It was Joey Logano’s first career trip to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Victory Lane Sunday afternoon, but the reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion looked right at home – elated to score his first win of the year and extremely optimistic with the way NASCAR’s newly-introduced 1.5-mile race package played out.
Logano held off a hard-charging Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski in the race’s waning laps – and a particularly spirited pass attempt in the final lap - to score his first win of 2019. It’s essentially the golden ticket to the Playoffs and a chance to defend his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title.
And yet as personally rewarding as the victory was, Logano was equally as positive about what the style of racing meant for the sport going forward. In Victory Lane and again in front of the print media, he was all smiles talking about the new technical package introduced by NASCAR this year.
He conceded, it was close racing on Sunday, there was no clear advantage to being out front as in past years. It was his feeling you worked just as hard there as you did mid-pack and back in the pack.
“The way racing has been there for a while, the leader would check out after three laps here," Logano said. “The leader would have a huge advantage, and now it is what it is for right now, things will change when we get back here and as we go through the season, but for now, the races have been great. The leaders can't get away. You know, and old tires, moving around the racetrack, able to run the wall like that in [turns] 3 and 4, super cool."
Asked specifically about the competition with the new package, Logano smiled again and reiterated, “I thought the racing was awesome. I don't really know what else to give you if you didn't like it. The racing is close, you're side-by-side. There's aggressive blocks and big moves and bumping and banging.
"That's NASCAR, baby. I don't really know what else to tell you."
Logano anticipated the same sort of free-for-all next week at the one-mile ISM Raceway in Phoenix. It’s a track where Logano won in the Fall of 2016 and that boasts seven different winners in the last seven races. Kevin Harvick won in the spring of 2018 and Kyle Busch won in the Fall.
Each of the three manufacturers has won twice in the last six races – all important factors considering it’s the penultimate event in the series Playoffs and will decide the Championship 4 contenders when the series returns to race Nov. 10.
Based on the events at Atlanta, a week ago, and Las Vegas on Sunday, there are legitimate high hopes for excitement at ISM Raceway – the third different size venue in the four-week old season.
And statistics fully indicate an uptick in action.
For example, there were 47 green flag passes for the lead at Vegas, compared to nine in the previous race there. In the previous four races at Vegas, the highest number of green flag passes for the lead was 22 in March, 2016.
There were fewer caution laps (12) on Sunday compared to the previous four years. And Logano’s margin of victory was .236-seconds – the closest in that timeframe as well.
“I think it's just a learning process as to what we've got," Logano’s crew chief Todd Gordon said. “But what phenomenal racing.
“Raced the 18 [Kyle Busch] pretty hard, swapped the lead with him, raced the 4 [Kevin Harvick] pretty hard, and even our teammate, and just kudos to the aero package and where it's gone."