Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – DOVER, DE – Joey Logano got a stark reminder at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course last Sunday of just how important a single point can be in a championship run.
Fortunately, the wake-up call didn’t prove costly to Logano himself.
But when Kyle Larson bounced off the outside wall in a crippled car on the final lap of the Bank of America Roval 400 and finished just high enough to create a three-way tie for the last two berths in the Round of 12 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, the complexion of the title competition changed radically.
Moments earlier, entering the final chicane, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson had been battling Martin Truex Jr. for the race win. But Johnson lost control in the chicane and ultimately knocked Truex into the outside wall.
Johnson would have advanced to the Round of 12 had Larson not steered his car around the track and passed the stalled car of Jeffrey Earnhardt 100 feet from the finish line to gain the one position he needed to create the three-way tie. On a tiebreaker using the respective best finishes in the Round of 16, Johnson was the odd man out.
And Logano noticed.
“We always say, ‘Man, we need every point possible; we need to get every little bit that means so much,’” Logano said on Friday at Dover International Speedway. “But think about like not only during that race, but the races leading to it or the regular season. You know how big one stage win would have been? That’s all that matters sometimes to make a huge difference.
“Your whole season can be on one point, and that’s what these Playoffs bring, and that’s so cool. We all knew that, but when you see it again, and sometimes you get kind of comfortable with a situation and then you see that and it’s like, ‘Wow, one point would make a really big difference a lot of times.’
“So we need to race aggressively knowing that. You can be put into a situation where the smallest thing makes a big difference.”
KYLE LARSON TESTS 2019 MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP RULES PACKAGE
The new 2019 competition package introduced this week for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series features considerably more downforce than the current configuration, thanks to a taller spoiler and a wider splitter.
To Kyle Larson, who ran a Chevrolet set up with the new rules package during a Goodyear tire test at Phoenix on Wednesday, the difference was obvious.
“We did about half the day or a little bit more in 2019 aero package,” Larson said on Friday at Dover International Speedway. “It just has way more grip. We ran through some different tire compounds and stuff to get an idea. All of them had a lot of grip, so you could carry a ton of throttle. The acceleration obviously wasn’t the same as the ’18 package, just because you have the bigger blade and stuff on the back. A lot more drag.
“So acceleration wasn’t quite as much. It was pretty crazy how far you could run in the corner and then also how quick you could pick the gas up.”
The 2019 rules feature a 1.17-inch tapered spacer—the same as the 2018 configuration, with engines capable of generating 750 horsepower—for tracks shorter than 1.33 miles. For tracks 1.33 miles and longer, the 2019 rules include a .922-inch spacer at approximately 550 horsepower—a 37.5-percent increase over the package run at the widely acclaimed Monster Energy All-Star Race in May.
UNEXPECTED CHARLOTTE WIN BUOYS CHASE BRISCOE’S CONFIDENCE
Austin Cindric had heard the same old song before. His buddy and fellow Ford driver, Chase Briscoe, was poor-mouthing his chances in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on the dirt half-mile at Eldora Speedway earlier this year.
Before the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course last Saturday, Briscoe was similarly negative after practice.
“It’s funny, the two races he’s won this year, which were probably the two biggest wild cards in NASCAR, he’s texted me back and forth after practice about how terrible he was in practice,” Cindric said on Friday at Dover International Speedway.
“At Eldora he was like, ‘We’re terrible. I’m going to run like junk.’ And he goes and wins the race the next day. It was the same thing at the Roval.”
A Ford development driver, Briscoe hasn’t firmed up his plans for next year, but the Charlotte victory certainly lifted his spirits.
“It’s pretty cool to say that we’re the first guy to win at the Roval, and I don’t think it’s sunk in quite yet, just because, going to Saturday, I truthfully didn’t expect to go win,” Briscoe said. “I was just going to be happy to run around 10th and have a clean race and finish, so to be able to get the win like that and not just lead the last lap, but lead quite a bit of the laps, it was definitely cool.
“I don’t know if it’s necessarily sunk in yet, but I think confidence-wise it’ll help for the remainder of this season just building that, being able to go to the race track, just because, truthfully, my confidence had been a little bit down with the way the season had been going
“But for next year, I think it always helps if you’re winning, whether it’s in a sprint car or an XFINITY car or whatever. We’re still trying to line up what 2019 holds, but Ford has assured me that I’ll be in something, just trying to figure out what it’s going be.”