Logano sending message with Michigan performance
August 17, 2014, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
RELATED: Complete race results
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Joey Logano was as upbeat as he could manage Sunday after leading the most laps and coming up just short of Victory Lane at Michigan International Speedway.
Logano possessed perhaps the only car capable of competing on even footing with eventual Pure Michigan 400 winner Jeff Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet. Though his missteps on the race's final restart left him lowest on the podium, he said the third-place effort still sent a strong message.
"That we can win a championship," Logano said. "I really feel we can do that. That's the message I want to put out there; I want to put out for my team that we're strong enough to do that. I think we showed that today. We've got to find a little bit more speed to keep up with one car today. (The) 24 car was the best, only because he was good on the long run. We weren't as good on the long run."
"Yeah, we're close. You know, we've still got to keep working hard. We've got to find that next level here, in three weeks now, to be this strong in the Chase. But right now we're in the hunt. We're doing what we've got to do."
Logano started the day second alongside Gordon, the Coors Light Pole Award winner, and promptly led the first 21 laps. From there, his Team Penske No. 22 Ford was a fixture at or near the front, staying first on the scoreboard until Gordon got the better of him on the race's last restart.
Logano inched ahead at the final drop of the green, but Gordon pulled even and then clear of Logano through Turns 1 and 2 to lead the 184th of 200 laps. But the following lap, Logano made another bid for the top spot by driving to the low side in close proximity to Gordon's car, surprising the four-time Sprint Cup champ.
"I thought it was over," Gordon said. "We got the lead, it's over. But his car is so strong. The way the front end turned into the corner the first few laps, that's why he pulled away from me so much on restarts when he was out front. When he was behind me, he just drove in there and it stuck. Mine just didn't. I couldn't drive in as deep as he could. He got to my left rear and got me loose. That's when he got underneath me. I thought it was over, I really did."
But Logano lost momentum, allowing Gordon to roar away and lead the final 17 laps of his 91st career win. His stalled progress allowed eventual runner-up Kevin Harvick to scoot past and let Paul Menard race up to third place. Logano eventually grabbed third back from Menard with a side-by-side contest for the spot on the final lap.
"I won every single restart," Logano said. "I was on the front row except the last one, so here I am. It's kind of frustrating."
The succession of late-race restarts that preceded the final go sparked some tension between Logano and Gordon, with each driver filing complaints with their crews about the gamesmanship involved. Logano asked his crew to mention the issue to NASCAR, but said afterward that he'd like either a reminder or clarification about restart procedures.
"I mean, the rule is you're not supposed to lay back. They tell us in the driver's meeting every week and he's two car-lengths behind me and then they get mad at me for brake-checking," Logano said with a laugh. "Well, of course I'm going to slow down because I don't want him to be two car-lengths behind me and get a huge run. I'm going to talk to NASCAR and figure out what the actual rule is, what we're supposed to do because I think we're both confused. I feel like he knows why I slowed down, but just got to figure out what the rules are."
Said Gordon, who lamented the small size of the restart box at most tracks: "As the leader, the other cars around you can anticipate when you're going to take off. So Joey, as we rolled up to some of the restarts, as guys were starting to anticipate it, he was slowing down. When he slowed down, everybody got bottled up. NASCAR warned him about it.
"The last one, I thought he had a good start. But I had a good one, too."
The effort continued a steady stream of solid performances for Logano, who carries finishes of fifth, third, sixth and third again this week into Saturday night's race at Bristol Motor Speedway. That four-race swing has helped Logano, a two-time winner this year with his postseason berth in hand, climb from ninth to fourth in the Sprint Cup standings.
Though the single-digit finishes have marked a pleasant trend for the sixth-year driver, Logano said filling up the win column was what prompted him to race Gordon so hard near the finish.
"I said this after Pocono, finished third. I said it doesn't matter because wins are the only thing that matters right now," Logano said. "Yes, we like the momentum. That's a good thing to go into the Chase with the momentum we got. A lot of top-five, top-10 finishes. Moves us up in the points, but doesn't matter unless you have wins."