MARTINSVILLE, Va. – The driver-crew chief debrief for Joey Logano and Paul Wolfe after Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race first involved a shrug and then some hand motions.
The shrug belonged to Wolfe, who managed a sheepish grin for his driver after the team’s near-miss in overtime at Martinsville Speedway. The hand motions were all Logano, who illustrated the bumper-to-bumper nature of his late-race contest with William Byron.
Logano struck the slight tone of regret after Saturday’s Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400, his No. 22 Team Penske Ford winding up in second place to Byron’s No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. He’d applied pressure to Byron during the two-lap dash to the end, but he was direct when asked if he wished he’d delivered a slightly harder bump.
“Yeah. Yeah, I do,” Logano said, laughing. “You gotta punt them a little bit harder with this car, it seems like. But it was all I could do to get to him. That was kind of the tough part was that his car was superior to mine into the corner for sure. That’s where the Hendrick cars have been strong all year; they get into the corner harder than anybody. So it was all I can do to get to him. So getting to him and bumping him and me trying to make the turn, it’s just all too much, and I couldn’t quite get it done.”
Byron led 212 of the 403 laps. Logano led none, but he was in the neighborhood to shake up the scoring pylon when Todd Gilliland’s Lap 394 wall impact sent the event into overtime. At the time of the caution period, Logano ran third behind Byron and second-place Austin Dillon. When Dillon chose the bottom lane behind Byron for the restart, Logano opted for the outside groove to jump up to the front row.
Logano cleared Dillon through the first set of corners, then zeroed in on Byron. But Byron countered by stalling Logano’s momentum shortly after the white flag flew, then scooted away to seal the checkers by just a couple of car-lengths.
“He messed up off of (Turn) 4, coming to take the white (flag),” Logano said. “I thought, ‘OK, here’s my chance,’ and went into (Turn) 1 on the white-flag lap and got to him and tried to root him up a little bit. I did but not quite enough, and then he kind of was able to turn back down and really just stopped me at two-thirds. We were going to the gas, he hit the brakes, and it just checked me up big, which is the right move. He brake-checked the heck out of me, and he should have, and it worked for him.”
Logano had methodically moved up after starting 14th in the 36-car field, and the runner-up result marked his best points-paying finish of the season after his victory in the season-opening Clash exhibition in Los Angeles. It also helped the No. 22 team turn the tide after finishes of 31st (Circuit of The Americas) and 17th (Richmond Raceway) the previous two weeks.
“Hey, we had a shot at it,” Wolfe told NASCAR.com. “Honestly … from how we unloaded yesterday, it was very small change. So proud of that, that we were able to put together a setup. It’s hard when you come here and talk about 20 minutes of practice. Really, you’re pretty limited on what you can change, so hats off to all the guys for putting their heads together and being able to put together a nice package that we were able to just tune our balance a little bit in practice and have a shot to win.
“I think overall, we’ve done a fair job of that. I mean, I can’t say that we’ve had quite as much speed as the Chevys probably, but I think the 12 (Ryan Blaney) and the 22 have been solid cars every week. Now it’s just trying to find a little more speed. But we’re learning a lot every week, and another new style track. We keep learning and have something good to build off of.”