Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – MARTINSVILLE, VA –
• Questions about last year’s bump-and-run still dog Joey Logano
• Corey LaJoie suffers brake failure, hard crash in practice
• Martinsville Cup practices produce mixed bag of leaders
Questions about last year’s bump-and-run still dog Joey Logano
Joey Logano offers understanding, but no apologies.
After he applied the bumper to Martin Truex Jr.’s Toyota in the final corner of last year’s fall race at Martinsville Speedway, Logano edged past Truex for the race victory and a guaranteed berth in the Championship 4 event at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
In that season finale, Logano went on to win his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title.
Logano understood why Truex was upset at being denied his first short-track win on the final lap. But Logano wasn’t sorry.
Given that the series is returning to Martinsville this weekend for the first time since last November’s memorable race, it was inevitable that the subject of the bump-and-run would come up.
“I mean, it’s in the past at this point,” Logano said. “But I think at that point Martin texted me and, like I told you guys, he was pretty clear that he was frustrated with the move. I understood, and I think he understood why I had to do it, and it kind of played out and worked out, but my move to him was that I didn’t wreck you. I gave the old bump-and-run.
“That happened 15 times a race here at Martinsville, and that one was just a little more popular. I think there’s a fine line. You don’t want to straight out bump somebody on purpose, but you also, when it comes down to the end of the race like that and there’s that much on the line… that was our shot to win a championship.
“So I think every driver has a line that they are OK with and that you can go to sleep at the end of the night and say, ‘I did what I had to do and I’m all right with it,’ and if it happened to me, you have to be OK with that as well. I think that was the situation for me that I was trying to explain to him.”
COREY LAJOIE SUFFERS BRAKE FAILURE, HARD CRASH IN PRACTICE
Perhaps the most uncomfortable feeling at any race track comes from stabbing the brakes and feeling the pedal sink to the floorboard.
That’s what happened to Corey LaJoie, whose No. 32 GoFas Racing Ford crashed hard into the Turn 1 wall after his brakes failed in Saturday’s opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at Martinsville Speedway.
The car suffered extensive front-end damage, leaving the right front tire barely rolling at a cockeyed angle as LaJoie nursed the car back to pit road.
“I’ll tell you, there is no coffee strong enough that will wake you up like losing brakes into Turn 1 at Martinsville,” LaJoie said after the crash. “It’s not a good feeling losing brakes. It had like a half-pedal, and then it felt like it blew through the seal or something.
“It’s unfortunate, because small teams like ours, we don’t really bring a backup (car) that’s fully ready to go, so my guys have a lot of work ahead of them. I’ll probably pitch in and help a little bit, but, obviously, our backup is not going to be as good as the car that we choose and bring as our primary.”
MARTINSVILLE CUP PRACTICES PRODUCE MIXED BAG OF LEADERS
With teams toggling back and forth between race trim and qualifying trim, Saturday’s two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice sessions at Martinsville Speedway produced radically different groups of cars at the top of the leaderboard.
Clint Bowyer, defending race winner in Sunday’s STP 500 (2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), paced the opening session with a lap at 97.674 mph. Daniel Suarez and Aric Almirola, Bowyer’s teammates at Stewart-Haas racing, were second and third fastest, respectively.
Happy Hour was a completely different story. With Chase Elliott leading the way at 97.542 mph, Hendrick Motorsports drivers claimed the top three spots on the leaderboard. Alex Bowman was second fastest, followed by nine-time Martinsville winner Jimmie Johnson, who is looking for a turnaround after four straight finishes of 12th or worse at the .526-mile short track.
Martin Truex Jr., the victim of a last-lap bump-and-run in last year’s Playoff race at Martinsville, figures to be a contender again Sunday, after leading consecutive-lap averages over runs of five, 10 and 20 laps.
Near the end of final practice, Cody Ware wheel-hopped into the outside wall. His No. 51 Chevrolet sustained heavy damage in the accident.