10 laps is all that separated Joey Logano from his first Sprint Cup championship. One move to the inside on a restart gave him the inside track on that title.
One accident, seconds later left him and championship contender Carl Edwards pondering what might have been.
Logano, restarting third, made a move on Edwards, who forced the No. 22 all the way down the racetrack. Both men run out of room and made contact, ultimately ending the No. 19 team’s chances as he spun into the inside barricade.
For a moment, it looked like the No. 22 car still had a shot. Todd Gordon called Logano to pit road after receiving damage to the right front fender. Putting on fresh rubber, the crew pulled the fender away from the tire and on the restart he charged from eighth to third, passing championship eligible driver Kyle Busch before Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. spun to the inside wall.
That caused NASCAR Overtime, leaving Logano just one row from Jimmie Johnson. But on the restart, the No. 48 car took off, outlasting Logano to win the Sprint Cup a record-tying seventh time.
“It sucks being that close to the championship and then not getting it,” Logano said post-race. “The last restart, I was hoping to get Jimmie, I just timed it a little bit wrong. I hit him right at the start/finish line, but didn’t get the chance to get underneath him, I lost some time there. The championship means so much and nobody cares about second place.”
Finishing fourth in the race, second in the championship improved on Logano’s effort from his championship race in 2014 when he finished last out of the Championship 4. But it’s clear the outcome could have been much better if not for the contact that ruined his chance to pass the No. 19 clean.
Looking back on the restart with Edwards, Logano claimed he wouldn’t have changed a thing.
“I made the move earlier in the race on a couple other cars,” he said. “I had to do it because it’s the championship. I had a run and it was my opportunity to go to the bottom and get him. He has to defend his spot, I don’t blame him and unfortunately we lost a bunch of spots. We ultimately probably cost each other’s championships. It is what it is.”
Logano admitted that following the incident with Edwards, he wouldn’t have made the call to pit and take on four fresh tires. Normally, the stickers wouldn’t have benefited the No. 22 team even at a track that wears tires as much as Homestead-Miami Speedway, but he was determined to get back track position.
On the restart, Logano gained five spots in a half-lap with the sticker tires. Crew chief Todd Gordon wanted to give his driver a shot and thought the right decision was to pit.
“If you give that kid get an opportunity with a late-race restart, that kid gets it done,” Gordon said. “He is a phenomenal talent and he’s a closer. As we’ve done all along, we play offense. We put him in a position where he can make moves. We had some damage and I think the red flag did help to understand what damage we have. We weren’t going to win the race from ninth and we wanted to win.”
Ultimately, winning the championship included winning the race for third straight year that this Chase format has been in play. Logano led six laps on Sunday, but didn’t get to the pinnacle of NASCAR, the Cup Series title.
Though he believes the incident with Edwards cost him the chance at the title, Gordon and he earned respect for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver for taking blame for the incident.
During the 31-minute red flag, Edwards walked from his wrecked vehicle to the No. 22 pit box to talk to Gordon.
“That’s a stand-up, hard-nosed racer,” Gordon said of Edwards. “He came up, shook my hand and said ‘that’s hard racing, I didn’t realize he was that far inside of me.’ That’s just a stand up guy. I don’t think there are many guys that would do that. ”
“Carl is a hard racer and he knows what we are racing for,” Logano said. “I would like to talk to him personally because I think it’s cool that he understands it hurt both of us. It wasn’t like I was trying to spin him out, I was underneath him and he chased me down the racetrack.”
Ending his season in disappointment, Logano recorded three victories in 2016, 16 top-5 finishes and 26 top 10s, leading 703 laps. It marks the third straight season that he won at least two races during the 10-week Chase.
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.