Logano makes most of an inauspicious start

Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 25, 2016 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 25, 2016 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 25, 2016 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Getty Images)

LOUDON, N.H. – There’s no statistical category for “saves” in NASCAR racing, but if there were, Joey Logano would be the clear leader at New Hampshire.

With perseverance, Logano and the No. 22 Team Penske outfit turned a potentially disastrous day into a respectable finish and gave themselves a modicum of breathing room in the Chase for NASCAR Sprint Cup standings.

After a so-so qualifying effort, Logano started 15th in Sunday’s Bad Boy Off Road 300 and quickly went backwards. On Lap 114 of a long green-flag run to start the race, leader Martin Truex Jr. passed Logano to put the No. 22 Ford a lap down.

Eventually, Logano took a wave-around for a restart on lap 172 and returned to the lead lap, but another long caution-free run forced him to pit for fuel on Lap 218. Logano fell to 26th in the running order, in danger of falling out of the all-important top 12 in the Chase standings.

But the No. 22 team made the most of a series of late cautions and got back on the lead lap as the “lucky dog” (highest-scored lapped car) for a restart with 32 circuits left. Logano was 20th at the time but, with the help of tire strategy, drove up to 11th at the finish.

Fifth in the standings, Logano now has a 21-point lead over Jamie McMurray and Austin Dillon, who are tied for 13th.

“It was a hard fight to say the least with the Shell/Pennzoil Ford,” Logano said after the race. “We took off awful, just like we did in the spring race, too. It’s crazy. We went down a lap and fought all day and then finally got the lucky dog but not with many laps to make it up.

“We made our car better, but didn’t have enough time to get ourselves back up to where I thought we were speed-wise at the end. I’m proud of the never-quit-attitude. We’re resilient. We just need to start a little bit faster. We can’t lose that many spots at the beginning of the race and expect to battle back every time.

“We did what we had to do. We almost got a top 10 out of something that we ran around 20th all day, so at least we got something out of it. We just need to go faster than that.”

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