To outsiders looking in, it might seem a distinctive disadvantage to be a single individual in a fight with three guys supposedly working together, plus another additional twosome working in tandem.
That’s simple math.
But Joey Logano prefers new math instead.
Logano is the lone Team Penske Ford driver left battling for one of two spots in the Championship 4 of the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs with three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers and a pair of Stewart-Haas Racing drivers. Yet he figures he’s the one with an advantage.
Crazy? Maybe a little. Maybe a lot – like a fox.
“In all honesty I feel like it is probably an advantage for me,” said Logano, whose only Penske teammate, Brad Keselowski, got eliminated earlier in the Chase. “If we can develop something new here in the next couple weeks — this week, and the week ahead of us — we are able to come up with just one and put it on the car. They really can’t do that. They have to build four of them.
“I think the ability to put something on the car quick is something that Team Penske has talked about a lot with having a smaller race team. That is the advantage we have.”
Logano drives the No. 22 car and is not only the lone Team Penske entrant left in the championship hunt heading into Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, but also the only driver of a Ford still in it.
He’s up against the Joe Gibbs Toyota trio of Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth, as well as the Chevrolets driven by SHR teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch.
“We may not have as much information coming in from four teams — but when we do develop something we only have to make it for a couple cars, not four of them,” Logano said. “I think that is a pretty big advantage for us, through the whole season, not (just) during the Chase. It is an advantage we have that I feel we use to our strengths.”
Heading into this race, Logano is tied with Kyle Busch in points, one ahead of Kenseth and two ahead of Hamlin. Harvick is 18 behind and Kurt Busch is 25 back, so one of those two would need to win to advance to the Championship 4.
All together, the six Chasers are fighting for the last two spots in the winner-take-all season finale – where they will join Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards, with the highest finisher of the four claiming the 2016 title. Johnson earned his way in by winning at Martinsville in his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, while Edwards punched his ticket by going to Victory Lane in his No. 19 JGR Toyota at Texas.
Logano finished second at Texas behind only Edwards. But it was a bitter finish, considering he led a race-high 178 laps and what a victory would have meant to his title hopes.
“I have calmed down since then a little bit. I think after the race last week that it felt we missed an opportunity to win that race,” Logano said.
Logano said he watched a replay of the Phoenix spring race on his flight westward from Charlotte. He said even though Harvick won that event for his fifth win in the last six races at PIR, and for a record eighth time overall at the 1-mile track, he came away feeling confident about his chances this time around.
“I think it is no secret that what he has done here is very impressive. He has won a lot of races here and definitely has something figured out,” said Logano, who finished 18th in the spring race while Harvick beat Edwards to the checkered flag in the closest finish ever at the track. “But we’ve learned as a race team to worry about ourselves. That is the only way we will control our own destiny. … I will say it seems like he is very fast here but he is also beatable here.
“If you look at the spring race, that was pretty close. That was really close. It was fun to watch for me on the way out here. There have been times that he hasn’t been very strong. … There are a lot of opportunities out there for us and it isn’t a given for him.”
In addition to figuring that anything Team Penske can figure out can be applied to his car very quickly this weekend, Logano also said simple logic can be applied when discussing Harvick’s recent PIR dominance.
“This garage area is very tough and advantages don’t last very long,” Logano said. “Yes, he has had an amazing run here and his advantages have lasted a long time and his will still be a car we have to go compete against to beat — but we don’t come in here feeling defeated. I feel like my team has everything it takes to beat him.”