This weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway was crucial for several Chase hopefuls, including Penske Racing’s Joey Logano.
With just four races left before NASCAR’s version of the playoffs, time was running out for the 23-year-old young gun.
"Sliced Bread" remained calm under pressure, and came up with a huge win in Sunday’s 400-miler at the blazing fast Michigan track.
"We decided we needed a win a couple of weeks ago," Logano said. "So we got one. That is what we wanted to do. We should decide to get more wins. Maybe we will win more."
The win doesn’t quite lock Logano into the 2013 Chase, but it does put him close contention for a Wild Card spot, or even in position to crack the top 10 in points. Regardless, Logano knows he must remain consistent.
"As long as we are consistent and keep knocking off top-10s like this team has been doing… if we get another win, yeah, it will really help us, but this (win) is definitely a great help for our Chase hopes."
Logano managed to secure the lead with three to go when Mark Martin’s fuel tank ran dry, and he was able to keep Kevin Harvick at bay to score his first Sprint Cup win with Ford and Penske Racing.
Trailing the two at the line was Kurt Busch, who managed to sneak his way back into the top 10 in points. Paul Menard scored a season-best fourth place finish with Clint Bowyer rounding out the top five.
Jimmie Johnson, the only driver already locked into the Chase, was forced to start from the rear in a backup car after wrecking his primary car in practice. His weekend only went downhill from there, as an engine failure would end his day on lap 54.
Last week’s winner Kyle Busch also struggled in the Irish Hills. A spin on lap 158 left Busch with a severely damaged car and would ultimately relegate him to a 31st place finish.
Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth struggled both on and off the track. After a dismal 15th place finish, Kenseth fumbled when trying to spell Logano’s name on Twitter.
It’s okay though, he recovered.
In all seriousness, the two JGR drivers mentioned above – Busch and Kenseth – have multiple wins and will likely make the Chase barring catastrophic failures.
The series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway next weekend for a Saturday night short track showdown.