By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas — If defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano wants to pursue back-to-back titles, he’ll have to primarily deal with Kyle Busch after leading 5 of 334 laps and finishing fourth in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
That’s because Logano holds the fourth and final Championship 4 spot heading into the cutoff race at ISM Raceway November 10, a track he’s won back in 2016 while Busch is a three-time winner including the last two races.
Busch finished seventh and is two points ahead of Logano, who’s 20 markers above Denny Hamlin, who’s the first man out due in most part after spinning on the frontstretch on Lap 80, ruining the right front of his No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry.
Three laps later, Logano brought his No. 22 AAA Insurance Ford Mustang into the pits and repair a damaged left rear quarter panel. Unlike 28th place finisher Hamlin, Logano recovered tremendously as most of the Round of 8 competitors struggled to match the superior pace of Stewart-Haas Racing.
The biggest concern for Logano is if someone outside (Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott) wins the Bluegreen Vacations 500 and he doesn’t end up scoring the most points that didn’t win in the Round of 8, a fourth Championship 4 appearance becomes obsolete.
Logano knows that racing Busch will be a good battle as his optimism levels run high, saying that he’s beatable like everyone else that takes the green flag in Phoenix.
“It’s going to be a good battle for sure. We’re definitely racing for that last spot,” Logano said. “Just in case someone behind us outside of the top-four wins and then it’s going to come down to the 18 and 22 trying to get the last spot.
“It’s going to be fun and I’m looking forward to the battle. The 18 team is good. Kyle’s a good driver but I think we’re a great team. They’re beatable just like everybody else.”
Logano’s top-five run was the first since Indianapolis seven races ago which was a huge sigh of relief for him after not having the results he’s been hoping for in recent months.
“Feels good to finally get one. It’s not a win by no means,” Logano said. “We’re not locked in like the 4 (Kevin Harvick) and 19 (Martin Truex, Jr.) but we’re not out either so we got to go to Phoenix and do the same things we’ve been doing. We got to score stage points and get a great finish. Off we go.”