Joey Logano goes from last to (almost) first at Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA - APRIL 16: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, and Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Verizon 5G Ford, race during the NASCAR Cup Series NOCO 400 at Martinsville Speedway on April 16, 2023 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Joey Logano nearly pulled off the comeback of the season, perhaps in a few seasons, Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.

Originally slated to start 15th, Sunday morning the team found an issue with a leak in an oil tank on his Ford. They were able to repair the issue, but it meant that Logano had to start at the rear of the field.

Passing at Martinsville is not some place known for its ease of passing which meant the reigning NASCAR Cup champion wouldn’t have an easy day.

That proved to be the case as early in the 400 laps, Logano struggled to move forward. At one point he even went a lap down. Late in the going however, thanks a bit of luck and pit stop strategy, Logano found himself in the lead with just over 50 laps to go.

He would hold the top spot for several laps, but after a furious side by side battle, could only watch as Kyle Larson got by for the lead on lap 371.

“I knew the only way he was going to get by me is he was going to have to get physical,” Logano said chuckling. “I had to make the car wide. I had very little chance to win it when he had the two tires. He just got through traffic too quick for us, but, overall, it still was the right call to get us on the front row.

“You never know, you have a caution at the end and some things can happen, but, overall, I’m very proud of the Verizon Mustang team.

“We were not good. We went down a lap two times throughout the race and got one lucky dog and one lucky caution and then just some good strategy from Paul and getting the car better. We were awful to start and he did a good job of getting me competitive at least and putting me in position to do something there at the end.”

Larson would go on to win, Logano was second.

“There are days when you’re mad about second, most of the time you are, but days like today you’re pretty happy to see the front at the end,” he said.

On the final caution of the day Logano’s team elected to keep him out; Larson’s brought him in for two tires. Those two tires were the difference according to Logano.

“Two tenths, apparently,” he said. “He caught me so quick and there was still 25-30 to go and I was like, ‘Aw, geez. I don’t have a chance here, but I’ll make it wide for awhile.’ I knew he was going to have to get physical, which is fine. That’s Martinsville racing. He should. I tried to play defense as best as I could and eventually, he got underneath me.”

As for his runner up finish, considering where he started the day, Logano was satisfied.

“Yeah,” he said. “After the second stage I would have been stoked about second place.”

Greg Engle