Winless Logano not in "panic mode" going into Richmond

Last year's NASCAR Sprint Cup title contender Joey Logano entered the 2016 season looking to set the world on fire... It hasn’t happened.

Winless Logano not in "panic mode" going into Richmond
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford; Carl Edwards, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Start: Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford leads
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford pole winner
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford

Logano, who led the Sprint Cup Series last season with six wins but failed to qualify for the final four in the Chase for the Sprint Cup after he was punted by Matt Kenseth at Martinsville, is still trying to find the consistency he enjoyed last year.

Our goal is not top-five finishes. Our goal is winning and the fact of the matter is we haven’t won yet

Joey Logano

Yes, Logano is fourth in the standings. His average qualifying effort (7.1) and average finish (8.2) is better than six-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who is currently third in points. But he’s only led a total of 102 laps in just four races — the most (74) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where his fellow Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski went on to win.

Not the 2016 start Logano was hoping for

And speaking of wins, Logano hasn’t this season. So it’s not surprising the driver of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford offered a grade to his team of “B-minus or maybe even a C-plus” when he was asked on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio to compare this year’s performance to 2015 after the first eight races.

“That doesn’t mean that we’re failing by no means,” Logano said on the Morning Drive. “We need to find a little more speed in our cars and we need to clean up our mistakes.

"We know how to do that. It’s not panic mode by no means. We’re still running well. We’re still looking good in (the points). But that’s not our goal.

“Our goal is not top-five finishes. Our goal is winning and the fact of the matter is we haven’t won yet. We know how to do that. We’re going to get cars that are fast enough to win like we did this week and we’re going to have cars that are not as fast but we need to execute in those races as well.

"We have some time before the Chase starts, for sure. But we want to get a few wins before that and make sure we’re ready when the Chase starts.”

Logano was one of four drivers to participate in the Goodyear tire test on March 29. He thought the tires used at the confirmation test were “very good” when it came to laying rubber down on the race track — an issue that has plagued Richmond in the past.

“We’ve been there at times and run a whole weekend and never be able to come off the bottom line because the track never took rubber and the fastest line was on the bottom,” Logano said.

“When we were there a couple of weeks ago, the track was rubbered up to the second — maybe the second-and-a-half lane and we were running up with four cars on the racetrack. For me, that’s a great sign for what’s going to happen this weekend.”

The key to winning at Richmond

Logano says the strategy to winning on Sunday will be “knowing when to push — and when not to.”

“Richmond is one of those racetracks where there’s a lot of tire wear — and there are comers and goers throughout a run,” Logano said. “It’s kind of like Martinsville, where if you push it really hard on the front side, you’re going to pay the price.

"So it’s all about knowing when to go and when to hold back and save your tires for a longer run and knowing the pace of the race and what’s going to happen is very important.

“If you can save your rear tires a little bit in the beginning, you’re going to get that reward later on in the run. You just hope the run goes that long.”

Logano has earned the last two poles at Richmond International Raceway. Although Logano has just one win (2014) at RIR, the driver of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford has earned the most points at the track over the last six races.

Four drivers riding dry spells  that could end at RIR

Here are four other drivers — certain to be Chase contenders — desperately seeking their first win of 2016:

Kurt Busch

Busch is the defending winner of this race. He dominated the rain-delayed event and led 291 of 400 laps for his second Richmond win. Busch is currently seventh in the point standings but has not won a race since the rain-shortened Michigan romp in June.

The No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy has not lacked for speed in 2016. Busch won consecutive poles at Atlanta and Las Vegas.

He led 41 circuits last week at Bristol before posting his season-high finish of third. In the last three Richmond races, Busch has earned the third most points.

But a repeat win at Richmond could put the SHR’s second-best team in high gear.

Matt Kenseth

While Joe Gibbs Racing enjoying a banner year, the No. 20 team can’t seem to get out of its own way. Kenseth’s bad luck continued last week at Bristol, where the driver led 142 laps before slamming into the wall after blowing a tire on Lap186.

Richmond could not have come at a better time for Kenseth, who won his second trophy at the venue last September and earned the most points at the track in 2015. Kesenth’s 18th-place position in the standings is not indicative of the team’s overall performance.

The No. 20 car has led laps in all but one of the first eight races. Kesenth’s 306 laps led is fourth in the Cup series behind his teammates Kyle Busch (520) and Carl Edwards (475) — and Kevin Harvick (499).

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

For the last two week, Earnhardt has finished second. While half of his finishes have been in the top five this season, Earnhardt has only led laps in two races. Earnhardt’s greatest struggle this season has stemmed from lackluster qualifying.

Although Earnhardt is currently sixth in the Cup standings, his average qualifying effort of 18.6 is the worst among the top 20 drivers.

In 33 starts at Richmond, Earnhardt has one pole (2012) and three wins in 33 starts. He’s led 501 laps and completed 99.3-percent of all laps race — with just one DNF.

Martin Truex Jr.

Truex has completed 100-percent of all laps raced this season and led 198 circuits. But the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing ride has just one top five to show for his effort — a second-place finish at Daytona.

Pit stop miscues and inspection issues have cost the Truex dearly this season. The last two weeks were no exception. Truex led 141 laps at Texas but failed to pit in the closing laps, At Bristol, two loose wheels relegated Truex to a 14th-place finish.

Perhaps Truex can turn his season around this weekend at Richmond. Although his second worst average finish is at the 0.75-mile track, one of his five top-10 finishes were earned at Richmond in this race last year.

shares
comments
NASCAR fines Tony Stewart $35,000 for violating member conduct guidelines

Previous article

NASCAR fines Tony Stewart $35,000 for violating member conduct guidelines

Next article

Harvick tops Cup practice, Stewart completes first laps of 2016

Harvick tops Cup practice, Stewart completes first laps of 2016
Load comments
Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI Prime

Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI

In a career that has had many ups and downs, Kurt Busch has been written off many times before. But facing career uncertainty after the sale of Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team, the 2004 Cup champion has found a new berth at Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan's 23XI organization - which underlines his enduring value

NASCAR Cup
Aug 31, 2021
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021
Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption Prime

Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a chance of redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Effectively replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith...

NASCAR Cup
Feb 11, 2021
Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon Prime

Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Roger Penske reveals the inner drive that has made him not only a hugely successful team owner and businessman but also the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. He spoke to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Dec 28, 2020
Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started Prime

Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started

Chase Elliott's late charge to the 2020 NASCAR Cup title defied predictions that it would be a Kevin Harvick versus Denny Hamlin showdown. While the two veterans are showing no signs of slowing down, Elliott's triumph was a window into NASCAR's future…

NASCAR Cup
Nov 18, 2020