Harry Gant understands what Joey Logano is experiencing these days.
Logano has won three consecutive NASCAR Cup races as he heads into Sunday’s Goody’s 500 at Martinsville Speedway. That’s one triumph away from tying NASCAR’s modern-day record of four in a row, held by eight drivers – including Gant.
“Everything is clicking,” Gant said of what happens to a driver and his team during such a hot streak. “You’re going so well, you don’t want anything to be different. You don’t want anything to change. You get to four in a row and you want to get it to five, six or seven (victories).”
Logano’s streak comes at a critical time. All three victories came in the second round of the Chase. The first of them – at Charlotte – automatically qualified Logano for the third round of the playoffs, which begin at Martinsville. The other two – at Kansas and Talladega – were, essentially, just for good measure and put pressure on the rest of the field to advance on points.
“We have momentum and we know the recipe to win,” said Logano, who has six victories for the season, including the Daytona 500. “That’s more than anyone can say, at least in the last three races. But there are still a lot of very good race teams that are very fast and that we’ll be competing against all the way to the end.”
You get to four in a row and you want to get it to five, six or seven (victories).
Winning No. 4 won’t be easy for Logano. Although he is starting from the pole Sunday, he’s never won at Martinsville in 13 career starts.
But sometimes it doesn’t matter where you’re racing or what the circumstances might be. That’s what Gant remembers about 1991, when he took that four-race streak into the Holly Farms 400 at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
Gant started his streak at the Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. It continued through Richmond, Dover and Martinsville.
“It carries over everywhere, all the way from yourself through to the pit crew and the team owner (Leo Jackson),” said Gant. “It picks up the pit crew a bunch. Everyone is pumped up on the pit stops. We had fast pit stops the whole way through that.”
Logano is competing against other drivers who have also won multiple races in a row. Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are both among the eight tied for the record of four straight.
Although he trailed Dale Earnhardt by a substantial margin in the points standings, Gant arrived in North Wilkesboro feeling invincible. But he had won just once at the track, located 20 miles from his Taylorsville home.
Gant was the last to qualify, but bumped Davey Allison from the pole. When the race started, Gant resumed his dominant ways, leading 350 laps.
Then it all came to an end for Gant, when a 10-cent brake part failed on his No. 33 Skoal Bandit Oldsmobile. Gant’s streak was finished with a second-place finish behind Earnhardt.
Gant, now 75, still lives in Taylorsville, where he owns a cattle ranch with his family.
8 Drivers who have won four consecutive races in NASCAR’s modern era
“My brakes went and we had to ride it out that way,” said Gant. “If we had won that, there’s no telling how many more we would have won. That’s how confident you feel.”
Logano is competing against other drivers who have also won multiple races in a row. Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are both among the eight tied for the record of four straight. Johnson’s streak occurred during the 2007 Chase, which he won.
“It’s definitely a zone,” said Gordon. “Sometimes when you’re in that zone, you’re fighting hard to win races. You don’t think you have it, but you’re still finding your way into Victory Lane. Next thing you know, you feel like you can win every race.
“It’s amazing how hard it is to get yourself to that level of confidence. When you get there, it can carry you for a long way.”
Kyle Busch also won three in a row this summer, a stretch that included him winning four of five races.
“It feels too easy,” said Busch. “You’re wondering when it’s going to run out. I remember asking the guys on my team: ‘Is it really this easy? How is this possible?’”
Eight drivers have won four consecutive races since NASCAR’s modern era began in 1972:
1976 Cale Yarborough*
Richmond, Dover, Martinsville, North Wilkesboro
1981 Darrell Waltrip*
Martinsville, North Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Rockingham
1987 Dale Earnhardt*
Darlington, North Wilkesboro, Bristol, Martinsville
1991 Harry Gant
Darlington, Richmond, Dover, Martinsville
1992 Bill Elliott
Rockingham, Richmond, Atlanta, Darlington
1993 Mark Martin
Watkins Glen, Brooklyn, Bristol, Darlington
1998 Jeff Gordon*
Pocono, Indianapolis, Watkins Glen, Michigan
2007 Jimmie Johnson*
Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas, Phoenix
* won championship