To the surprise of many – particularly considering the chaos that developed over the closing laps, Logano brought his Toyota home second Monday in the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville.
In only his third race at one of NASCAR’s toughest tracks, Logano followed teammate Denny Hamlin home to score his second top five of the season. Few cars last 500 laps (Monday’s race went overtime to 508) at Martinsville without a plethora of scratches and bruises, and Logano maneuvered his way through a raft of obstacles to claim a smart second place.
“We did have a clean-looking car at the race,” Logano said. “The front bumper was used up, though. Everyone saw at the end of the race, everyone was beating and banging. It was pretty crazy. We were right up in there.”
Logano made all the right moves in the zaniness of the closing laps, not only staying out of trouble as other drivers were weaving and wobbling but also keeping his composure and being in position to take second.
It was a cool run for a 19-year-old. And it boosted him four spots in the Sprint Cup standings to 13th, only one position out of the Chase 12.
“I feel like there’s a time to go and there’s a time not to,” Logano said. “When you think about a 500-lap race at Martinsville, you don’t want to use your car up too early."
“These days, you knock a fender in, that can ruin your whole day. It’s going to screw up your aero package, and you’re going to get tight, or you have a chance of blowing a tire. You have to be smart, but, at the same time, you can’t get pushed around out there.”
That’s a tricky balance for Logano, who’s still finding his footing at the top level of a sport in which he’s zoomed forward at breakneck speed. He hasn’t been able to learn Sprint Cup racing at his own pace because, as the young phenom, he’s always under scrutiny.
“It puts more pressure on you as a kid, but I’ve grown to get used to that because it’s only gotten more and more as it kept going,” he said. “On the other hand, I think it’s a really good thing, having that spotlight on you. I think it’s a real big deal to have.”
With the Sprint Cup series taking the weekend off, Logano will be among the favorites in Saturday’s Nationwide race at Nashville. He’s the defending champion.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEEDtv.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.