Connect with us

NASCAR Cup Series

Joey Logano Scores Las Vegas Pole Again

Joey Logano hopes this year’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas is a lot nicer as he starts from the pole again. (Photo: Erik Smith | The Podium Finish)

LAS VEGAS — Joey Logano has to feel like Phil Connors from Groundhog Day when it comes to his race days in 2024.

On one hand, the 33-year-old Middletown, Connecticut native has been a qualifying expert, scoring two poles and a second. Regardless of the glove situation at Atlanta, the two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has been a total expert speedster.

Once race day arrives, the Team Penske driver has been fast but collected in wrecks. After the season’s first two races at Daytona and Atlanta, he only has 18 points to his name, ranked 31st, heading into Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

It would seem the usually amiable racer has hit the snark button after his tumultuous start to the year. Then again, it may be understandable if the well mannered driver offered some sarcasm with his chances this year to be a championship contender.

“I’ve got plenty of motivation, really ever since you said I wasn’t gonna make the Playoffs this year,” Logano said in his trademark wit. “I’ve had plenty of motivation, so I’m in a good place.”

Typically, drivers like Logano, particularly with the high stakes nature of NASCAR, find themselves in tricky, high risk situations. Immediately, the 17-year Cup veteran shot down such notion that he has to put himself in a compromising scenario, particularly with the glove situation at Atlanta.

“I personally did not. I would never have put myself in a situation where I feel unsafe,” he explained. “I have kids. I have a wife. I have a family that I care way more about than race cars, so, no, I didn’t feel concerned about what we did. I didn’t race with it. Qualifying on speedways is pretty simple.”

During Saturday’s on track session, Logano did not have a lot of short run pace, posting the 18th fastest time in the speed charts. However, he felt confident about his long run pace, tallying the 11th fastest time in a 10-lap consecutive run, even with how qualifying had its ebbs and flows.

If Joey Logano feels like Phil Connors from Groundhog Day, he hopes to avoid his fate from last year after scoring a second consecutive pole for the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas. (Photo: Myk Crawford | The Podium Finish)

“I didn’t expect it when I saw our short run speed in practice,” Logano said. “I was like, ‘This might not be where we need to be.’ We showed that we had great long run speed. Our second run we made an adjustment and went back out and was like, ‘Oh, wow. We’re really competitive. The car is driving pretty good.’ So I felt good about that, but our short run, like fire off, we weren’t real fast and we weren’t far up the board.

“And then we barely made it through the first round just by the skin of our teeth. And then being able to make some adjustments. I was proud of what Paul and the guys were able to do to make an adjustment with the car driving closer to perfect and for the second round and being able to put it up here. I really didn’t think after the first round we had a chance of putting it on the pole, so I’m proud of the adjustments that we made there.”

Although Logano starts on the pole for a second straight year at Las Vegas, he knows it does not automatically translate to success on race day. After all, last year, he started on the pole before crashing out and placing 36th, shotgun in the field.

Before Sunday’s race, Logano knows that he will work with crew chief Paul Wolfe and company to take off better from the start without compromising their car’s strength.

“We’ve got some work to do, for sure, but the first pit stall is nice,” he said. “Obviously, starting up front for the Pennzoil 400 in the Pennzoil Mustang is huge for our race team, so that makes dinner tonight a little bit easier for me, so that part is good and then we’ll fire off tomorrow and hopefully get a little bit more short run speed and we can make our long runs really good.”

Last year, all three OEMs presented updated cars after learning from the Next Gen’s debut season in 2022. Admittedly, the Ford Performance efforts were not as strong as they desired, particularly with Logano and Team Penske struggling to establish consistent, frontrunner results.

Clearly, the latest Ford stock car effort, the Mustang Dark Horse, is trimmed out efficiently for qualifying. Following two straight race weekends at drafting-style tracks, the real test begins on Sunday at the intermediate at Las Vegas.

“We’re still uncertain of what the new Mustang Dark Horse will be like,” Logano revealed. “It’s really challenging to unload at a track like Vegas with limited practice, where you can’t change many things. We can’t go throwing springs and stuff at this car and you’re going off of really not much physical notes with this car – some of what we had last year.

“The aero numbers are different with this car and you’re putting a lot of trust into what the wind tunnel numbers spit out, and how much of it is real and how much of it is fabricated or different. There’s a lot of what ifs between sim world wind tunnel world to reality. There are a lot of things that can be different, so it’s really hard to make those changes to your car and getting that balance right. It took us a couple runs, obviously, to do that. We still have a lot to learn with the car, but it’s a good start for sure.”

The usually humble and mild mannered Joey Logano reflected on his pole winning effort at Las Vegas. (Photo: Erik Smith | The Podium Finish)

As for that pole winning lap that bested Kyle Larson by 0.021 seconds, Logano could not simply point the credit to himself. Instead, he was his humble self and deflected such attribution for his 29th career pole.

“I’ve got to think it’s wind that made the difference because the first run I was pretty slow through one and two all the way through the corner,” he said. “So the only thing I could think of that changed for straightaway speed wasn’t our change by no means. It had to have been by the wind.

“Maybe I had a big gust that first run or something that held me back a little bit because it doesn’t seem to make sense. If we were really good through one and two on the second time. The first time we were horrible through there, you’re wide-open either way, so the only variable there is really the wind.”

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in NASCAR Cup Series