Updated: April 8, 2014, 12:19 PM ET

Emotional Win For Joey Logano

Sprint Cup: Playing It Straight Leads To Win

By Mark Ashenfelter | ESPN.com

Mother Nature made it a tiring weekend for Sprint Cup Series teams stuck an extra day at Texas Motor Speedway. Some of that time was spent fretting whether tire issues would make Monday even more tiresome.

That it largely didn't was a testament not only Goodyear but to crew chiefs who showed a willingness to adapt; whether it was their equipment or by listening to the tire manufacturer's guidance.

A prime example of that adaptation was standing in Victory Lane, where Joey Logano and crew chief Todd Gordon celebrated after a dominating effort that culminated with a pass of Jeff Gordon during a green-white-checkered finish. That Logano and Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski were fast wasn't surprising; that they had equally durable setups was the determining factor in strong runs for both.

Joey Logano and Jeff Gordon
Patrick Smith/Getty Images)Jeff Gordon, left, and Joey Logano had a classic duel to the finish at Texas.

Keselowski won earlier at Las Vegas and both were fast at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., two weeks later. A broken gear left Logano 39th, after he'd had tire issues in the practices beforehand. Logano didn't have tire issues during the race, but Keselowski wasn't as lucky, coming home 26th in California.

Before Texas, Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition, said teams were free to use whatever setups they desired in terms of camber and air pressure in the tires. Then, if teams ignored Goodyear's guidelines on minimum tire pressures, they had no one to blame but themselves.

Logano admitted concerns before the first practice at Texas despite knowing Goodyear makes every effort possible to bring the best tire to the track.

"We want more grip, we want a softer tire, we want a tire that wears out, and then we're putting so much load on them with these heavy cars it's almost impossible to do both, so it's very, very difficult to make that happen," said Logano, who toured Goodyear's plant in the offseason. "They're always constantly adjusting on their blends and constructions and what they're doing with their tires, so it's not from a lack of effort on their part.

"… I've got the most faith in those guys that anyone can have, and that's why I try to help them as much as I can is to give them the best insight of what we're fighting. I know as Team Penske, we give them all the information we possibly can to help them make decisions when they're back at their shop."

At Texas, it was a two-way street -- one that led Logano and Gordon to a 1-2 finish. Gordon said conversations he had with Goodyear's engineers helped him change his approach to ensure the tires held up.

Similar decisions seemingly were made throughout the garage as Kurt Busch was the lone driver with tire issues throughout the day at Texas.

"I think we were cognizant of where we were vs. the limit and I thought we played that smart," said Gordon, who was thankful of the input received from Goodyear.

Logano's concerns entering the weekend were allayed quickly during the race, and he's grateful he found the balance necessary for victory.

"That means you have to take a little bit of performance out of the car," Logano said. "I felt like this week was obviously way smoother than California. You look at green-flag stops and very limited tire issues today at all, so Goodyear brought us something that I feel like was reliable. Yes, we were worried about it, but, at the same time, we were able to run hard the whole [fuel] run."

Even though this was just the seventh race of the season, Logano was already concerned that he was winless entering Texas. It was to the point that discussions were held Saturday about how the team would use its allotted tests.

Those talks are now for naught as Team Penske's testing program can focus solely on Homestead and other tracks hosting Chase races. To say winning was a relief for Logano would be putting it mildly.

Now, instead of worrying about optimizing things to get a win in August, the focus is on September and beyond.

"I'm not saying we're not gonna work hard to win more races throughout the rest of the year," Logano said. "Like Todd said, we need to still run well and keep ourselves up in points and win some more races because you want to go into the Chase with momentum, but, as far as updating specs and stuff like that, we can start focusing on Chase stuff."

Sure, the No. 22 team will focus on the long haul now that it has a win, but Gordon knows the team can also take a few more chances in search of additional wins through the first 26 races.

"The short answer to that question is yes, within reason," Gordon said. "You can't be stupid about it, but it does open up your box to be a little more aggressive on how you call a race."

Sometimes, the aggressive approach works best. But, as Gordon and Logano showed at Texas, sometimes playing things close to the book also can lead to Victory Lane.

• Ashenfelter is an Event News Editor at ESPN.
• Worked at NASCAR Scene for eight years.
• Has covered NASCAR since 1999.

Joey Logano Wins At Texas


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