By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
AVONDALE, Arizona — In a year that Roger Penske has dominated the world of motorsports, there won’t be a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship this season for “The Captain.”
That’s because Joey Logano finished ninth in Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway. Not good enough of making the Championship 4 despite running extraordinarily well during the first half of the race, highlighted with a Stage 2 win.
Then everything fell apart for the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang as his pace was lost and ultimately lost a lap as the race went green up until Lap 303 when John Hunter Nemechek had a flat tire and hit the Turn 1 wall.
Logano said he wants answers as to what caused his waning performance in the final stage, but doesn’t have a clue when speaking to the press.
“It from a really good car to a car that couldn’t stay on the lead lap. A lot of things don’t line up there,” Logano said. “That doesn’t make any sense because the car shouldn’t do that, but it did. Once we put tires back on it, we got to where we can run competitive at least again, but we were so far back.
“I was running so hard trying to get back to (Denny Hamlin) and ended up using it up again. Just needed a caution at the right time and we didn’t get it, trying to get back up there.”
While he ended up on the lead lap, Logano felt hurt of missing the final cut knowing that he had to beat Kyle Busch to make it. On the final restart, Busch moved from fourth to second where he finished behind race winner Denny Hamlin, who will compete for a title.
“It stinks. We did the first half of the race really well,” Logano said. “We had a fast car and scored a ton of stage points, to the point that we can tie (Kyle Busch) and all we had to do is finish in front of him which was the goal. It went bad from there. I don’t get it, but it wasn’t our year.”
Had Busch beaten Hamlin, Logano would’ve made the cut. Knowing those two are Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Logano felt Busch wasn’t going to amount a charge on Hamlin.
“The 18 wasn’t going to pass Denny. He could’ve but he wasn’t going to,” Logano said. “Obviously to have all their cars, so it is what it is, and we’ll move forward.”
Going forward he will as Logano can only finish no better than fifth in points at Homestead, where he hopes he ends his drought that dates back to Michigan in June with another Ford EcoBoost 400 triumph.
Adding insult to injury, with teammates Brad Keselowski out after the Round of 12 ended and Ryan Blaney not making it out of the Round of 8 as well, Team Penske’s goal is playing spoiler and end a struggling second half with a win.
“It’s not what you fight all year for to finish fighting for fifth now, but we will,” Logano said. “We’ll do next week, and we’ll try to maximize our day again and try to end the season with a win.”