Tampa Bay Sports Day

NASCAR Notebook: Logano Elated by Third-Place Finish at Michigan

By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service –
BROOKLYN, Mich. — Far from being disappointed with his third-place finish in Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Joey Logano was positively beaming when he walked into the media center to answer questions after the race.

The reason? After a series of calamities and ill-handling cars over the past month or so, Logano was simply looking for a trouble-free race. On Sunday, he got it — and then some.

After a restart with five laps left, Logano traded paint with Denny Hamlin to secure the third spot and felt fortunate to get it.

“We made the most possible out of our car,” Logano said. “The only way we were going to do better is something crazy happening in front of me and sneak by to get the lead. That was the only way I was going to do it.

“We had a 10th-place car. We finished third with it. Proud of that. We had a rough month and a half. We stopped the bleeding today. I’m proud of that, as well. You know, you’re right, it’s not a win. But all things considered, over the last month or so, it feels really nice just to stop the bleeding.”

The third-place finish boosted Logano to 10th in the series standings, 242 points behind series leader and Michigan winner Kyle Larson. Logano has one victory this season, at Richmond, but it doesn’t count toward qualification for the playoffs because it’s an encumbered win (accompanied by penalty).

But Sunday’s result was the next best thing to a trip to Victory Lane.

“It feels great,” Logano said. “You have no idea how good this feels. It feels like a win.”

If Logano had won the race, he would have made an announcement in the winner’s circle. As it turned out, he had to resort to Twitter to inform the racing community of an upcoming blessed event.

“Wanted to announce this in Victory Lane,” Logano tweeted. “Thrilled to say (wife) Brittany and I are expecting a Little Logano on 1/11/18.”

For much of Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Martin Truex Jr. appeared likely to sweep the proceedings.

He won the first two 60-lap stages, and he likely had the strongest car in the race. Unfortunately, Truex lined up fifth, fifth, ninth and seventh for the final four restarts of the race — all in the bottom lane where grip through Turns 1 and 2 was almost impossible to find.

“We had the best car out there without a doubt,” Truex said. “Just inside lane restarts at the end killed us, so it just stinks when you have to race like that, you know? You get just in a bad spot, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

“We saw it the last couple restarts, so just wrong place. Probably should have took two tires that last time we pitted — we took four. That killed us. Just wrong lane on the restart every single time all day long and couldn’t use the best car to win.”

Truex led 62 laps, second only to race winner Kyle Larson’s 96, but finished sixth and lost the series lead to Larson by five points.

Denny Hamlin feels his fortunes are on an upswing, and he had reason for optimism even before he took the green flag in the FireKeepers Casino 400.

On Saturday afternoon, Hamlin outdueled William Byron in a side-by-side race to the finish line to take home the trophy from the Irish Hills 250 NASCAR XFINITY Series race.

On Sunday, he backed that up with a satisfying fourth-place run in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event at the two-mile track.

Hamlin was 10th for a restart on Lap 155 of 200 but worked his way forward over the final 45 laps, which were punctuated by three additional cautions.

“Really good car,” Hamlin acknowledged after the race. “Everything we needed to do we did. Had one little hiccup on pit road, but for the most part, we ran really well all day, had good speed in our Camry and pretty happy.”

The result was Hamlin’s second-best result of the season, eclipsed only by his third-place run at Richmond in late April. More important, Hamlin believes he is close to getting his first win of the season — and the first victory for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “I mean, you keep battling in the top five and eventually you’ll have your chance.