MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Despite the fact Joey Logano hasn’t won a NASCAR Cup Series race since the sport returned to racing in May, he believes he can contend for the championship during the playoffs, which kick off this weekend at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
Logano locked himself into the postseason by winning two of the first four races of the season at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway in February and Arizona’s Phoenix Raceway.
However, Logano’s Phoenix score on March 8, the last race before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered the sports world for two months, is his most recent victory in the No. 22 Ford Mustang for Team Penske.
Logano isn’t worried about a near-six-month dry spell, however. Outside of crashes at Kansas Speedway in July and Daytona (Fla.) Int’l Speedway last weekend, he’s finished in the top eight in seven of the last nine races.
“We just need to continue the confidence and consistency we’ve had over the last few weeks,” Logano said during Cup Series Playoff Media Day on Wednesday. “If you take Daytona out, we’ve been able to string together quite a few top-10 finishes and put ourselves in position to possibly win with some things going our way. So (there’s) no need to come off of that. We need to continue to slowly build and become stronger as a team.
“You’re not gonna find one thing that’s gonna be a light switch, that’s gonna put us all the way to where the 4 (Kevin Harvick) and the 11 (Denny Hamlin) are, but we’re not far off. We’re two or three little things away from that, and this year is just reminding me of 2018, which was a great season for me,” Logano continued. “We had some growing pains that year and some things we had to learn throughout the regular season, but we slowly built the speed back up for the playoffs and the next thing you know, we won two of the most important races and we won the championship. It just has that feeling to me throughout the regular season, so I feel like for those reasons. I’m as confident as anybody in our race team and myself rolling into this thing because we’ve been here before.
“We’ve done this before, so we’re ready to rock.”
While he is optimistic about his postseason chances, Logano is equally ready to get back to victory lane, considering that both his Team Penske teammates — Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney — have won since the restart of racing in mid-May. Logano would like nothing more than to join them in that category.
“It feels like a long time ago. Way too long,” said Logano of his pair of early-season wins. “We’re ready to win again, but I do feel like we’re getting close back to that same point as we were. To me, there’s no doubt when we went back racing that we weren’t where we wanted to be. I even said it a few times, it was almost like a lost puppy not knowing what road to go down to get back to where we need to be, and it’s hard to find that direction without practice. Going to a different race track every week, it’s hard to grow.
“It took longer than we wanted it to, longer than we expected it to, but I feel like we’re getting really close back to where we were at the beginning of the year,” he added. “We can get ourselves in position to win again and I feel like we’re right at it, so I do feel pretty good about where we’re at now.”
As for his strategy rolling through the first few rounds of the playoffs, Logano noted that stage points will be critical, particularly considering Harvick and Hamlin have a large stockpile of points to fall back on and all of the eligible playoff contenders will start in the first eight rows every week.
“Every point is gonna matter,” Logano stressed. “We’ve seen plenty of times where a team makes it or doesn’t make it by one point. Sometimes it’s tied and it goes to your best finish (in the round). That happens a lot, so every point matters and you just need to race that way because you don’t know what that point is gonna be worth at the end of the day. That part is probably where the intensity piece comes up a little bit.
“I don’t think it changes much for me because I’ve already raced that way. I look at that from the regular season points and how it just turned into playoff points as the end of the regular season came around,” he noted. “I look at that the same way, where we have seven or eight more regular season points that could have meant one more playoff point, and that’s over the course of 26 races.
“We’ve just got to continue to have that mindset, where every point matters at every stage of the race.”
Sunday’s 71st Cook Out Southern 500, the opening race of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, goes green at 6 p.m. ET live on NBCSN, the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.