Sep 7, 2013, 2:15 PM EDT
One more good result. That’s all that separates Joey Logano from his first-ever berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup after what has been a superb run in the last six races.
Logano’s post-season hopes seemed pretty much done for after back-to-back 40th place finishes at Daytona and New Hampshire in July. But since then, it’s as if “Sliced Bread” and his No. 22 Penske Racing team have flipped a switch.
Now, a stretch of three straight Top-5 finishes (including a win at Michigan) and six straight Top-10s in the last six events have him on the verge of completing an impressive rally. Logano can lock up a Top-10 spot in the Chase with a finish of 11th or better tonight.
“I will say I kind of thought we were close to being out of it after [New Hampshire],” Logano said Thursday at Richmond International Raceway, site of tonight’s Federated Auto Parts 400 – the last race that will determine the 12-driver Chase field this fall.
“We were 10th [in the standings] going into Daytona. Then after two races you’re 18th, way out of it, 50-something points back. Think we’re in really big trouble here.
“Then we started racking up Top-10, Top-10, then you get a win – ‘we’re back in it, we got a shot.’ You knock off two more Top-5 finishes, you’re sitting eighth all of a sudden. Good thing we didn’t give up and quit on this thing.”
Considering what Logano and his team have done to get to this point, it’s easy to see why he’s brimming with confidence going into tonight’s Chase decider.
“The momentum that this team has got right now, it’s hard not to have confidence right now,” said Logano. “I feel like if we just do our deal, be smart – obviously, we’ll be aware of what’s going on out there, what the bubble cars are doing. At the same time, we’ve got to run our race and get the best finish out of it we can.”
He’s also hopeful that his Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski can somehow overcome the odds and make his way into the Chase with a win tonight and some help.
Keselowski is 15th in the standings (28 points out of the Top 10) after suffering an engine failure last weekend at Atlanta, and his own hopes of defending his 2012 Sprint Cup title are fading fast. But Logano expects his Penske partner to come out firing.
“I’d be willing to put money on him that after last week, he’s twice as motivated to come into Richmond right now and win this thing and get in the Chase and prove everybody wrong – probably more than most people out there,” said Logano. “That’s how tough he is.”