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Logano Seeks Redemption at Phoenix, Starts 16th

Joey Logano hopes for a much better race at Phoenix compared to last Sunday's Las Vegas struggles. (Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

Joey Logano hopes for a much better race at Phoenix compared to last Sunday’s Las Vegas struggles. (Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

AVONDALE, Ariz. – The West Coast Swing has been a bit perplexing for Joey Logano and his No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford Mustang team.

Prior to Sunday’s United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Logano has finishes of second at the season opener at Daytona, 10th at Fontana and 36th last Sunday at Las Vegas.

The shaky, inconsistent start has dropped the two-time and reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion from the points lead after the Daytona 500 to eighth entering the fourth round of the 2023 season.

Last Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 was a maddening experience for the 32-year-old Middletown, Connecticut native, particularly with winning the pole at the 1.5-mile track outside of Las Vegas. Dropping outside of the top 10 in the just past the halfway point of the race, Logano was on the receiving end of a three wide battle off Turn 4, hitting the SAFER barrier and spinning into the frontstretch grass on Lap 184.

Logano wound up placing 36th, tallying a single point for his forgettable Las Vegas race weekend.

Presently, the three-time Phoenix winner looks for a much better experience at the 1-mile, D-shaped speedway just 30 miles to the Southwest of its namesake city. Along with netting a strong result or victory, it is about adapting to a lower downforce aerodynamic package implemented by NASCAR following a preseason test session.

“The ultimate goal with changing aero packages is trying to make racing better at the short tracks,” Logano said. “I was here as part of the test and I will say that of all the things we tried at the test, this is the best direction. It was something that honestly wasn’t even on the cars to try while we were here.

“We kept cutting the spoiler off of it and a few of the drivers were like, ‘Why don’t we just take all the Lexan off of it? Let’s try that.’ It kept going in the right direction as we were doing that. That is kind of how we ended up in this place now.”

Logano hope to find his car's quick pace from Friday's 50-minute practice session. (Photo: Michael Donohue | The Podium Finish)

Logano hope to find his car’s quick pace from Friday’s 50-minute practice session. (Photo: Michael Donohue | The Podium Finish)

If the passing opportunities will improve for Sunday’s race, that may bode well for Logano and his Team Penske crew. In Friday’s practice session, Logano posted the fourth fastest time and third quickest in a 10-lap run.

However, Logano qualified a middling 16th, a somewhat surprising result for the veteran racer. Then again, it may result in a fun start to the 312-lap race, particularly if Logano can rediscover his car’s quick pace in a one lap and short run effort.”

“The car is just going to drive worse, no matter how much you work on it, it is not going to drive as good as it did last fall,” he said. There is no downforce on the car in comparison. To me, it felt a lot more like the old cars did where you are sliding the back a little more into the corners and fighting a little more the loose in, tight center, loose off.

“It seems like it has more of that, which makes sense. There is less downforce so the car is going to be crappier to drive. As long as everyone else’s car does that, it is good racing. You don’t wanna be the only one like that but I am pretty sure everyone was hanging on a lot more than what they were.”

It would be foolish to count Logano out of the picture at Phoenix Raceway. (Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

It would be foolish to count Logano out of the picture at Phoenix Raceway. (Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

In spite of the 16th place starting effort, Logano, who won last year’s season finale en route to his second championship, looks forward to tackling these challenging changes implemented by NASCAR.

“I think as the team adapts very quickly, I think we are able to have a lot of different discussions around things,” Logano said. “Even during the race, we can adapt as we see things.

“The racing will be different, so as far as on the track, Coleman and myself will be dissecting that as the race goes and where we want to be on restarts and picking lanes. As far as the car setup and stuff, Paul (Wolfe) works on the car and Penske in general. For whatever reason, change has been good for us.”

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He 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, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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