Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 didn’t start well for Joey Logano.
His No. 22 Ford wasn’t set up properly for the 94-degree temperatures drivers faced when the green flag flew shortly after 6 p.m. Starting seventh at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Logano quickly dropped toward the middle of the field.
Said Logano: “We were junk.”
But as darkness set in and temperatures cooled, Logano warmed up, enough so that he managed a second-place finish behind Martin Truex Jr., a result that Logano was more than satisfied with.
“For me to complain about finishing second sounds pretty dumb,” Logano said.
Preparing a car for the day-night dynamic of NASCAR’s longest race is a challenge that stretches the wits of the most experienced and savvy of teams. That was the case for Logano’s team, led by crew chief Todd Gordon.
“We sure didn’t set it up (correctly) for daytime,” Logano said. “I’m pretty sure we just missed it to start the race. It was way, way, way off. But we made some good adjustments to get us into contention and I’m proud of that.”
Gordon’s adjustments helped Logano surge through the field in the fourth and final segment. After taking on new tires during a caution with eight laps to go, Logano couldn’t find a clear path to get past Truex.
“I thought we had a good shot when that caution came out and that would give us a chance,” Logano said. “But I didn’t quite get it.”
Logano, the 2018 Cup Series champion, has already won this season (Las Vegas) and clinched a spot in the playoffs. But, like most of the other drivers on the circuit, he is still trying to figure out NASCAR’s new aero package that’s meant to create more passing on 1.5-mile tracks like Charlotte.
“This rules package is crazy,” Logano said. “It’s so intense. There’s crazy stuff happening. It’s a lot of fun. It’s nuts. It’s the right stuff for a mile-and-a-half track. We put on a good race.”
A subplot for Logano and teammates Ryan Blaney (who finished 13th) and Brad Keselowski (19th) was the possibility of making it an Indy-Charlotte double for Mooresville-based Team Penske, after Simon Pagenaud won the Indianapolis 500 earlier Sunday. Another Penske driver — Scott McLaughlin — also won a race Sunday in Australia.
“We want to win this race no matter what happens at Indy,” Logano said. “It was a great weekend for Penske. But, dang it, we didn’t quite get it done on the NASCAR side.”
But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a productive day — and night — for Logano. “Hey, this is the Coke 600,” he said. “That was some hard racing. It’s not some late-model deal.”