Logano says NASCAR playoffs are stressful

DOVER — The fewer the number of races left on the Monster Energy Cup schedule, the more the pressure goes up.

So, sure, says Joey Logano, the stress on the drivers in the playoff chase goes up, too.

“There is a reason most of these drivers are bald,” the 29-year-old joked on Friday. “I don’t know if it is the helmet, but it might be the stress.”

Not that Logano is complaining.

Special to the Delaware State News/Pete Hinson. Driver Joey Logano talks with his crew at Dover International Speedway on Friday.

He’d much rather be among the 12 drivers left on the playoff bracket then on the outside as the NASCAR world comes to Dover International Speedway this weekend. Sunday’s Drydene 400 Cup race starts the next three-race segment of the playoff bracket.

Logano takes to the Monster Mile this weekend fourth in the points standings. But that hardly makes him immune to feeling playoff stress right now.

“There is a lot you have to deal with as a driver and as a leader,” he said during a Dover press conference. “There is a lot that you have to overcome and figure out. The pressure is on this time of year and it either makes you better or you are going to fall apart. It kind of depends on the person.

Joey Logano enters turn two during the second practice session of Monster Cup Series at Dover International Speedway. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“That is why the experienced guys have such an advantage. They have been through it before and know how to handle it and the pressure actually makes them better. I feel like we are in a good spot for that reason being in this spot before.”

But going from being in a good spot to being in trouble can happen quickly at this point in the season.

Logano knows any driver is just one bad race away from suddenly facing elimination from the playoffs. So while the 12 drivers in the chase are feeling pretty good after making the cut last weekend, that feeling doesn’t last.

The fact that unpredictable Talladega is on the schedule next week doesn’t make anybody breathe any easier.

“If you put yourself behind the eight-ball and head to Talladega with a 50-percent chance of finishing the race, you aren’t sleeping too well,” said Logano. “That is why it is so important when you come here to Dover to have a solid finish and score a lot of points in this race: Stage points, finishing points and if you get the win, that is awesome and definitely how you want to do it.

“I do notice that pressure ratchets up each race in the round. The pressure that those guys had last race … is a stressful weekend. Last round was all about scoring enough points to where you didn’t have to worry about the Roval because you don’t know what is going to happen there.”

Joey Logano signs a autograph before the Monster Cup practice at Dover International Speedway on Friday.Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Logano has had some success at Dover lately. He finished seventh here in the spring race after taking third on the Monster Mile last fall.

But Logano also said you can’t get complacent about racing at Dover, either. The high-banked concrete oval is just too physically demanding to ever some close to relaxing.

On Logano’s second Cup race on the Monster Mile, his day was ended by a memorable wreck.
“It is one of those places that every time we qualify here I get out of the car and I have the shakes,” he said. “I am telling you, it is something that you are pushing so hard.”

Logano said, especially in qualifying, there is a feeling that you’re probably pushing the car to go faster than you probably should. Monster Cup qualifying is slated for today at 1:35 p.m.

“The reward, the pole, is what you go for,” he said. “It makes that really fun. It is really hard because you are fighting against your instincts. But it is definitely a place to lay down some fast laps for sure.”

Joey Logano drives on the Monster Mile during the Monster Cup practice at Dover International Speedway on Friday.Delaware State News/Marc Clery

It was only two years ago, in 2017, that Logano didn’t even qualify for the Cup playoffs. He bounced back last year, though, to win his first season championship at this level.

So while people might focus more on the 12 playoff drivers on Sunday, Logano knows every driver on the track is competing for something. He expects non-playoff drivers to push for the victory as much as anybody.

“As a playoff driver you hope to get a little more room and respect but you can’t expect it,” he said. “They still have something to race for and you have to be big enough to understand that piece of it. From someone that has been on both sides of the fence, I understand that piece.

“If you didn’t make the playoffs, you are just trying to get some solid finishes and build for next year. It is important for them. We shouldn’t be the ones taking that away from them or expecting any special privileges.”

Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or walter@newszap.com.

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