DOVER, Del. – The Monster Mile took a serious bite out of several Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff drivers on Sunday afternoon.
The first victim of Dover Int’l Speedway was reigning series champion Joey Logano, who saw his shot at winning erased before he even took the green flag at the one-mile concrete oval.
During the pace laps Logano reported to his crew that there was something wrong with the rear of the car. After hitting pit road during the pace laps, his crew sent him to the garage so they could fix the car.
He returned to the race more than 20 laps down and out of contention, resulting in a 34th-place finish.
“Something back there wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do, so we had to fix that and we were 20-something laps down from there,” Logano said. “You can’t make up 20 laps, that is for sure. Maybe you can get one or two back if things go right. It was a bummer. Things happen. I guess the good news is that I think we are the last one in right now. We definitely used our mulligan. We used the playoff points we accumulated, we just have to be perfect now.”
Despite being well out of contention to win the race, Logano still raced hard. At one point during the second stage Logano found himself racing ahead of race leaders Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson.
That didn’t make Logano very popular among his fellow playoff drivers, but he said he was in a race of his own and he couldn’t worry about what was happening behind him.
“Well, the situation was that I had about four or five cars that it was possible for me to catch, which is five points. You tell me if it is worth it,” Logano said. “I would say it is worth it and I have to go. I have to try to get those spots if I can get them. If some of those cars that were that slow out there and we’re going to be 20-something laps down, the pace we were running we were going to be within a lap or two of them. I had to race hard. I had to keep going.”
Logano will now head to Talladega Superspeedway tied with William Byron for the final spot in the third round of the playoffs. Luckily for Logano, he’s won three times at the 2.66-mile oval.
“We have two really good race tracks coming up though. Talladega is arguably one of our best race tracks and I would say Kansas is as well. We just have to be perfect from here,” Logano said.
Not long after Logano’s issue, Chase Elliott was also taken out of contention when the engine in his No. 9 Chevrolet expired unexpectedly. Elliott finished last in the 38-car field, which dropped him to 11th in the playoff standings.
“I just had an engine failure of some sort,” Elliott said. “Unfortunately, we don’t really know what it was just yet. It just quit running. It didn’t really seem like anything was off. We were just kind of making laps and then obviously had a failure. It’s an unfortunate way to start this round for sure.”
Now on the outside of the playoff bubble, Elliott believes he’ll have to win if he hopes to advance to the next round of the playoffs.
“I don’t know where we’ll stack up,” Elliott admitted. “I assume we’ll have to win one of these next few weeks. If you ever make it to Homestead, you’re going to have to win down there. I guess it’s a good opportunity to practice here these next few weeks.”
Logano’s Team Penske teammate Ryan Blaney also had a rough day, failing to finish after a reporting no brakes late in the race. He finished 35th and is now last in the 12-driver playoff field as the series heads to Talladega Superspeedway next weekend.