap 203.

Bristol Motor Speedway brought little comfort as Logano battled an ill-handling car. He almost managed to win stage two, but heavy tire wear shuffled the field several times over the course of the afternoon. When the music stopped, he was outside the top 20 again.

Over the last four weeks, Logano and his team have recovered nicely, posting four consecutive finishes of 11th or better and throwing in 25 stage points for good measure. As a result, Logano has gained 11 positions in points in four races. His recent run is a reminder that circumstances can change quickly in the early weeks, and that drivers who struggle in the first races of the year are not necessarily doomed to a bad season.

Among Logano’s last four races, his second-place run at Richmond Raceway was the most pivotal. His turnaround may have begun at Circuit of the Americas a week earlier, but Richmond was the first race this year at a non-drafting track where it looked like Logano had a real shot at victory. He never led a lap but did steadily work his way forward all evening and finished in the top five in both stages.

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As the race closed in on the finish, Logano was in second and running down leader Martin Truex Jr., who had been dominating the race. A late caution re-racked the field and tipped the scales in Denny Hamlin’s favor, but it felt like something clicked for the No. 22 team on Easter Sunday.

Logano and crew chief Paul Wolfe credited their success to a tire test at North Wilkesboro Speedway, where they apparently learned something that could help them on the short, flat tracks. Those lessons must have come in handy a week after Richmond, when Logano led 84 laps and finished sixth at Martinsville Speedway. Perhaps Logano did jump into the lead on a pit strategy call, but he was still able to hold off the pack on older left-side tires for most of stage two.

Passing at Martinsville may be difficult in the Next Gen car, but it seems hard to believe that Logano would have kept the lead for that long if he did not have a strong car.

As for last weekend’s race at Texas, the turning point for Logano was the long green-flag run where he took the lead on lap 218. Earlier in the race, he had to spend extra time on pit road for repairs to the No. 22’s splitter. However, the extra pit stop allowed Logano to stay out longer in the run than most of the drivers ahead of him. When John Hunter Nemechek crashed on lap 229, it allowed Logano to pit under caution from the lead and leapfrog several cars that had pitted earlier.

Though he ultimately wound up 11th, it was still a better result than where Logano ran most of the race. Unlike earlier in 2024, luck was on the No. 22’s side this time.  

Despite the last four races, Logano’s position is still precarious.

He is now tied for 16th in the playoff grid with his old friend Kyle Busch (Logano holds the tiebreaker by virtue of his Richmond finish). In fact, Logano’s former Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski is only one point behind them.

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Those are three past champions at the center of a tight playoff race that is only going to get tougher. Furthermore, Logano has not won a race in over a year and has not banked a single playoff point in 2024.

Team Penske remains a step behind Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing, but Penske is still the organization that has won the last two NASCAR Cup Series titles. Logano and his team expect to race for the championship each year, and they have a long way to go in that regard.

The good news for Logano is that the Cup Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend.

If there is one type of track where the No. 22 team is guaranteed to be fast, it is a drafting track. Logano will have as good a chance as anyone to take home the trophy, but only if he avoids the wrecks. If he crashes out again, it will be a big missed opportunity and the end of the hot streak that has pulled him out of his early-season points hole.

We will find out this weekend if fortune is still on Logano’s side and if his climb up the points standings will continue.    

About the author

Bryan began writing for Frontstretch in 2016. He has penned Up to Speed for the past seven years. A lifelong fan of racing, Bryan is a published author and automotive historian. He is a native of Columbus, Ohio and currently resides in Southern Kentucky.

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3 Comments
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kb

No corner has been turned. Ford/Roush/Yates have not gotten what others have gotten. Ford is always behind and yet here we are saying the tide maybe turning, when this sad dance has happened for some time. Sad, because there is really superior talent out there and they are not getting the car they deserve. IMO.

Joey for some time has been making lemonade out of rotten lemons. He gives 2000 percent with the crap that is given him. This has been happening for a few years.

Where is Roger calling the task makers to task? Praising them somewhere, imo. LOL.
.

Last edited 1 month ago by kb
DoninAjax

When he wins will he be the favourite for the title?

Echo

for that next day, yes

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