Joey Logano already has his eyes on bouncing back from a disappointing 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season which saw him break an unwanted record.
Not until this past weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway had a reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion been eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs, when Team Penske’s Joey Logano saw his chance to become the first repeat champion since Jimmie Johnson won five straight titles from 2006 to 2010 go out the window.
A lackluster regular season, which saw him win only one race at Atlanta Motor Speedway back in March and thus translated to a shortage of playoff points, coupled with running deep in the pack at Bristol and getting caught up in another driver’s wreck led to the driver of the No. 22 Ford being among the first four postseason exits.
“The racing changes all the time, and the competition changes,” Logano told Beyond the Flag when asked why the 2023 season has been so unpredictable. “We need to try to keep up with that, and this year, we didn’t do a good job keeping up.
“I think right now if you look at the Toyotas, they’re the fastest cars, so you have to kind of say that they’re probably the favorites at the moment, but things change quickly so you never know.”
Several drivers who we aren’t accustomed to seeing win won — some multiple times — during the 2023 regular season, and other regular frontrunners, such as Logano and Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott, found themselves eliminated many weeks — months, even — earlier than usual.
Team Penske, not just Joey Logano, struggled throughout the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season.
The organization’s only other win came at Charlotte Motor Speedway with Ryan Blaney back in May, leaving them winless for more than three months entering the playoffs.
“We kind of got behind, and we’ve been working on it, swinging the bat and trying to find things,” Logano said. “We just haven’t been able to hit on something yet that really moves us forward to where we need to be.
“It’s frustrating, and it stings, and it hurts — a little bit of being real — but you know, that’s part of sports sometimes, and you take these opportunities to grow and get stronger for next year.”
While Ford have struggled as a whole, RFK Racing have managed to put together their best season in over a decade. Not many expected it, but they have proven to be Ford’s clear-cut top team.
Logano already knows that Team Penske’s first step needs to be overtaking RFK Racing to once again become the manufacturer’s top team, as there is clearly room for growth that they have yet to take advantage of.
“Number one, how do we become the number one Ford team by the end of the year? We have to set that as a goal as a company, Team Penske. That’s what we’re used to being, that’s what we are. We need to put ourselves back in that spot.”
While Logano is eliminated and can work on finding ways to grow with very little pressure over the next seven weeks, Blaney is still in championship contention, meaning that Team Penske aren’t totally out of the fight.
“We’ll work hard on doing that, and if we can help the No. 12 [Blaney] along the way to get him as far as he possibly can and possibly win the championship, we’re going to do that as well.”
Logano has been in a similar position before. In 2017, he won just one regular season race, and the win ended up being encumbered and thus not counting toward postseason eligibility. He missed the playoffs, but he bounced back in 2018 to win his first title.
“It’s the opportunity to get better,” he said of his and his team’s current struggle. “We might be out of this right now, but we’re able to still have the opportunity to get better. So that’s where we’re at.”