Logano: “We don’t have any mulligans left at this point”

By Cole Cusumano, Staff Writer

MADISON, Ill. – Joey Logano has yet again asserted himself as one of the drivers to beat in the NASCAR Cup Series’ return to World Wide Technology Raceway. The two-time champion began the weekend festivities atop the scoring pylon following practice, which is where he’ll need to be at the conclusion of Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 if he wants to turn his season around.

In 2022, Logano etched his name in the history books by becoming the first winner in Cup at Gateway. Last year, he finished third. This time around, a top-five finish for the driver of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford seemed unrealistic entering the weekend, but now should be the expectation for the 240-lap event.

Following a 30-minute practice session, Logano paced his competition by laying down a  series-best 138.024 mile-per-hour (32.603-second) lap around the 1.25-mile track, while also posting the best 10-lap average.

“I like this track,” Logano said. “It’s one of our strongest the last two times we’ve been here. I feel like we should have a good shot, but every year is different. 

“Our team excels at tracks where you have to keep your foot on the gas pedal,” Logano added. “Here, there’s just a lot of speed variance from the end of the straightaway into [Turn] 1 and rear in Turn 2. You’re on the brakes hard and it’s a long track. 

“I still call it a short track, because you got to use the brakes and you got to do different things. You don’t drive it like a mile-and-a-half. You drive it like a short track, you know, like a Loudon or a Richmond (Raceway).”

In what’s been a struggle-filled season overall for the two-time champion, it appears the No. 22 team may be hitting their stride.

Two weeks ago, Logano finally got back to victory lane, albeit in the non-points paying fashion with the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Most recently, he placed 14th in the rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600, which was actually his first top-15 finish since Texas Motor Speedway in the ninth race of the season.

Additionally, through 14 starts, Logano only has three top-10s, his last coming all the way back in April at Martinsville Speedway. 

The silver lining for Logano is he has shown speed this season in the form of two poles and a runner-up at Richmond – a track he cited as being similar to WWT Raceway – on top of the exhibition win.

Even more encouraging is the fact Ford as a whole has turned it on as of late, after Logano’s former teammate Brad Keselowski brough the blue ovals their first win on the season at Darlington Raceway, followed by the aforementioned All-Star Race.

On top of Logano’s speed in practice at Gateway, Ford swept the front row for the Enjoy Illinois 300 with Michael McDowell tying for his series-best third pole of the season and Austin Cindric of Team Penske starting beside him.

Unfortunately, speed alone doesn’t merit enough to be rewarded in Logano’s case. With 12 races until the postseason, he sits 17th in the standings, fully aware he’ll have to start racking up good results, or else they could be in trouble.

At any rate, the No. 22 appears sporty for Sunday’s contest at Gateway, where he’ll roll off 12th. He also has a set of good tracks coming up for him with Sonoma Raceway, Iowa Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Nashville Superspeedway to close out June.

“The schedule the next four weeks or so lines up to be pretty good for the No. 22,” Logano said. “We just got to capitalize on that, right? We don’t have any mulligans left at this point. Where we are in points, we need to get up in points, get all the points we possibly can and win a race, if possible.”

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