LOUDON, N.H. – As the circus that is the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rolled into Loudon, N.H. this weekend, the focus of talk surrounding NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship playoffs revolved around the simmering feud sparked between six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson and reigning series champion Kevin Harvick.
A bump from Jimmie Johnson in the Chase opening event at Chicagoland Speedway last Sunday led to a wreck for Harvick, which dropped him from the top of the Chase standings to 16th place and in danger of being one of the first four drivers eliminated from the playoff field.
The on-track incident led to a much publicized off-track physical confrontation between Johnson and Harvick immediately following the Chicagoland race.
Middletown native Joey Logano knows well what it’s like to catch the brunt of Harvick’s often combative personality. The two have had a number of on-track and off-track incidents over the years.
Though Logano, one of the favorites to win a championship this year, is steering far clear of injecting himself in any way into the Harvick Soap Opera.
“I’m staying out of this one,” Logano said Friday when asked about Harvick’s regularly salty demeanor. “I don’t want to be a part of this one, let me tell you right now. I’m just happy to be out of the drama. I’ve been in it plenty long. I want to be out of the drama and focus on my race car, so sometimes it’s best off just to keep your mouth shut.”
The 25-year old Logano, in his seventh full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series, opened 2015 with a victory in the Daytona 500 and picked up two more victories before the start of NASCAR’s Chase playoffs. Last year he was one of the four drivers left competing for a championship on the final day of the season in the first year of NASCAR’s knockout playoff format.
Logano’s average finish of 8.5 over the first 27 races this season has proved him one of the most consistent in the series this year.
Logano’s advancement through the knockout playoffs last year was helped by his victory in the 2014 Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“This has been a good race track for us the last couple of years,” said Logano, who finished fourth in the Chase opening event at Chicagoland. “Obviously, this is my home track so I talk about that a lot when I come up here, but I really want to win here again. I feel like we’re in good position after last week. We had a solid finish and that positioned ourselves pretty good to race fairly aggressive through this race and try to get a win like we did last year.”
The knockout playoffs will see the field of drivers cut from 16 to 12 after next week’s event at Dover (Del.) International. Harvick needs to win a race or claw back into the top-12 in the standings in the next two events to avoid elimination. Harvick starts second in the Sylvania 300. Logano will start eighth.
Like many of his peers in the Chase field, Logano wouldn’t mind seeing Harvick out of the mix early in the playoffs.
“It’s the way this whole playoff Chase system works when you’re knocking out cars,” Logano said. “You want to knock out the fastest cars you can. It’s not a bad thing. Obviously, the [Harvick] is one of the fastest cars every week. They led the points for most of the season, so you know they’ve got speed everywhere they … If we are able to knock them out and able to keep them from winning a race and we focus on our own thing – that’s the main thing though, as long as we focus on what we need to do whatever happens throughout the rest of this Chase is what it is with everybody else.”