RICHMOND, Va. – Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway was shaping up just like last fall’s playoff race at Martinsville Speedway did for Joey Logano.
He was running down Martin Truex Jr. in the final laps and appeared to have a shot at victory. This time, however, Logano ran out of time to seal the deal and collect the trophy.
The defending Cup Series champion was on a rail in the final laps of the Toyota Owners 400, powering around the top side of the three-quarter-mile oval and passing Clint Bowyer for second with four laps left as he looked to collect his second win of the season.
Logano got to Truex’s back bumper at the white flag and put a sense of deja vu on the assembled crowd, as it appeared he might bump Truex out of the way for the win just as he did six months ago at Martinsville.
But when Truex went low to block that maneuver in turn three on the last lap, Logano was forced up high to try and diamond the corner, going where Truex wasn’t in the end.
That left Truex able to escape off the final corner and win, while Logano finished a frustrating second, .178 of a second adrift when the checkered flag waved.
Logano appeared to have a car capable of taking the victory in his own right for much of the 400-lap race, running Truex down and passing him to win the second stage as he led 52 laps in the middle portion of the event.
However, when it came time to replicate that charge in the final laps, Logano came up just a little bit short.
“We had a car that was capable of winning for the third week straight and we didn’t win. That part is frustrating,” said Logano. “We need to clean up some mistakes on our end. We lost the lead there on a pit stop. We gotta get faster there. That is when we lost control of the race at that point and fell back to third. We had a decent green-flag cycle that got us up again … and then we reeled in the 19 (Truex) and the 14 (Bowyer) from pretty far back.
“I was watching them race and thought that if I was just patient and saved my tires, I could get them,” he added. “I saw them coming off the corner sideways every time. They were a little faster than me, but I knew they were going to kill their stuff and they did. I got there, I was just a couple laps late getting there.
Logano worked the bottom for much of the final stint, trying to get around Truex, but lamented that he likely needed one more tour of the D-shaped oval to get the job done.
“I was able to get to the 19, but it just wasn’t enough,” he noted. “It is kind of a double-edged sword, running that low line, because you go to the bottom but you can’t get the drive to clear someone … and getting to the outside is pretty tough.
“I just couldn’t get there. We ran out of time. We needed a few more laps.”
The good news for Logano? He leaves Richmond with his fifth top-five finish in nine races this season and sits second in regular-season points, just 20 behind leader Kyle Busch.
However, he’ll likely wonder what might have been, after coming up a few feet and a lap or two short of another Cup Series victory on Saturday under the Richmond floodlights.