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LOGANO HOLDS OFF HARVICK (AGAIN) TO ADVANCE IN CHASE
Joey Logano punched the first ticket to the Eliminator 8 Round of the Chase for The Sprint Cup as he held off Kevin Harvick, again, in Sunday’s rain-delayed Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The win was the fourth of the season for Logano and the third time in those victories that Harvick, the reigning Sprint Cup champion, has finished runner-up to him.
“There's 42 other cars we've got to beat, too,” Logano said following the win. “He (Harvick) has been the one that has finished second. I think it's just a coincidence. Obviously they're a great race team. A team like that has a week like they did last week, you've got to be able to pick up your game and be able to beat them and show that we're here too.
“It's not going to be an easy ride for someone, and I think our team showed that today, that we could go out there and compete with the best. I knew that coming into today, and knowing really every week that I know my team has got what it takes to go out there and beat them.”
Harvick, who now has 11 runner-up finishes this season, took this second-place finish in stride.
"If those are the off days, we'll be just fine," he said. “The car wasn't great all weekend, but we were able to make headway on it and make gains and to do the things we needed to do to make it better. In the end, that's what you want to do on a day like today, and we made a really good day out of it. Obviously you want to win, but with so many guys having trouble you want to capitalize on a top-five run, too. It was definitely one of those days that could have been better, but could have been a whole lot worse.”
Logano led 227 of the 334 laps Sunday as he dominated the race. He, and his team, knows there is plenty of competition out there in the remaining races in the Chase.
“I think there's a lot of fast race cars out there right now,” he said. “Last week, obviously, Harvick was dominant. This week we had a really fast car. Next week, who knows? You can't rely on anything.”
Logano’s team owner, Roger Penske, was obviously pleased with his driver and the remainder of the team as well.
“Joey was dominant today,” he said. “To me today was a real team effort, and certainly I think at his age and how he handles himself and the way he drove today, when you can beat (Harvick) any day, any time, that's a big deal for us, and I think that it was good that we could be on at least be on a level playing field with him today.”
The win, the 12th of his career, was also his first at Charlotte.
“Obviously getting this win at Charlotte means a lot,” Logano said. “I think it's on everyone's bucket list to win here mainly because everyone's race team is here. This is home turf for everyone. You want to win in front of your race team that doesn't typically get to come to the race track and get to celebrate with guys that you don't typically get to have in victory lane when we travel far away from here, so that's special.”
So with his ticket punched to the next round what can Logano and the rest of the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford do for the next few weeks at Kansas and Talladega?
"It helps us sleep here the next couple of weeks," Logano said. "This helps us recharge our batteries and get ready for the next round."
Logano, who has more Sprint Cup wins (9) than any other driver since the start of the 2014 season, was in the final four last year with a chance to win the title at Homestead. He ran well all the way through the Chase in 2014, but not winning the championship has given him and his team extra incentive to return to the same position this season.
“We need to keep winning races,” Logano said. “That's all we need to do. Win more races. You know, last year we did an incredible job getting ourselves to Homestead. I felt like we had a great Chase. We executed perfectly. We did everything we had to do to get to Homestead. I feel like the lessons we learned were in Homestead, so we've got to get back to that race, get back in the same position we were last year, and I feel like we'll be in a lot better shape because we all lived it once and know what we've got to do.”
This time of year it is all about winning and, like in any sport, victories are more difficult to come by in the playoffs. A fact that has not gone unnoticed by Logano.
“Winning these races in the Chase is such a big deal,” he said. “It's nice to have race wins, but when you're able to get Chase wins and rack those up, it seems to be a little harder to get them in the Chase time because everyone picks it up a little bit. It shows that our team picked up what we needed to.”