LAS VEGAS – The scoring rundown may be the same old scene for Joey Logano at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
However, the path toward a timely victory was not clear cut like the distinct base colors and logos adorning his No. 22 Pennzoil Ford Mustang. It was a smart, patient race with timely aggression when warranted by the 32-year-old Middletown, Connecticut native.
Logano entered Sunday’s South Point 400 with somewhat middling results from the Round of 12. Despite a strong runner up at Texas, he had some uncharacteristic results of 27th at Talladega and 18th at the Charlotte ROVAL.
Still, Logano’s consistency and wins at Darlington and Gateway were enough to net him a spot in the Round of 8.
Perhaps the 15-year NASCAR Cup Series veteran circled Sunday’s South Point 400 on his calendar given his strong track record at Las Vegas. With two wins, six top fives and 11 top 10s, the Team Penske racer had to feel as confident as Dale Jarrett during any Charlotte Motor Speedway during the late 1990s.
Moreover, the 2018 Cup champion earned a solid starting spot of fifth. Fittingly, this was the same starting position for Logano with his prior Las Vegas win (spring 2020).
In the early going at Las Vegas, Logano netted second place results in Stages 1 and 2. Immediately, the championship contender tallied 18 valuable stage points, or as gamers would say, life insurance, in case anything went awry in the Sin City.
As problems befell the likes of Bubba Wallace, Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney and Austin Cindric, Logano capitalized like the Boston Bruins’ “Perfection Line” scoring on a power play.
Namely, Logano took the lead on Lap 168, holding onto the top spot until Lap 196 when JJ Yeley spun off Turn 4, prompting the race’s fifth caution period.
With a series of late race cautions occuring on Laps 229, 241 and 247 for incidents around Turns 2 and 4, it prompted a series of different pit strategies in the name of maximum track position.
The race’s late yellow flag periods scrambled the running order with the likes of Martin Truex Jr., AJ Allmendinger and Austin Dillon emerging as players for top 10 results.
Surely, the lot of those running inside the top 10 considered the short ball game. This was not the case for Logano and crew chief Paul Wolfe as they cashed in on a long ball strategy.
Specifically, they opted for fresh tires to blitz past the late race contenders for the win.
Like in football, Logano and Wolfe’s game plan worked perfectly just as it was drawn up on the chalkboard.
Within the final 10 laps, Logano caught Ross Chastain, applying the pressure with his cunning and experienced knives sharpening for late race heroics.
Much like Robert Goren or Lennie Briscoe solving a crime with wits and smarts, Logano applied both qualities as he scooted past Chastain for the lead with three laps remaining.
On this occasion, similar to the June race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Logano captured the checkered flag in the closing moments.
After the customary burnout, including a vibrant smokeshow near the stripe, Logano clambered out of his winning ride, arms raised in victory before uttering a familiar phrase said by Tom Brady.
“We’re racing for a championship! Let’s go!” Logano exclaimed. “Man, what a great car. Penske cars were all fast. All of them were really fast today.
“Oh, man, all you want to do is get to the Championship 4 when the season starts and race for a championship, and we’ve got the team to do it. I don’t see why we can’t win at this point.”
A genuinely confident Logano is typically bad news for the competition as he appears to be channeling his 2018 season form, a memorable year for the pride of Connecticut.
Comebacks are not just probable, but instead, more of the norm for the still young but seasoned veteran.
“Things are looking really good for us, awesome Pennzoil Mustang, this bad boy, and man, just a lot of adversity fought through the last 50 laps or so,” he said. “I thought we were going to win and then we kind of fell out and then had the tires, and racing Ross was fun.”
Now, Logano does not have to worry about next Sunday’s race at Homestead (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) nor does he need to stress over Martinsville (Sunday, Oct. 30).
That said, he enjoyed the hard work and duel between himself and Chastain, applying his experience versus youthful urgency.
“He was doing a good job air-blocking me, and just trying to be patient, and eventually, I was like, I’ve got to go here,” he shared. “Just great to win out here in Vegas again, and it means so much getting to the championship.”
Stage 1 Top 10 Finishers
Stage 2 Top 10 Finishers
South Point 400 at Las Vegas Top 10 Finishers