No Joy for Joey Logano at Bristol as defending series champion is eliminated from the Playoffs

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 16: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, reacts to exiting the race after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 16, 2023 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Joey Logano will not be defending his NASCAR Cup series title this season. The two-time champion saw his 2023 Playoffs end at Bristol Saturday night.

Logano struggled much of the weekend, managing only a 28th starting spot on Friday and finishing outside both Stages Saturday night. He fought all race long just to stay on the lead lap.

Then on lap 262 Corey LaJoie got loose and spun down the track then back up across and into the outside wall just in front of Logano who crashed into him hard.

“Yeah, I saw the smoke,” Logano said. “I saw the 7 spinning.  Coleman was saying, ‘He’s coming up.  He’s coming up.’  As I was on the brakes to try to pull onto the bottom.  I think it was Newman behind me, but I think someone hit him behind him and it was just kind of a chain reaction into it.  Once I got hit I was like, ‘Shoot, I’ve got to go up now’ because I couldn’t make the bottom, so I committed to that and the hole closed up.”

Logano’s Ford had a broken rear suspension. He would finish the night 34 and was eliminated from the Playoffs. However, the elimination was a culmination of an uphill battle in the second half of the season. In the seven races leading up to Bristol his best finish was a fifth at Daytona and after running deep in the field much of the race only two-tire call late in the race at Kansas Speedway had him holding a twelve-point advantage above the cutline.

“Yeah.  I haven’t really felt like we’ve made any big gains that we need to and unfortunately it seems like it’s at every track,” he said.  “Typically, you may say, ‘Oh, we’re off on a mile-and-a-half, but our short tracks are OK or your road courses are OK.’  It just seems like we’re off everywhere right now…”

The uphill battle of his season led to the frustration Saturday night.

“Obviously, it’s a real bummer,” Logano said. “You get out of the race like that and you’re behind the wall and you’re in denial for a minute.  You don’t want to believe that it happened, and you want to think that it’s fixable, but the car was tore up too bad.”

Logano admitted that it’s uncharacteristic for him and his team to race for a 15th place finish.

“It takes something different out of a driver to drive a car in 15th and tonight we weren’t even that,” he said.  “It’s a little uncharacteristic for us right now and we just have to go to work and keep our heads down and stay faithful in each other, keep trusting each other that we can figure it out.  It’s still the same team that won the championship last year.

“We’re a little lost at the moment, but we’ll keep fighting and try to figure some things out.”

At the end of it all, Logano knew he would have to be aggressive, but careful. And even that didn’t work out for him.

“I knew my situation and what I needed to do,” he said. “But it’s Bristol and there’s not really many things you do differently depending on your scenario.  There’s nothing I could have done there in that wreck. It’s just a product of being back there and the way we raced or anything like that didn’t affect that.  The only thing that affected that is we were back there, so that’s it.”


Greg Engle