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At least Joey Logano finished this time.
One week after he was wrecked out of the lead on the final lap of the Daytona 500, Logano had another win at Daytona International Speedway slip through his fingers Sunday, this time on the road course.
Logano held a 3.5-second lead when Christopher Bell passed Kurt Busch for second place with five laps to go. But Bell was already on a charge after the final restart, and with fresher tires than Logano, he quickly closed in on the past Cup Series champion.
With two laps to go, Bell caught Logano. While the latter tried making his car wide through Turns 3 and 4 of the oval, Bell got position entering the frontstretch chicane and slipped by for the race-winning pass.
“You hate being that close, but at the same time, I look at where we came from and we had a really solid race,” said Logano, who’s recorded back-to-back runner-up finishes on road courses.
“Two solid stages – a second (place finish) and a third (place finish) in the stages, then second overall – that’s a great day, any way you look at it.
“It’s just getting passed coming to the white flag stings a lot.”
It caps a two-week run at Daytona that saw Logano get close to hitting Victory Lane on four different occasions. He also finished third in the Busch Clash on the road course and fourth in his Duel qualifier entering the Daytona 500.
On Sunday, Logano pointed to a lack of long-run speed on his Ford as a difference maker in the end.
“(Bell) had a great car,” he said. “They were able to hang with (Chase Elliott). Seems like the (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars have made a substantial gain on keeping up with (Elliott), and I feel like we’ve made a gain as well, but we’re still a step behind on the long run.
“Our short run speed is competitive, our braking is competitive, we just fall off on tires too hard. We’ve just gotta figure that out. We’ve identified the issue. Now it’s time to go to work.”
He also applied that outlook to his team’s performance as a whole in the first two weeks.
“I think we’re doing a good job,” he said. “When I think of the execution of this race team, we’re doing all the right things.
“We just gotta get a little bit faster. That’s the biggest thing that I see right now. Not that we’re far off, right? We’re right there in the hunt. But I’d say we’re outperforming the car at this moment. We just need to get our car a little better.”
Logano also confirmed that he spoke with Team Penske stablemate Brad Keselowski about the crash that kept him from claiming his second Daytona 500 win.
As eventual winner Michael McDowell pushed Keselowski on the final lap, Keselowski and Logano made contact and set off a multi-car crash. McDowell escaped and was declared the winner under caution.
“We’re fine,” Logano said on the subject. “We had a good conversation. Everything I hoped it would be – very honest and open. I think today, we were around each other a little bit and we raced each other fine, so I think everything’s gonna be good moving forward.
“It was a healthy conversation. Probably glad we waited a few days to cool our jets, but it ended up being a productive conversation.”
Keselowski finished fifth Sunday. He and Bell were found to have one lug nut loose on their cars in post-race inspection, which will lead to a $10,000 fine for their respective crew chiefs.