Perhaps the only other driver to have anything for Chase Elliott Sunday at Phoenix was Joey Logano. Logano started second, but after Elliott failed pre-race inspection twice, he was forced to start at the rear of the field letting Logano lead the field to the green.
The Team Penske driver would lead the second most laps on the day, 125, and won Stage 1. Logano won at Phoenix in the spring and said that passing, especially for the lead was still at a premium as it was in March. He credited the traction compound applied by the track has aiding the passing that did take place.
“I thought the racing was actually pretty good because of it,” Logano said. “I’m pretty certain, almost 100 percent certain, that it would not be as good without the PJ1. We’ve raced this racetrack for years without it, and it wasn’t the best of races. I feel like it’s helped the passing some. It at least helps the car behind you be able to stay close to you enough to maybe free the car up in front of you. You saw a lot of passes made that way, where cars were packing there on each other to free them up and a lot of passes were made like that. PJ1 helps that.
“It still makes it very challenging to pass. It’s not an easy track to pass. It’s not easy to pass anyone in the Cup Series. The best drivers in stock cars are right here. Everybody knows what they’re doing. It’s going to make passing a lot harder than other series.”
Logano led the first 119 laps and said he hoped for a mistake free race in order to race for the win.
“Yeah, we had good track position,” Logano said. “Our pit crew was on it just like they’ve been through this whole Playoffs. Like I said it before, they’re a pressure team. They love the pressure and they truly rise to the occasion. They did that the whole race. They did it even the last stop under green. Was able to get ourselves out in front of the 9 by a pretty good distance. The 9 just kind of fired off a lot faster and kept going.”
The closing laps however saw him fade., he had to settle for third.
“Then we had another tire vibration there towards the end, last 25 laps, 30 laps of the run.,” Logano said. “Yeah, I thought we were in a good spot. We were right with the 9 (Elliott) right before the green flag cycle and was able to come out in front of him. And then, like I said, he just had a lot of speed that last run. They really found something.”
He now looks towards 2020.
“Obviously when you don’t win it, it hurts. It definitely stings,” Logano said. “Yeah, I told the guys before the race started, I said in these races when you get to the Championship 4, you can’t lose. You either win or you become stronger. Unfortunately, we got stronger today.
We learned a lot about ourselves and learned that we are capable. We’re capable of executing when we needed to. We just need to go faster. That was one thing. But I think overall there’s a lot to be proud of throughout the season, where we’ve come from, how much we’ve grown as a team, especially with the crew chief swap in the beginning of the season this year and without practice. That was a pretty big hurdle we had to jump.
“I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job through the Playoffs to really come into our own. That makes me really excited about 2021 because we’re starting way further ahead than where we did this year with the schedule being somewhat similar with limited practice sessions. I feel a lot better going into next year than what we did this year.
“Yeah, a lot to be proud of. You need to look at the silver linings, you need to look at your mistakes and where you can be better. It still doesn’t take the pain away, but that’s how you get by at least.”