Ginormous Gamble Has Joey Logano In The Cup Series Playoffs

Joey Logano (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Holly Cain

NASCAR Wire Service

Joey Logano’s victory in Sunday’s historic five-overtime race at Nashville Superspeedway launched the two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion into the 2024 Playoffs and with only seven regular season races remaining to decide that 16-driver Playoff field competition is getting intense.

That was evident at Nashville and will be again in this weekend’s Grant Park 165 (4:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) on the Chicago Street Course through the iconic downtown lakeside.

Before the Nashville race, Logano had uncharacteristically been at the Playoff cutline, a few points making him Playoff-eligible one week and out of the mix another week – a tenuous time for one of only two active multi-time series champions.

Logano’s win in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford on Sunday included an amazing 110-lap fuel run during the caution filled final laps to claim the checkered while so many other cars were running out of gas and/or crashing with each restart in the 31 extra laps of overtime. Instead of pitting for fuel, Logano’s team decided to stay on track and race for the win. And the gamble paid off.

“That’s the risk that was to me, a ginormous risk, because you pit and you go back out and you maybe can finish in the top-15 – maybe – versus going for the win,” Logano said. “But you could finish 35th. Makes it a pretty hard call.

“But gosh, when you’re winning the race, how do you not [stay out]? Especially when you see the other cars that were up there. Chase Briscoe, if he wins that wouldn’t have been good for our Playoff hopes.

“… I think the 23 [Bubba Wallace] was somewhat close up there as well. When you think about who we were racing against, we needed to make sure that we were able to at least stay on the strategy the same as they were.”

Logano became the 11th driver to win a race this season – joining both his Team Penske teammates Austin Cindric and Ryan Blaney – the trio all clinching Playoff positions with victories in just the last month.

Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kyle Larson and William Byron each have three wins as do Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell. Hendrick’s Chase Elliott, 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick, RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski and Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suarez complete the list of 2024 race winners.

That leaves JGR drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Ty Gibbs, Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain, RFK’s Chris Buescher and Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman above the Playoff cutoff line based on points-earned.

23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace sits below that Playoff line – 51 points behind Bowman and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe is 78 points back; best on that four-car team.

Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch is 104 points behind after yet another gut-wrenching finish for the two-time series champion at Nashville. After challenging for the win late in the race, Busch was collected in an accident. His last top-10 was eight races ago (eighth place at Kansas). His best finish in the last two months was a 12th-place run on the Sonoma, Calif. road course. He’s finished 27th or worse in five of the last seven races.

“It’s frustrating for sure, but we’ll bounce back next week in Chicago,” said Busch, who has advanced to every Playoff since 2006 and is trying to maintain a 19-year winning streak in the sport’s top series.

The second running of the Chicago race this weekend is a big opportunity to score points or perhaps the win. New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen won the event in his first ever start. Wallace finished 31st and Briscoe was 20th. Busch, a proven road-course winner in the NASCAR Cup Series finished fifth on the Chicago streets last year. Bowman, sitting in that final Playoff points position, was 37th; last place at Chicago.

A 50-minute practice gets underway at 12:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 6 followed by two rounds of Busch Light Pole Qualifying at 1:30 p.m. ET.

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