No Happy Ending for Joey Logano at Phoenix

Joey Logano’s up and down season seemed to be on an upswing.

Until it wasn’t.

After two lousy finishes to start the season, a DNF at Daytona and a 28th in Atlanta, Logano rebounded by scoring a top 10 finish in Vegas.

Saturday, maybe a bad omen, Logano could only manage to qualify 23rd; his first qualifying effort outside of the front row all season.

Sunday, Logano struggled from the drop of the green flag, and went down a lap on lap 175.

From that point it only got worse.

On lap 203 coming out of Turn 2 Logano’s Ford was hit from behind by the Toyota of John Hunter Nemechek and sent spinning. Logano got into Derek Kraus and Josh Berry got into Logano sending him hard into the outside wall and out of the race.

“It is a shame,” Logano said. “We weren’t running well anyway, but this doesn’t make it any better. We were just fighting for lucky dogs. You get back there and everyone is racing not real good and we got caught up in it.”

For his part Nemechek seemed to try and deflect the blame, telling his crew on the radio, “My bad I didn’t mean to get into the 22, he slowed up way early.”

Logano was told when Nemechek had said after the incident.

“Well, you have to lift to make the corners,” Logano said. “You can’t hold it wide open around Phoenix. Maybe he should take a look and realize he can’t do that. He drove straight into the back of me. He needs to be man enough to own up to that.”

Of course, had Logano not been buried deep in the field. However, he couldn’t explain the lack of speed.

“I don’t know yet,” a frustrated Logano said. “Just don’t know yet.”

Corey LaJoie was also a victim in the incident. He tried to avoid the melee and smacked the wall hard. The damage was too great and LaJoie’s run of 44 straight races without a DNF. That was the longest streak in the NASCAR Cup series. Prior to Sunday his last DNF was at Talladega Superspeedway in the fall of 2022.

“Hate our day in Phoenix ended the way it did getting caught up in the restart after we had the lucky dog,” LaJoie said. “We worked to get the car driving better and in a pretty decent position, setting ourselves up for a good run to the finish. Unfortunately, the 22 (Joey Logano) got spun and had nowhere to go, which ended the day for our Group 1001 Chevy Camaro.”

After finishing 25th, Nemechek apologized to Logano and his team for the incident.

“I’m going to reach out to Joey,” he said. “I’ll probably reach out to Paul Wolfe and Roger Penske. I guess just misjudged it. I hit the brake pedal pretty hard, and it didn’t really slow down and I got in the back of him. It’s my fault. I made a mistake and I’ve got to learn from it, and own it.”

Greg Engle