Unsurprisingly, all four Joe Gibbs Racing cars have advanced to the Round of 8 in the Chase. In the last couple of weeks, however, Chevrolets have shut out the Toyotas and come on strong as a force to be reckoned with.
Now, Ford has shown their hand as well.
After winning six times last year, Joey Logano had only one win after 31 races in 2016. Granted he had 12 top-five finishes and 22 top 10s as well, but the speed and dominance that was so prevalent last season wasn’t really showing this season.
Then, Logano went out and won Talladega while his Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski was easily the fastest car before his engine expired. Suddenly, the Fords are the team to beat.
Granted, Talladega is a restrictor plate track and Sunday was the last superspeedway race of the season, but as Logano pointed out, this was hardly a fluke win.
“I feel like this team’s got a lot of momentum,” Logano said post-race. “I think we had a lot of momentum at this point last year. I think we’ve got an equal amount if you look at it. Charlotte, yeah, we had a tire go out, but we had a fast race car there. We finished third last weekend and a win this weekend.
“We’re going to a racetrack that we’ve proven we’ve had speed there, haven’t won there yet, but speed that’s capable of winning. I feel good about our chances. I feel good about where we’re at in this thing to be able to move on. Yeah, we got speed, we got momentum, we got confidence, so let’s go.”
Keselowski’s chances ended with the blown engine, but Logano’s win advanced him to the Round of 8, the last round before the Championship 4 is determined. Additionally, the elimination of Martin Truex, Jr. helped the cause for those who were able to advance. So who isn’t to say that Logano has as good of a chance as any?
“I feel like I’m better today than I was yesterday,” Logano said. “I feel like I should be. That’s the only way you become better and the only way you stay successful because you’ll get caught up and passed before you know it.”
Now, that’s not to say Logano is the favorite. Yes there certainly were other circumstances at play, but the fact that the No. 22 team is the only Ford who has made it this far – and there weren’t very many in the Chase to begin with – says that they certainly will have to improve upon what they have already been able to do, and fast.
Thankfully, Logano feels as though that’s a strength the current team already possesses.
“Brad and I have always been great teammates,” Logano continued. “We work really well together. The two teams work well together. We’ve shown that at speedways, here at Talladega, before. I think that model will keep being shown throughout the next few races, and trying to push through to get Roger a second championship.”
Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and the JGR camp will certainly be tough to beat. But if momentum has anything to do with the championship, this No. 22 arguably does have that going for them with only a handful of races left in the season.