Splitter to Spoiler: Logano at 80 percent leads to come-from-behind Richmond win

Following a transmission change prior to the race, Logano earns first victory of season in Richmond

Peter Casey—X02835
Apr 30

RICHMOND — Todd Gordon had a simple message prior to the Toyota Owners 400 in Richmond: “We need you at 80 percent.”It was a text Gordon, Logano’s crew chief, sent to him following the discovery of debris in the No. 22 transmission, which caused the team to drop to the back of the field after qualifying fifth. Gordon wanted Logano to keep things simple and slowly move up through the field to be in contention at the end.Logano’s response? “You pay me to go 100 percent.”That’s exactly what Logano did on Sunday afternoon, clinching his first win of the 2017 campaign in Richmond. Did he take their advice?”I did. I hated it, too,” Logano said with a laugh. “I’m not wired that way. I’m a balls to the wall type of guy, hard as I can, all the time. That’s the way I’m wired. … Then at the end, take that 80 percent thing and throw that out the window. It’s game time. I was able to give it 100 percent.”Gordon was asked by Winston Kelley prior to the race what he needed to get out front. His answer was, “A caution on Lap 8.” The caution came on Lap 7 and allowed Logano to head to the pits, get four tires and charge through the field into the top 10 by the end of the first stage.Late in the race, Logano needed some luck again as he fought his way to the front while his teammate Brad Keselowski was fighting through traffic. Ultimately, Logano won his 18th race and became the fifth driver to win on his 300th start.”Glad the race was 400 laps,” Logano said with a laugh. “If it was any shorter, we probably wouldn’t have won. If it was any longer, we probably wouldn’t have won. … We’re resilient, that’s for sure, and we’ve shown that over the last four years that you can’t hold us down. You might be able to put us back every now and again, but you’re not going to hold that team down.”Roush makes gains behind 
Stenhouse’s performanceComing into the season, Roush Fenway Racing was once again seen as an afterthought. The team was reduced to a two-car program after Greg Biffle “retired” and left with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne, two drivers who have failed to make the playoff their entire careers.Both are making waves early and proving Roush has a chance to put both in the playoffs. Stenhouse, who finished fourth in Sunday’s race, is now inside the top 16 at 15, just one spot behind Bayne.”I feel more confident going to every track,” Stenhouse said. “The cars are getting better. This weekend was probably, from start to finish, the best weekend we’ve had as far as average long-run speed. … It was the best car we’ve had all year so far.”Stenhouse’s second top-five finish of the season came after a top-10 finish at Bristol last weekend, proving the team is thriving at short tracks. But it almost didn’t happen with Stenhouse running into the wall early and bending the splitter bar.Despite his mistake, Stenhouse pulled from past experiences to slowly work his way back to the front. A strategy to stay out late also helped, keeping him in the running despite not having four new tires like his competition.”We never quit,” Stenhouse said of his team. “… The key for us is to keep plugging away, never give up and keep fighting. It’s the fight that I had when I was in the Xfinity Series and won a race from two laps down in Kansas. You just can’t ever give up.”Farewell tour starts off 
with a thud for JuniorIt wasn’t supposed to be like this for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Coming off the announcement that he would retire at the end of 2017, Earnhardt fought all afternoon at Richmond just to remain inside the top 20 due to tightness in the No. 88 car.Junior complained about the on-track issues to crew chief Greg Ives, but the issues remained the same seemingly all day. Earnhardt finished 21st and 20th in Stages 1 and 2, respectively, before using a good restart late to finally break into the teens.Then disaster struck. Running up in the top two and waiting on a caution to fly, Earnhardt got loose and slammed into the wall. He was met by teammate Jimmie Johnson, compounding the damage to the No. 88 before he returned to the track and spun out a few laps later causing him to finish 30th two laps down.”He said he didn’t see us,” Earnhardt said of Johnson. “He had pitted and got tires and we were out there running around the top and weren’t ready to pit yet. He said he didn’t get any notice that he had a car outside.”Currently sitting at 24th overall in the points standings, this is far from the start Earnhardt hoped to have to his final season. But there are still 17 races before the playoffs for the Hendrick Motorsports driver to get back to his winning ways to make the postseason.Luckily for Earnhardt, the next race on the NASCAR circuit is at Talladega, a track where he has six wins and 11 top-two finishes over his career. With only two superspeedway races remaining before the postseason begins, Sunday will be a crucial race for the No. 88 team.”I don’t know what to do,” a discouraged Earnhardt said. “But, we were probably going to finish anywhere around 10th to 15th today, not all that awesome, but (sigh) we just had such terrible luck.”