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New Hampshire notebook: Logano unfazed by bubble status

Sports Xchange - Sunday 16th July, 2017

By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

Distributed by The Sports Xchange

LOUDON, N.H. -- Joey Logano isn't letting his status on the standings bubble bother him.

Never mind that Logano is in a marginal position when it comes to making the postseason playoff in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Never mind that he lost the benefit of his April victory in Richmond when NASCAR discovered an impropriety with his No. 22 Team Penske Ford.

Never mind that there are 10 drivers with unencumbered victories this season and six others without wins ahead of Logano in the standings -- a circumstance that could prove problematic since there are only 16 playoff spots available.

Although Logano is currently 12th in points and the first driver out when it comes to the playoff, his belief in the resilience of his team is unflagging.

"None of this is new," said Logano, a two-time New Hampshire winner during media availability for Sunday's Overton's 301 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN). "If you think about it, we do this throughout the playoffs. You have a cut-off every three races, and you know the points are close. They will be closer this year than ever with the stages and how that works. I think of Phoenix last year. We went into that race do or die and we won.

"Talladega was the same thing. Do or die and we won. We're going to get in a situation that is do or die, and I have more faith in this team that it is going to happen than not. This team rises to the occasion, for sure. When the pressure is on, they show up. It is just a matter of time before that happens."

GOOD STRETCH OF RACES COMING FOR TOYOTA TEAMS

Through 18 races this season, only one driver Toyota driver has been to Victory Lane. Martin Truex Jr. has three wins, the most recent coming last Saturday at Kentucky.

Joe Gibbs Racing, which fields Camrys for veterans Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth and Sunoco rookie Daniel Suarez, has yet to score a victory. The same goes for Sunoco rookie Erik Jones, Truex's teammate at Furniture Row Racing.

Although there are only eight races left before the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, it's too early to dismiss the chances of the winless Toyota drivers. Why? Because of their track record over the last two years.

Kenseth enters Sunday's Overton's 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway as the defending winner. Busch won the same race in 2015. Busch is also the two-time defending champion of next week's Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400.

Hamlin won last year at Watkins Glen. Truex is defending champion at Darlington, with the JGR's Carl Edwards, now departed from the team, taking the checkered flag the year before. Hamlin triumphed in the cut-off race for the playoffs last year, and Kenseth did the same in 2015.

The bottom line? In four of the remaining eight races before the playoffs, Toyotas have a two-year winning streak.

Clearly, the future is now for those teams. The next eight races will tell us how bright that future will be.

LARSON FRUSTRATED BY LACK OF LONG-RUN SPEED

Sometimes a practice hold can be a good thing.

A day after seeing his pole-winning time disallowed because of a non-conforming rear deck-lid fin, Kyle Larson started Saturday's final practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the penalty box -- thanks to a 30-minute hold for inspection failures the previous week at Kentucky Speedway.

Accordingly, Larson got only one long run in Happy Hour, and he was anything but happy with the result.

"On long run stuff, I'm really bad," Larson said afterward. "I've got to get better at that. It's just really loose in (into the corners) and really tight in the middle. And as the VHT (traction compound) is wearing off, I'm just getting worse and worse. So, I've got to work on that."

Larson felt the 30-minute hold might have been a blessing in disguise.

"It's probably good for my attitude because I'd be double as frustrated if I had another run to do," Larson said. "So I don't know. We'll work on it and we'll get it better."

Don't feel too sorry for the driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi racing Chevrolet. He was second fastest in Saturday's first practice and fourth on the speed chart in Happy Hour. In 10-lap average speed, he was quickest in the first session and ninth in final practice.

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