BRISTOL, TENN. — Fate dealt Joey Logano an early DNF and a record elimination in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs Saturday night at Bristol.
Logano had a solid buffer for his spot above the cutline entering on lap 263. That is, until Corey LaJoie spun entering turn three and slide up the track.
“Coleman was saying, ‘He’s coming up. He’s coming up.’ As I was on the brakes to try to pull onto the bottom. I think it was Newman behind me, but I think someone hit him behind him and it was just kind of a chain reaction into it. Once I got hit I was like, ‘Shoot, I’ve got to go up now’ because I couldn’t make the bottom, so I committed to that and the hole closed up,” Logano explained.
The wreck destroyed Logano’s car and took him out of the race in 34th.
The defending Cup Series champion held his breathe, hoping for more calamity. While Martin Truex Jr. wrecked and brought out the final caution on lap 363, he continued to finish 19th and helped eliminate Logano in the first round.
Joey Logano has never been eliminated from the playoffs this early in the nine previous elimination-style playoffs.
“I knew my situation and what I needed to do. But it’s Bristol and there’s not really many things you do differently depending on your scenario. There’s nothing I could have done there in that wreck. It’s just a product of being back there and the way we raced or anything like that didn’t affect that. The only thing that affected that is we were back there, so that’s it.”
In fact, Logano earliest elimination was after the third round – just before the Championship Four.
Logano has one points finish worse than eighth since joining Team Penske in 2013 — 17th in 2017. This season, he is winless outside of a win at Atlanta in March.
” I haven’t really felt like we’ve made any big gains that we need to and unfortunately it seems like it’s at every track. Typically you may say, ‘Oh, we’re off on a mile-and-a-half, but our short tracks are OK or your road courses are OK.’ It just seems like we’re off everywhere right now,” Logano said.
Next week, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway for 267 laps, 400 miles.
Last year, Joey Logano started and finished 2nd after leading 15 of 334 laps.