RICHMOND, Va. — Joey Logano took command after Stage 1 on Sunday at Richmond Raceway, dominating for 222 laps. But, as clouds rolled in and temperatures dropped, Logano lost handling of his car and finished sixth in the Federated Auto Parts 400.
“We got a stage win and playoff points and that is something to be proud of,” Logano told USA Network after the race. “It stinks when you say we led 222 laps but not the right one.”
Logano started the race back in 17th but clawed his way up to seventh at the end of the 70-lap Stage 1. On the impending restart, Logano passed Ross Chastain for the lead on Lap 80 to begin his dominant stretch.
Logano cruised to a Stage 2 victory and only surrendered the lead during pit cycles up until 70 laps to go. But, as the weather changed, so did Logano. Kevin Harvick closed in and snatched the lead on Lap 333 as Logano tightened up.
Harvick led for seven laps before making his final stop of the race with 60 laps to go. He re-took the lead on Lap 353 after Hamlin pitted and held on to win his second consecutive race.
Meanwhile, Logano could never recover and dropped to sixth place.
“As the sun went down and the track cooled off and lost some turn on our car,” Logano said. “[Harvick] and some others got a lot better the last couple of runs in the race. When it was hot and slick that was probably our strength with the Shell Pennzoil Mustang. We had good turn and then once it cooled off we lost the turn but still weren’t real good on the exits. Then you start playing defense and running too hard.
“I was hoping for a late race caution. That was our only prayer at the end there.”
Logano continued his strong stretch of races, which he kicked off with a sixth-place finish at the Indianapolis Road Course. Last week at Michigan, he lined up third on the final restart but finished fourth after losing pace on a long run.
With two races remaining in the regular season, Logano sits sixth in driver’s points and safely in the playoffs with two victories. His 45 points earned at Richmond, as well as his playoff point, helped pad his cushion before the September 4 playoff opener at Darlington Raceway.
“We are executing really well throughout the race and able to get something out of a race when we don’t have a fast enough car,” Logano said. “We need these ones to be race wins instead of just stage wins but I feel like we are starting to come into our own here and getting a little more solid and situated more in the top five than we have been. I am proud of that. We just have to keep that going.”
Up next, the Cup Series heads to Watkins Glen International for the Go Bowling at The Glen. The race is scheduled for Sunday, August 21 at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network. Logano won the event in 2015.