While it was surprising on the part of both drivers that neither had made it to Victory Lane, Logano’s winless season was arguably the most unfathomable considering he had a series-high six victories in 2015.
However, there was no doubt that Logano was going to win a race eventually. The No. 22 team led 131 laps prior to Sunday’s race in Michigan (in nine of the first 14 races of the season) and had five top-5 finishes. They won the non-points All-Star race, and their teammate Brad Keselowski had already been to Victory Lane, twice. It was doubtful that this team was going to go winless.
Logano won in dominating fashion on Sunday, leading 138 of the 200 laps, with a .889 margin of victory over second-place Chase Elliott.
“What a great race car,” Logano said post-race. “To win here in Roger [Penske’s, team owner] back yard and Ford’s back yard, this is always a big win for us here. We appreciate the great car. What a crazy race with the low downforce and with more cautions and more opportunity to screw up, pretty much. What a fun race, racing with Chase [Elliott] and Kyle Larson. It is fun to see the young guys up there racing. I am not alone up there as a young guy anymore. I have guys up there younger than me racing for a win.”
Larson finished third, making the average age of the top three drivers a record 23.
This race was the first of two where NASCAR is implementing a lower downforce package – meaning lower than the current low downforce package that NASCAR implemented for the whole season.
The 26-year-old’s driving style obviously fits well with this type of package, but admitted that he had his own challenges to deal with during the race.
“You know, I went down into turn one the first lap, and I thought I was King Kong,” Logano said. “I drove down in there and about crashed. That didn’t work out so well. So I learned a lot from that one.”
That was just one example of the Michigan aero package’s tendency to make drivers feel like they were right on the edge of losing control of their racecars.
“You know, it’s just the cars are out of control,” Logano continued. “No doubt, they are out of control crazy, and it makes it a lot of fun, but you’ve got to think if you’re in that pack a little bit, you’re going faster down the straightaways, you’re getting a huge draft when cars are side-by-side in front of you, and you have no downforce at all, and especially when you’re three wide and your angles are off going into the corner and you’re trying to clear them, everyone is racing hard.
“It’s a recipe for disaster for sure, but I haven’t re-watched it and haven’t seen much, but I thought the race was I think pretty good. There was a lot of natural cautions out there and a lot of things that happened, and I think that’s a good sign. Without watching it, I know it’s better than the package we ran here last time, so I’m excited about that.”
Drivers have been pushing for NASCAR to continue moving in this direction, despite the fact that Logano (and many others post-race) constantly described the cars as difficult to handle and on the ragged edge.
But that doesn’t make sense, right? Why do these drivers want to drive a car that they have trouble controlling?
“I don’t know how smart we are (laughing),” Logano said. “You know, I think that thrill, the adrenaline that you get by controlling something that’s out of control. A lot of times being right on that edge of backing it in the fence when we’ve seen it happening in qualifying and you’re just right on that edge. I remember after qualifying I was walking into the media center here and I was signing an autograph and my hand was shaking. I couldn’t even write my name. That’s cool. That’s how on edge you have to be to go fast, and it was like that for 400 miles today, you know, that you’re just right on that ragged edge, and that’s awesome. We don’t want to — I don’t want to drive slow. That ain’t no fun. That’s the sport part of this. It should be a challenge. It should be on the edge. It shouldn’t be easy, and at this level it definitely isn’t.”
While Logano is far from the only driver who feels this way, you certainly have to think that if NASCAR continues in this direction (and they have said that they will), the No. 22 team will continue to threaten for the win week to week.