By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
It looked like Sunday would be a negative turning point for Joey Logano’s 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship hopes. After rolling from the starting grid in 15th, Logano had a car that wasn’t quite to his liking in the early going of the Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire.
Unfortunately for Logano, the race would start with a Chase-record 124-lap green flag stretch. While Logano was struggling with an ill-handling machine, race leader Martin Truex Jr. was busy laying down some super fast laps. At lap 114, Logano would officially go a lap down and from this point it would be an uphill battle the rest of the day for the driver of the No. 22 Ford Fusion.
Under the first yellow flag pit stop, Logano would lose four spots as his crew made adjustments to his race car. Logano’s car would improve, and he would work his way into the free pass position, but when the caution flag waved, the leaders had just put Danica Patrick a lap down, meaning that Patrick, not Logano would get the free pass.
On lap 170, Logano took the wave around to get his lap back, but since he skipped his pit stop for the wave around Logano was on older tires. His only shot to stay on the lead lap was to get another quick caution. That caution didn’t happen, and by lap 210 Logano was back to being a lap down at his hometown track.
On lap 262, Michael McDowell made hard contact with Clint Bowyer which cut down the left rear tire of McDowell’s car. As a result, McDowell would spin to bring out the caution on lap 263. McDowell’s misfortune, meant good things for Logano as he finally was in position for the lucky dog at the right time.
For Logano, the battle to get his lap back was the biggest mental hurdle of his day.
“It’s aggravating.,” Logano explained after climbing from his car. “The wave around. You’re in the lucky dog spot for the longest time and then you try the wave around and you don’t get that. Eventually, you battle and get back on the lead lap. It was a hard-fought day. We just had to fight really hard. You just have to put yourself in position and hope for a caution and that’s pretty much what happens. We finally got one, it just took all day.”
Over the final 38 laps of the race, Logano would focus on turning a 19th-place day into a decent finish. Logano would accomplish that goal as he knifed his way through the field over the closing laps to finish 11th in the next-to-last race of the first round of the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
After the race, Logano credited his team with their never say die attitude, but said that his team needs to pick up on their speed in their race cars.
“It was a hard fight to say the least with the Shell/Pennzoil Ford. We took off awful, just like we did in the spring race too, it’s crazy,” said Logano.
“We made our car better, but didn’t have enough time to get ourselves back up to where I thought we were speed-wise at the end. I’m proud of the never-quit-attitude. We’re resilient. We just need to start a little bit faster. We can’t lose that many spots at the beginning of the race and expect to battle back every time. We did what we had to do. We almost got a top 10 out of something that we ran around 20th all day, so at least we got something out of it. We just need to go faster than that.”
Logano now finds himself fifth in the Chase Grid standings, and he is 21 points ahead of the cutoff for the round of 16, which ends next week at Dover International Speedway. If Logano can stay inside the top-12 of the Grid standings after next week’s race he will advance to the round of 12.
After an incredible rally Sunday at New Hampshire, Logano looks like a very safe bet to advance to the next round of the Chase.