NASCAR National Preview: Joey Logano Looks To Lasso Competition In Texas Again

(NASCAR Wire Service)

By Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Joey Logano (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Joey Logano (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Last April, Joey Logano made his “Lone Star Statement.”

A message to the NASCAR world that he was ready to fulfill his predicted potential and compete with the sport’s elite drivers.

The kid from Connecticut took four tires during the final caution period and outdueled four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon on a green-white-checkered finish to win the Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway – his first victory of 2014.

Logano did have a solid 2013 campaign with a win and 19 top-10 finishes, but his Texas triumph served as a launching pad to a 2014 season where he joined NASCAR’s elite class of drivers. The No. 22 Ford pilot nearly doubled his career win total of three with five victories and made the Championship 4 Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. He has carried the momentum into this season, winning the Daytona 500 and currently ranks second behind defending NSCS champion Kevin Harvick in the points standings.

In Saturday’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on FOX), Logano will attempt to achieve a feat no driver has accomplished before – win consecutive spring races at “The Great American Speedway.”

Logano’s task will be tough as parity has been the spring race trend at Texas. Nine different drivers have won the last nine spring races at the 1.5-mile quad-oval. But Logano has contended in almost every race there since joining Team Penske in 2013, claiming three top fives in four races.

“I’m pretty excited to go back to Texas and try to defend our win,” Logano said. “That place has quickly turned into one of my favorite tracks on the circuit. It’s just a place that suits me and my driving style well and we as a team have excelled at since I came over here to Team Penske.”

Logano has not just been good at Texas, but also 1.5-mile tracks in general. He leads the NSCS with a 7.3 average finish at courses of that distance since last season.

The TMS track-record holder (four wins) and defending fall race winner Jimmie Johnson will try to knock off Logano. Johnson also owns the second-highest driver rating (105.7) and third-best average running position (10.9) at Texas, but he has never won there in the spring.

“We have had a lot of good runs at Texas,” Johnson said. “The surface is real wide and gives you a lot of options as a driver to find speed and find a good balance. It’s just a fun track.”

Two drivers other than Logano and Johnson who would not be surprising to see in Victory Lane on Saturday are Brad Keselowski and Harvick. Neither has won at Texas, but remember, parity reigns supreme there. Since 2014, Keselowski, Harvick and Johnson lead the NSCS with three wins each in the 13 races at 1.5-mile tracks.

Roush Fenway roars into Texas

Roush Fenway Racing’s struggles in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series have been well-documented.

But the organization’s performance in NASCAR XFINITY Series has been a totally different story.

RFR is excelling in “the series where names are made” behind the talents of young drivers Chris Buescher, Ryan Reed and Darrell Wallace Jr., as well as wily veteran Elliott Sadler. All four sit in the top 10 of the series points standings heading into Friday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 (8:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1). Buescher, Reed and Wallace rank second, fourth and fifth respectively, while Sadler occupies the eighth spot.

Following a stellar rookie campaign where he won a race and placed seventh in the final points standings, Buescher trails Ty Dillon by a mere five points for the top perch on the circuit. The Prosper, Texas native heads back to his home state with three top fives in five starts this season and the second-highest driver rating among full-time competitors (100.5). Homecomings have not treated Buescher well in the past though. He will attempt to improve on his average finish of 19.0 in three previous starts at Texas Motor Speedway.

“I always look forward to going back racing in front of the home crowd,” Buescher said. “It has been a nice off weekend to sit and regroup, but our Safety-Kleen 60 team is ready to get back to the track. We had a solid top-five run in Fontana to build off of.”

Daytona-winner Reed has struggled at Texas as well with finishes of 17 and 20, but Wallace loves competing in the Lone Star State. Wallace will be making his first XFINITY Series start at TMS, but claims three top 10s there in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

“I’m excited to get back to one of my favorite places,” Wallace exclaimed. “I’m hoping for a little redemption, as I blew up in the fall Truck race. I’m really looking to building off our run in California and settling in these next few races.”

As thrilled as RFR’s young guns are to head to Texas, none of them should be more eager to take the 1.5-mile quad-oval than their seasoned leader Sadler, an established competitor at “The Great American Speedway.” The 39-year-old Virginian boasts a NSCS win at Texas (2004) and owns two XFINITY Series poles there.

“Texas has proven to be one of my best race tracks on the NASCAR circuit,” Sadler said. “Texas is a fast track with a ton of tire wear. As a team, we’ve been moving forward in the right direction. Each race we’ve finished better than the previous week. Hopefully the trend continues this Friday night and we’ll be celebrating our first win of the season in victory lane under the lights.”

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