TALLADEGA, Ala. – Four days after Joey Logano took the checkered flag at Richmond International Raceway, his victory at the .75-mile short track lost much of its luster.
Disappointed by a penalty that took away the primary benefits of winning the race, Logano nevertheless was forthright in confronting the situation head-on when he talked to reporters on Friday morning at Talladega Superspeedway.
During detailed teardown and inspection at its research-and-development center in Concord, N.C., NASCAR found a problem with the rear suspension on the race-winning No. 22 Team Penske Ford car. Specifically, the truck trailing arm spacer wasn’t mounted flush against its mating surface, leaving a gap of roughly 1/32 of an inch.
That may not seem like much, but the rear end has been a point of particular emphasis with NASCAR for the past two years, as teams try to achieve rear-axle offset that will allow their cars to turn more readily through the corners at high speeds.
And Logano acknowledged that his No. 22 team was pushing the limits of NASCAR’s tolerances in an attempt to buy small fractions of a second in the highly competitive Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
“From what I was told, we had a small gap underneath the truck arm to the housing,” Logano said. “It’s very, very small. The rule is black-and-white that it must be flush, and we apparently had a little bit of gap. Like I said, it wasn’t a big deal, but it is black and white, and for that reason, we’ll have to pay a penalty for it.”
Then penalty was stringent. In declaring Logano’s win an “encumbered victory,” NASCAR stripped away the accoutrements that typically come with a triumph on the track.
Logano’s victory won’t count toward eligibility for the post-season playoff. He lost the five playoff points that normally go to a race winner. He was docked 25 driver points, which could affect his standing in the series at the end of the 26-race regular season and thereby could cost him additional playoff points.
Logano has lost crew chief Todd Gordon for the next two races, and Gordon is out a $50,000 fine.
That might seem to render Logano’s win a Pyrrhic victory, but in the driver’s mind, it’s still a win.
“I think what happened was something that’s very, very small,” Logano said. “What we got in trouble for was something that really didn’t make our car any faster. It wasn’t enough to make it much faster, so personally, inside, I still look at it as a win…
“We pushed a little bit too far, and we’ll pay that penalty and move on and attack again.”