Spotlight Is On Logano vs. Truex In Texas

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 4 2018

The controversial bump-and-run victory by Joey Logano at Martinsville last weekend is still the talk of NASCAR this weekend in Texas. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Garry Eller)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas – Joey Logano received a text message from Martin Truex Jr. Sunday night following their controversial bump-and-run encounter at Martinsville Speedway,  the exact contents of which remain Classified Information.

The last-lap dust-up on Martinsville’s famed half-mile oval secured Logano’s spot in NASCAR’s Championship Four lineup later this month at Homestead-Miami Speedway, comparisons to Dale Earnhardt’s “Intimidator” persona and fueled the hot-button topic in the media center at Texas Motor Speedway.

Logano acknowledged that Truex, the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, was “a little frustrated” by his use of NASCAR’s so-called Chrome Horn. At the same time, Logano defended his aggressiveness as inherent to short –track racing.

“That bump-and-run move, although that was probably the most popular one of the whole race because it was for the win on the last lap, probably happened 10 or 15 times before that and it didn’t get covered,” Logano said during an interview previewing Sunday’s AAA Texas 500. “It’s a classic move in NASCAR that happens a lot, every time we go there, whether it’s on Lap 20 or Lap 499.”

This afternoon’s 334-lap/501-mile race on TMS’ 1.5-mile oval is the second of three events in the Round of 8. Truex, driver of the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, remains in contention among the top four based upon points after his third-place result at Martinsville.

“You’re in the playoffs and have an opportunity to lock yourself into the

Joey Logano did what he had to do last weekend. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Andrew Coppley)

Championship Four,” said Logano, driver of the No. 22 AAA Insurance Ford Fusion fielded by Team Penske. “You don’t know what‘s going to happen the next two races (TMS and ISM Raceway outside Phoenix next weekend). It’s Martinsville. It’s classic short-track racing that we have seen 100 times. Like I said, some fans love it and some don’t.

“Either way you’re going to have plenty of questions afterwards. If you don’t do it they want to know why you didn’t do it. If you do it, half are happy and half aren’t. I’m not here to make everyone happy. I’m here to do my job for my race team and they did such a great job all day long and we led 300 laps. If you don’t try to win the race, I would expect them to be very disappointed in me as a driver for them.

“It was a classic bump-and-run. There was no crashing or cars in the wall. It was a bump-up to get there and then that classic drag race and that cool finish for everybody.”

Logano added that while Truex’s text “broke the ice” between them, he was driving when the message arrived. “I had to wait until I got home to respond,” Logano said. “It worked out well. It wouldn’t make any sense if the AAA driver texted on the way home. That would be really bad.”

For his part, Truex said he reached out to Logano because he wanted to tell the Team Penske driver how he felt about getting knocked out of the lead and a critical Playoff victory.

“I wanted to get his point of view and what he was thinking. What he thought

Martin Truex Jr. was not celebrating after being bumped out of the lead last weekend in Martinsville. (RacinToday/HHP file photo)

about it,” Truex said during his afternoon presser. “Now I know.”

Asked if intended to race Logano any differently going forward, Truex hedged. “It’s so situational. I think it depends on what situation you’re in. What is on the line. How people respond to it,” said Truex, whose Furniture Row Racing team is going to fold at season’s end.

I try to do things the right way. I try to race the way I want to be raced,” said Truex, his voice cracking with emotion. “Sometimes I get taken advantage of because of that. At the end of the day, I know when I beat a guy, it’s because I out-drove him and didn’t run into him. That’s my way of thinking and some people disagree with it. Some people think it’s perfectly fine to knock a guy out of the way to get a win. My opinion it’s not.

“We all think differently. It’s the not the way I have ever done it. Whether it’s Go-Karts or Modified cars. No matter what it was, that’s the way I was taught to race. You race fair. You race clean and you race as hard as you can straight-up. I can say that every single win I have had, I earned it. That’s just the way it is.”

Logano will start eighth after qualifying at 199.086 mph Friday evening. Truex starts 13th after hot-lapping at 197.962 mph. During Saturday’s final Happy Hour practice, Truex placed third on the speed chart at 191.884 mph.  Logano was 18th after a best lap of 190.235 mph.

So, what does Playoff contender Kyle “Rowdy” Busch think about this thorny issue?

“I think there’s opportunity to be aggressive here if you want to be aggressive,” said Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing. “But there’s a lot of risk-for-reward at this place, especially on restarts with as slick as we’ve seen it be, as narrow as we’ve seen it be the last few years since the repave (after the 2016 season). Depending on how the rubber application gets going here this weekend and how wide of a groove you kind of see between the Truck race and the Xfinity race leading into the Cup race, that kind of determines what all you should expect or how hard you feel like you can go on restarts.

“Past that, into last week’s race, obviously I didn’t go back and re-watch it. But just remembering what I remember about it, the No. 78 worked hard for quite a few laps to make a move at Martinsville and at a short track as clean as he possibly could and just cleared a guy too soon and got run over through (Turns) 3 and 4.

“With sometimes who you’re racing around, I guess you have to know what’s going to happen and expect that and try to plan for it, I guess. When you try to do too much planning, last time I checked, that’s not racing.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 4 2018
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