Logano underscores performance of Martinsville win

Joey Logano prepares to practice Saturday at Martinsville. (Greg Engle)
Joey Logano prepares to practice Saturday at Martinsville. (Greg Engle)
Joey Logano prepares to practice Saturday at Martinsville. (Greg Engle)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – If pole winner Martin Truex Jr., is to win at Martinsville, he’ll have to beat the driver starting beside him on the front row in Sunday’s race.

Joey Logano, who advanced to the Round of 8 on the strength of last Sunday’s victory at Talladega, knows only too well what a victory at the .526-mile short track could mean for his title hopes.

“Winning here at Martinsville might be the biggest win of the year,” said Logano, who lost the pole for the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 to Truex by .008 seconds. “It might be what wins you a championship, if you think about it. Being in this Round of 8, if you win, you’re obviously going to Homestead (site of the Nov. 20 Championship 4 race). You know you’re not finishing worse than fourth in points, and it gives you the ability to think about nothing but Homestead for two weeks, while other teams have to think about the next two races to get themselves in.

“You’ve got to get there before you can win the championship, so I think it’s a pretty big advantage to win this one. This is a tough race, obviously. We’ve yet to win here. We’ve come close a few times, so we’ll just keep doing what we know how to do. We keep making constant progress at this race track as the 22 team, so I’m excited about that.”

SHORT STROKES

Will the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 truly be Jeff Gordon’s final race in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car? Probably. But the four-time champion, who is racing for the last time this season as a substitute for Dale Earnhardt Jr., won’t rule out a future relief role – if team owner Rick Hendrick needs him. “Your guess is as good as mine,” said Gordon, whose most recent Cup win came last year at Martinsville in what was supposed to be his last season in the series. “I can promise you I had no intentions of this happening, but here I am. Never say never is all I know what to say. I really don’t think that I will be getting back in the Cup car again, but go ask Rick Hendrick. That really has more to do with him than anything else.”…

If you’re looking for a dark horse in Sunday’s race, David Ragan could fill the bill. For the first time this season, the driver of the No. 23 BK Racing Toyota advanced to the final round of knockout qualifying. He’ll start 12th on Sunday, the best initial position for BK in more than two years. Ragan’s strong performance wasn’t confined to qualifying trim. He was third fastest in Saturday’s first practice and fourth on the speed chart in Happy Hour…

In cool temperatures, Jamie McMurray paced Saturday’s opening Sprint Cup practice with a lap at 96.780 mph. In final practice, which ended at 12:55 p.m., Kyle Larson (McMurray’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate) posted the fastest lap at 96.088 mph. Chase driver Carl Edwards struggled in Happy Hour, posting the 27th-fastest speed despite running 71 laps.

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