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Logano learning from first time in Chase

October 22, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com

Logano focused on building season-long consistency

RELATED: Full Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Joey Logano headed into his first Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup feeling good about his team and his chances.

Six weeks into NASCAR's championship-determining playoff, he still feels good about his team. His chances, however, have had to be re-evaluated.

Twelfth in the points standings, Logano is one of several Chase drivers trying to put together a strong run in the season's final four races, the title all but officially out of reach.

"The Chase has been kind of an example of what our year has been," the Penske Racing driver said Tuesday during an appearance at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte. "We’ve had some top-five finishes (and) we've had our issues. But it's not over yet and I'm still positive; the whole team is still positive."

Logano, 23, had one of the strongest stretch runs of any competitor leading into this year's Chase, stringing together six consecutive top-10 finishes, including a win at Michigan, before a stumble at Richmond.

An engine issue in the Chase opener at Chicago and mediocre results in three of the next five races, have kept Penske Racing's No. 22 team – led by crew chief Todd Gordon - stuck in the back of the Chase pack.

Every team in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series has issues from time to time. Those who contend for the title have fewer and bounce back quickly when such incidents do arise.

Such consistency hasn't gone unnoticed by Logano. 

"I know it’s really hard to make up points when you have a bad race because these guys running for the championship that are first, second, third and fourth right now, they don’t have any bad races," he said. "They’ve been really ripping it through this whole Chase, so it’s hard to make up on those guys when you have an engine failure or you have a bad race.

"It’s hard to recover, so those little mistakes and where we need to fine-tune is where we need to be better to be that championship-winning team, but we’re not far from it right now.”

If there's any silver lining inside the team's struggles, it's that they haven't occurred in the same areas. "A couple that were probably similar," he said, "but we've learned from that.

"We can run six races together very well, (we) can't put 10 of them together very well. That's where we have to take a step back at the end of the season and really diagnose each issue that has happened. Not that we haven't already but just go a little more in-depth. We'll have a few months really think about it all and see what each problem was and … learn from it. Figure out which department it is – driver, crew chief, all of us, building the cars, whatever. Make sure we have good notes … and have that consistency."

Until then, the focus is on the final four races, beginning with this weekend's Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 Powered by Kroger at Martinsville, Va.

Logano has managed only a pair of top-10 finishes in nine career starts on the 0.526-mile track, both coming in 2010 while he was still at Joe Gibbs Racing. He finished 23rd there earlier this year.

"It is a challenge to keep your brakes, keep your tires underneath you," he said of racing 500 laps at Martinsville. "The place is a finesse track. You've got to be able to get your car straight, try to launch nice and easy because eventually you want to be able to put the gas pedal down all the way once your tires wear out enough.

"You can't stop and you can't go. So that's what we've got to look forward to this weekend."

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