Logano dominates in All-Star win

Joey Logano celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR All-Star auto race at North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Wilkesboro, N.C., Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Chuck Burton/AP Photo)

Joey Logano was able to put his struggles of the 2024 season behind him and deliver a dominating win in the NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro.

Logano set an all-star record by pitching a near shutout. He led for 199 out of 200 laps and turning in a masterful performance, winning the million-dollar exhibition for the first time since 2016.

The win helped relieve some of the frustration from a year that has not gone Logano’s way very often. He entered the race ranked No. 17, which, if the season ended today, would be his worst ranking since 2017. He hadn’t won a race, his first time getting blanked since the 2011 season. His one top five finish and three top 10s would be his worst since 2008—his rookie year.

“it’s been a challenging year, no doubt,” Logano said. “. It feels good. It’s funny because the first thing that goes through your mind is gosh, I wish this counted for points. But let’s be honest, a million bucks is a lot of money, and it counts for something.”

Logano credited his team, who was able to manage a number of variables to put together the near-perfect performance. North Wilkesboro was running its first race on the newly repaved track—the first time the speedway has gotten a new surface since 1981. Goodyear also offered drivers a new, softer tire that was promised to produce fast lap times but was expected to fall off quickly—perhaps as soon as 15 laps. Then there was the weather, which played havoc with the week’s schedule, cutting into on-track practice time.

Logano and his team participated in the tire test on the new surface, which helped Goodyear develop the new tires.

“I don’t know if you guys ever watched the movie Miracle before and the coach is making them run the suicide drills and he keeps saying again and again,” Logano said. “That was (crew chief) Paul Wolfe to me at the test here. I ran over 800 laps in two days. I was sore, and I’d had enough. It was warm out.”

All those laps may have given his crew a head start on managing the uncertainty, because they were able to run the entire race on the two sets of new option tires that each team was provided.

“There’s no doubt the falloff with the option tire, the soft tire, falls off very quickly the first 15 laps,” Logano said, “but then it would just balance, and it would just stay the same all the way through.”

The fact that the tires would stabilize after the initial fall off was something that seemed to catch many of the other teams off guard, leaving them chasing Logano all night.

“I think some of that’s because honestly we raced at night and it’s cooler out and the track has got more grip,” he said. “Any other part — let’s be honest, it’s a new racetrack. It’s going to be hard to get tire wear at any brand-new racetrack.”

Logano was able to hold off challenges from Denny Hamlin, who finished second, and Kyle Larson, who made a push into the top three with about 35 laps remaining. He eventually finished fourth.

“Denny gave me a run for my money,” Logano said. “I just had to battle him off. And when there’s a million dollars on the line, I think all the rules go out the window. I knew that was coming. I think that was kind of us trying to maintain that clear air.”

“It’s always hard as the leader,” said Wolfe. “At times it’s a lot tougher as the leader, making those tough decisions on pitting, not pitting. Obviously tonight we threw in the variable of another tire. At times it’s almost like you’re a sitting duck because they’re a lot of times just going to do the opposite of what you do. You have the track position, the guys in the back don’t. So, they’re going to play the opposite strategy.

“Fortunately, we had a great car. Obviously, we didn’t know that until we got deeper into the race, but fortunately it played out that we did.”

It seemed that the only thing that could catch up to Joey Logano on Sunday was inflation.

“Compared to the first time (he won), I guess you could say a million bucks isn’t worth as much as it used to be,” he said. “Maybe that’s one thing we should change is we should keep up with inflation. How many years ago did they start at a million bucks? 1985? Oh, my goodness, it should be three times the amount now.”