Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – CONCORD, NC – Joey Logano wasn’t pleased with the way he negotiated the final chicane at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course.
The good news was that the final section of the 17-turn track—which is actually the opening chicane of the alternative qualifying configuration—didn’t hurt his effort significantly in Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series time trials.
Turning a lap in 120.755 seconds (103.424 mph), Logano secured the pole position for Sunday’s Round of 12 elimination race in the Cup Series Playoffs, the Bank of America ROVAL 400 (2 p.m. ET on NBC, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
In earning his third Busch Light Pole Award of the season and the 25th of his career, Logano edged William Byron (103.300 mph) for the top starting spot by .097 seconds.
“It was OK,” Logano said of his qualifying lap. “I felt like I screwed up the final chicane here. I screwed up the first run and made it through (to the final round), and I screwed up half as bad the second time trying to adjust but not over-adjust and I under-adjusted myself at least, but the (No. 22) Shell/Pennzoil Mustang has some speed in it, obviously.
“It was really good through the rest of the racetrack. Starting up front is nice. Hopefully, we can do what we need to do this weekend. Our job is to get into the next round, and we’ll figure out what we need from here, but this is a great starting spot, for sure.
“We’ve got a good pit stall and we just need to try to keep that track position. It’s pretty sketchy when you lose your track position here, so we’ll try to keep it.”
Logano is fifth in the Cup standings, 18 points above the cut line, entering the race that will narrow the Playoff field from 11 drivers to eight (with Playoff driver Alex Bowman having been sidelined because of injury).
Daniel Suárez (103.103 mph) and Tyler Reddick (103.088 mph), both of whom have won road course races this season, will start third and fourth, respectively, followed by Logano’s Team Penske teammates Austin Cindric and Ryan Blaney.
Double-duty driver AJ Allmendinger earned the seventh starting spot ahead of Christopher Bell, who realistically needs a victory to advance to the Round of 12. Bell was the only Toyota driver to make the final round.
Two-time Charlotte ROVAL winner Chase Elliott will start ninth, followed by Ross Chastain, who slammed the barrier between Turns 5 and 6 on his qualifying lap.
Reddick, who was eliminated from the Playoffs, and Allmendinger, who is running full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, are the only two drivers in the top 10 not competing for the Cup Series championship.
The remaining Playoff drivers qualified as follows: Chase Briscoe 17th, Kyle Larson 18th and Denny Hamlin 24th.
William Byron’s successful appeal won’t change Daniel Suárez’s approach
On Thursday afternoon, Trackhouse Racing driver Daniel Suárez lost one strand of his safety net.
In a hearing before the National Motorsports Appeal Panel, Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron regained the 25 championship points he was docked after spinning Denny Hamlin through the infield on Sept. 25 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Though the panel increased Byron’s monetary fine from $50,000 to $100,000, the reinstatement of the points elevated the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet to seventh in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings.
Suárez, on the other hand, dropped one position to eighth, the last spot eligible to advance to the Round of 8 after Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400, the elimination race for the Round of 12.
Suárez still has a 12-point edge over Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe, who are tied for ninth, but he now has seven drivers ahead of him instead of six. The driver of the No. 99 Chevrolet said on Saturday before Cup practice that his approach to Sunday’s race won’t change.
“In my mind, nothing has changed,” said Suárez, who qualified for the Playoffs by winning on the road course at Sonoma Raceway. “I don’t know if you’re thinking about the William Byron situation, but for me, I don’t care. That’s something I can’t control. He can be 20-points below or 20-points above and I don’t care. I can only control one car, and that’s the No. 99 Chevy.
“For me, honestly, right now, before the whole points situation that happened to them, nothing has changed. The only thing that’s changed is that position. But points-wise, it’s exactly the same. We just have to go out there and do our thing.
“We have a very, very good program when it comes to road-course racing. We have shown that in the past. We have to go out there, have fun and do things no different than any of the other road course races that we have done.”
Kyle Larson gets OK from Hendrick for Indy 500/Coke 600 double
Reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson has the green light from team owner Rick Hendrick to attempt the Indianapolis 500/Coca-Cola 600 double—provided Larson can secure competitive equipment for the IndyCar spectacle.
Larson said nothing had changed in his desire to do the double, but this year, Hendrick and Jeff Gordon, vice chairman of Hendrick Motorsports, are amenable to the idea.
“I want to be in the best equipment possible, with the best crew,” Larson said on Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “So, yeah, I mentioned to Jeff and Rick that I’d like to do it, but I also did a year ago, too…
“It’s kind of up to them to find something. Rick didn’t want me doing it this year, but he said in the future I could.”
NASCAR meets with Cup Series drivers to discuss safety issues with Next Gen car
NASCAR officials had what was termed a productive 75-minute Saturday morning meeting with Cup Series drivers to address safety concerns with the Next Gen race car, which was introduced into the series this year.
The sanctioning body shared information with the drivers about a crash test in Ohio on Wednesday, in which NASCAR tested a new rear clip, bumper structure and center section. NASCAR indicated the test went well.
The meeting was emblematic of NASCAR’s desire to improve lines of communication between the sanctioning body and the sport’s stakeholders. One of the near-term products of this desire will be the formation of a drivers’ safety group.
Rear impacts with the Next Gen car have been of particular concern, given the rigidity of that section, which was designed to protect the fuel cell and prevent potential fires. NASCAR is seeking a way to increase the crushability of the rear clip to diminish the severity of the impacts on drivers.
Any changes NASCAR adopts will be incorporated for the 2023 season.