NASCAR Barometer: Logano Hits the Trifecta

NASCAR Barometer: Logano Hits the Trifecta

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Joey Logano dominated the closing miles at Bristol Motor Speedway to claim his second win at the track, his second consecutive Bristol night race, and his third win of the 2015 season. The win didn't come easy for the No. 22 either. The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas seemed poised to control the race from the front of the field, with Ford on the back foot. Logano didn't allow that to get to him, though. His team called a perfect race and made the adjustments necessary to make his car the fastest on track late in the race. He held off a charging Kevin Harvick for another fantastic win with just two races to go in the regular season before the Chase for the Championship begins.

Bristol threw a few curveballs at the challengers, but tempers weren't terribly stressed at the end of the night. There plenty of pit-road mistakes, contact between teammates, and mechanical issues, but those who are still in the hunt for the Chase are now focusing on the final two races to stamp their passport for entry. The series has a week off before heading to Darlington Raceway for the Southern 500.

UPGRADE

Joey Logano - Logano leapt back to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup world with a remarkable performance at Bristol Saturday night. He dominated the closing stages of the race, holding off a charging Kevin Harvick and leading 176 of the 500 laps. He also won last season's night race at Bristol, so

Joey Logano dominated the closing miles at Bristol Motor Speedway to claim his second win at the track, his second consecutive Bristol night race, and his third win of the 2015 season. The win didn't come easy for the No. 22 either. The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas seemed poised to control the race from the front of the field, with Ford on the back foot. Logano didn't allow that to get to him, though. His team called a perfect race and made the adjustments necessary to make his car the fastest on track late in the race. He held off a charging Kevin Harvick for another fantastic win with just two races to go in the regular season before the Chase for the Championship begins.

Bristol threw a few curveballs at the challengers, but tempers weren't terribly stressed at the end of the night. There plenty of pit-road mistakes, contact between teammates, and mechanical issues, but those who are still in the hunt for the Chase are now focusing on the final two races to stamp their passport for entry. The series has a week off before heading to Darlington Raceway for the Southern 500.

UPGRADE

Joey Logano - Logano leapt back to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup world with a remarkable performance at Bristol Saturday night. He dominated the closing stages of the race, holding off a charging Kevin Harvick and leading 176 of the 500 laps. He also won last season's night race at Bristol, so this race could be one of his new favorites. Toyota-powered teams in practice and qualifying shut out the Penske Racing Fords, but Logano was able to reclaim the point as the race aged to claim his third win of the season. Logano dropped out of last season's Darlington race with a hub issue, but did lead 37 laps before that mechanical failure bit him.

Kevin Harvick -
Harvick battled a pit penalty for his crew going over the wall too soon on Saturday night. That dropped him to the back of the field, losing very important track position. The team didn't give up, though. The No. 4 fought back and claimed his second runner-up finish in as many races. It seems like Harvick is starting to pick up momentum as the Chase approaches, which is arguably the most important goal in the last few races before the playoffs. Harvick won last year's Southern 500 from pole, dominating the race and leading 238 of the 374 laps. If things continue to unfold they way they have been recently for this team they should be a top championship pick.

Kyle Busch -
Busch's Toyota machine was the consensus favorite in the garage before Saturday night's race got underway. The Gibbs driver had already won the Xfinity series event the night before, and was looking to sweep the weekend. A late penalty from speeding on pit road put him out of contention when he probably had a machine capable of winning, though. Busch was never able to fully recover from that mistake, but found his way back into the top 10 for another remarkable performance to keep him inside the top 30 in points. Busch has three top-10 finishes in the last three Darlington races, and arguably has the most momentum in the series as the Chase draws near.

Denny Hamlin -
Hamlin had a good outing after starting from pole in Bristol Saturday night. His record at the short concrete track has been checkered, but his run Saturday night added a positive result to that tally. He finished third after a long race. That finish will probably disappoint him, but his relative lack of consistency compared to others at the track should make the result a lot more palatable. Still, it could be opportunity lost for the No. 11 crew. Darlington has been a much more consistent pasture for the No. 11. He finished 19th there last season, but led three laps and has an incredible average finish of 6.9 from nine career starts at the "Lady in Black."

DOWNGRADE

Tony Stewart - What should have been a track to neutralize some of the issues Stewart has battled in 2015 turned out to be a big challenge. The No. 14 turned in some encouraging results in recent weeks, but was again behind the game when he unloaded in Bristol. His name was barely mentioned during the running, which is never a good thing. Stewart ended the night 19th, and appears to have lost the momentum he recently captured. Darlington is a classic track that Stewart has never won on. He finished third there twice, and managed to score a top-10 there last season. This current package seems too much for Stewart to master, though. It would be a far stretch to see him coming out on top in two weeks.

Matt Kenseth -
An engine issue ended Kenseth's night early in Bristol. The failure was a terrible result for the driver that had won two of the three races heading to Saturday night. Kenseth hadn't finished outside of the top 10 since July's Daytona race, but Saturday night ended that run with his worst finish of the season. The Gibbs team definitely commanded the momentum in the series prior to last week's race, but Kenseth stretched his luck one outing too far. He has three top-10 finishes in the last three Darlington races, winning in 2013. The team has a week off to figure out exactly what happened and come back stronger for the run to the Chase.

Kyle Larson -
Larson used a two-tire pit strategy to vault himself forward under Saturday's first caution gaining valuable track position. That strategy ended up not being the one to take, though. A flat right-front tire sent him into the wall to bring out the second caution of the night. That wasn't his only problem that night, though. When the distance was complete Larson found himself ranked 41st in the race. It was a night to forget for the team. Larson has appeared close to victory at numerous times throughout his short Sprint Cup career, but hasn't closed the deal yet. He needs to put together some consistent top-10 runs to remain in position to grab a win soon.

David Ragan -
Another strong qualifying effort went to waste for Ragan in Bristol. The No. 55 was running well until he had contact with teammate Clint Bowyer and hit the inside wall. The result was especially bad considering Michael Waltrip Racing said they wouldn't field any cars for the full 2016 season earlier in the week. Ragan had been hoping to secure a long-term future with the team. Instead, he now has just a dozen races to prove that he belongs in the series next season. He has just one top finish at Darlington, and that was a fifth-place result in 2008. His best finish at the track since was 14th in 2010. Another finish of 40th won't do much to boost his future employment options.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -
Stenhouse had a tremendous record at Bristol, and qualified well for the race. It was all good news for the team, but once the green flag waved he dropped in the field. The confidence the track provided quickly faded, and contact with teammate Trevor Bayne made life even more difficult for the No. 17 who ended up in the wall sustaining damage. Bristol is a track where anything can happen, and Stenhouse learned that being quick there in the past doesn't guarantee a smooth ride in successive visits. He finished the night in 21st position on what should have been his best opportunity for a top result this season. Stenhouse's best finish in Darlington was 18th in 2013.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Jeff Gordon - Bristol has traditionally been a decent venue for Gordon, but that certainly wasn't the case last week. He sported a throwback paint scheme Saturday to honor his long-standing sponsorship, but the result didn't match the intentions. Gordon suffered two issues with a loose wheel that forced him to pit road, which was a tragedy since he had been running in the top three at times. The second wheel issue completely put him out of contention and extends his winless streak in his final season. Darlington could be an opportunity for Gordon to go out with a bang. The veteran has seven wins at the "Track Too Tough To Tame," and he consistently finishes in the top 10 there.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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