Joey Logano qualified his No. 20 Home Depot / Red Beacon Toyota 14h for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway.
At the start of the event, Logano jumped to the inside and was able to make up a number of positions, getting into the top-10 just 12 laps into the race. However, the car began to get tight in the center of the corners, forcing Logano to wait on the throttle off the corner and dropping him back to 12th.
In the first 100 laps, Logano and the Home Depot team made two separate stops to get the No. 20 Toyota handling better. The entire time, Logano hovered around the 13th to 15th positions.
On lap 129, Logano made his third stop of the day. When exiting the pits, Logano was cited for getting off pit road too fast and was forced to restart from the rear of the field in the 31st position. It took just 30 laps for Logano to work his way back up to 13th as the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota continued to get better and better.
Bad luck befell Logano a second time on lap 233 when he came in to pit for left side tires. During the stop, one of the air guns broke, forcing crew chief Jason Ratcliff to call Logano back down pit road a second time to check the lug nuts. During the second stop, the team changed right side tires as well, but had to once again start at the back of the field in 30th.
During a long green flag run, Logano fell a lap down while running 18th on lap 324. Despite falling a lap down, the team was able to get back on the lead lap about 70 laps later by taking the wave around.
With less than 100 laps to go, Logano reported that the car was the best it has been all day. With less than 25 laps to go, Logano came out of the pits in eighth and was looking for a solid top 10. However, Logano had to restart in the top lane, which didn’t go at the drop of the green. Logano slipped all the way back to 14th before getting a chance to find a place in line.
Another late-race pit stop saw Logano come out of the pits in 16th. Once again, he had to start on the top lane and once again the top lane didn’t go. Logano wasn’t able to make up any ground at the end and finished 16th despite running just outside the top-10 all day long.
Logano’s Post-Race Thoughts: “I feel like we could have had a much better finish had we just been in the right lane there at the end of the race. Jason (Ratcliff) made a good two-tire call late to get us track position. We started eighth on that last restart and like what normally happens here at Martinsville, the outside lane just didn’t go. I was working hard to try and get down into the inside but there was just a huge line of cars. We restarted eighth and ended up 14th or 15th before we found a hole. We got a little bit of damage trying to get down to the inside, so we came in to pull the fenders off and get more tires. But we started on the outside again and just couldn’t make up any spots there at the end.
“It’s really too bad because when we got singled out, our car was fast. There at the end of the day, I feel like we had the car the best it had been all day long. We were faster than a lot of the guys that finished in front of us. That is just the name of the game at short track racing and racing here at Martinsville. It’s too bad but we have to take what we get. We made huge improvements in our car over how we were in practice. We just didn’t get the finish to go along with that.”