If Joey Logano is to go on to win his second NASCAR Cup Series championship in 2021, it will be because of the never-say-quit type of attitude he and his No. 22 Team Penske team displayed in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at his home track — New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Logano was in trouble early as during a red-flag for rain, it was discovered that a piece of tire rubber was lodged in the throttle body of his Ford Mustang, which was causing the accelerator to stay hung open — less than ideal anywhere, but especially so at New Hampshire, a track that had two fatal crashes in the year 2000 for stuck throttles.
Under the red flag period, a crew member opened a hood flap and seemingly reached in to pull out the obstruction.
Caught on camera.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) July 18, 2021
There’s only one problem: Conducting work on cars under the red flag, is a big no-no. As a result, NASCAR penalized Logano two laps.
However, according to Logano after the race, the crew member did not work on the car, he was simply checking to see if he could assess what was causing the throttle issue.
“A straight kick to the gut to start the race with a piece of rubber getting in the linkage, the throttle linkage, and not letting me get wide-open,” Logano explained. “All we did was take a picture under the red flag, underneath the hood to see what was under there. We took a picture with a camera phone and they gave us a two-lap penalty for that. I understand the rules are the rules, but it’s also a safety factor and the last thing you want is a throttle to stick and get hurt. I don’t know. Hindsight is 20/20, but you would never know what it was if you didn’t take a picture, but it still had the piece of rubber in it. It’s frustrating.”
With a two lap deficit, it seemed like Logano’s potentially race-winning day was done, but at the expense of not sailing off into the turn without being able to slow down, it was a good move for the No. 22 team regardless.
But then the Connecticut-native began his rally.
On lap 33, Logano got one of his two laps back as the caution came out for a crash with Bubba Wallace and Anthony Alfredo. It seemed like a forgone conclusion that Logano would rejoin the lead lap on the next caution.
However, things weren’t that easy as the race would go into a sustained green flag run.
At the Stage 1 break, it was BJ McLeod that got the free pass, while Logano stayed mired in 30th-place.
The good news for Logano was that his Team Penske group brought great cars to the track as Ryan Blaney won Stage 1 with Brad Keselowski finishing runner-up. Logano says these three cars were the best cars Team Penske has had all year long.
“Yeah, I’d say so,” Logano said when asked about if the cars were the best they’ve had in 2021. ” Probably the best car I’ve had all season and when you see other teammates up there battling for the lead at one point you feel like we brought some good stuff. This has been a good track for us. Brad has been really good here in the past and I think we all probably learned a lot from him and his style here that’s made us all competitive.”
Knowing he had a good car, and that he was so close to turning a good day, turned bad, back into a good day, Logano kept his head down and kept working.
At lap 129, Ryan Newman sent Quin Houff for a spin to bring out the yellow. Was Logano in position to get back on the lead lap, yet? No.
Chase Briscoe had a hold on the free pass position at the time of caution.
Under this caution, Logano pitted for four tires and he got a track bar adjustment to get his car more to his liking. The adjustments worked.
On lap 140, Logano finally got himself un-lapped when Chris Buescher and Bubba Wallace went for a spin. From here, it was game on for the Logano and his crew chief Paul Wolfe.
The Autotrader.com Mustang began to knife it’s way through the field. By the end of Stage 2, Logano had worked his way methodically to 15th, and it looked like he could possibly become a contender again in the final Stage.
On a restart with 109 laps to go, Logano made the move to work his way back inside the top-10. From there, it was a slow and steady climb up the scoring pylon.
As Aric Almirola battled Blaney and Keselowski for the win, Logano continued to make pass after pass after pass. It looked like perhaps he could have finished inside the top-three, but NASCAR cut the race short by eight laps due to darkness.
“I don’t know if eight laps is gonna change anything,” Logano explained of the dark conditions. “Maybe. Maybe I could have caught the 2 and got another spot. I was able to catch him quite a bit there. I didn’t know what was going on for the lead. I don’t know if it was close or not, but it was getting dark. I don’t know. I wasn’t in the lead, so I would say keep racing. I’d still say keep racing because I’m not in the lead.”
Despite the disappointment of the race coming to an end early, by the time he crossed the finish line, Logano and his team were rewarded handsomely for their recovery efforts in the form of a fourth-place finish.
While it was a good finish, after being trapped two laps down early in the race, Logano still walked away frustrated that a potential win at his home track slipped away.
“We had a really fast Autotrader Mustang,” Logano anguished. “When you come to your home track all you want to do is win.”
Logano continued by saying, “We got a good finish out of it, but it’s frustrating when you’re at your home track and you feel like you could have got a win out of it, out of a safety issue that we got a penalty for.”