Logano looks to move on from Vegas drama with a victory at Phoenix

When Joey Logano won the pole for the Camping World 500 on Friday, it was clear he’d moved on from last weekend’s drama at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Logano looks to move on from Vegas drama with a victory at Phoenix
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota after a fight on pit road
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Ryan Blaney, Team Penske Ford

Following an altercation between Logano and his former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch following last weekend’s Monster Energy Cup race, the pair met in the NASCAR hauler on Friday morning at Phoenix International Raceway, prior to any on-track activity.

Logano, who was third in the first Monster Energy Cup practice, second in second practice and at the top of the speed chart in Happy Hour, put Busch in his rearview mirror over the course of the first two days. 

Or did he? Logano was the fastest car overall in single lap runs, but it was Busch who posted the Best 10 Consecutive Lap Average (134.094mph) in final practice. Logano was 20th in the category with an average speed of 132.410mph. 

Are the time sheets misleading?

But the speeds could be deceiving. Busch set his average early in the session. Logano posted his speed halfway through in Happy Hour as the temperatures continued to climb throughout the afternoon. It was 95-degrees by the time the Xfinity Series race started, 10-degrees higher than at the end of Cup practice and less than an hour later. 

With record-breaking temperatures expected this weekend in the Valley of the Sun, the race could be decided not only by the fastest car with a team that can rapidly adjust to conditions, but also by the physical condition of the driver behind the wheel.

“It will be a little toasty,” Logano said. “I think racing in the heat of the day when it is hot out is the best racing. I think maybe the whole garage may agree with that besides the fact that it is just hot out. 

“When it is hot the track gets wide, it is greasy, there is a lot more passing, tires become more important due to more fall-off and everything points to a very good race when the sun is out. In my opinion the racing gets a lot better. It will be warm but we train for this, it shouldn’t be a big deal.”

As for the situation with Busch, Logano remains optimistic. He expects the pair to race the way they always have. Logano accepted blame for making a mistake on the final lap at Vegas, that inevitably KO’ed the No. 18 car. 

“We both run a lot of races together,” Logano said. “Not only running them but we have raced each other for first and second alot and we have never had an issue. I look at Kyle as one of the drivers I had the best relationship with. I am sure we will get back to that point. 

“Obviously it will take a little time, that is just part of it. We have never had an issue. It wasn’t anything intentional. We will be able to push through this.”

Last week’s winner Martin Truex Jr., isn’t so sure. Truex has seen his share of rivalries in NASCAR. Having raced against Logano and Busch over the last decade, Truex says it will be different for the drivers going forward.

“I think you'll see that,” Truex said. “They'll race differently, as simple as that. Kyle is going to make it as hard as he can on Joey every chance he gets. Joey is probably going to give Kyle a little bit more here and there just to try to pay it back. But we'll see how it all plays out.”

With shorter tracks such as Phoenix on Sunday and Martinsville Speedway two weeks from now, Busch will have ample opportunity to exact his revenge — if he feels compelled to do so. 

Here are five other drivers to keep an eye on at Phoenix: 

Jimmie Johnson 

The seven-time champ is still looking for his first top 10 finish of 2017. He starts 14th on Sunday. Johnson completed the most laps (60) in Happy Hour and was second quick in Best 10 Consecutive Lap Average — 133.687mph. Johnson’s four wins at Phoenix ranks second among current drivers. His average finish of ninth, is best among the veterans. 

Kevin Harvick

Harvick rolls off 23rd on Sunday, his worst qualifying effort since the fall race in 2011 (23rd). The No. 4 Ford has not displayed much speed all weekend — with the exception of being sixth in single-car runs on Saturday morning. Only Kurt Busch advanced to the final round in qualifying from the Stewart-Haas Racing stable. Still, with a series-high eight wins at PIR, it would by crazy to count Happy out. 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt qualified third at Phoenix, his best showing since second in the Daytona  500. Like his Hendrick teammate Johnson, Earnhardt has yet to post a top-10 finish. His 16th-place result at Vegas last weekend was a second-best. Earnhardt makes his 29th start at PIR on Sunday. He has three wins, nine top fives and 14 top 10s. His last win here came in the fall of 2015 — two starts ago. 

Chase Elliott

Elliott was fast off the truck. He led first and second practice in single-lap runs and was second and ninth, respectively, in Best 10 Consecutive Lap Average during second and third practice. Elliott qualified seventh for his third start in the Camping World 500. In his Cup debut last year at PIR he finished eighth and ninth in the fall race. 

Ryan Blaney

Blaney starts second on Sunday, alongside his Penske teammate Logano. he finished third, second and second, respectively, during three rounds of qualifying. He was fifth quick in single-lap runs in first practice, ninth in second practice and 14th in Happy Hour. Blaney never completed 10-consecutive laps. Like Elliott, Blaney scored two top 10s in his first two starts at Phoenix — 10th in the spring and eighth in the fall race. 

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