Early in in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Joey Logano’s No. 22 Team Penske Ford was running strong and seemingly picked up right where he left off last season. Logano scored an impressive seven top-ten’s in the first eight races.
In the spring race at Richmond, Logano found victory lane and appeared to be on his way to a solid run toward championship contention. During post-race inspection, however, Logano’s Ford Fusion failed due to rear suspension violations.
Due to the nature of the violations, the win was encumbered, thus causing Logano to have to win again or earn enough points to qualify for the playoffs.
Whatever the team was doing to the rear suspension obviously had its advantages. In the five races immediately following Richmond, Logano could only manage a best finish of 21st. The team was searching for speed and struggling to find it.
Fast forward to this weekend’s event at Richmond, the final race of the regular season and the final opportunity for Logano to secure a spot in the post-season playoffs, the Team Penske driver found himself on the outside looking in. Logano was too many points outside the top-16 to earn a spot based on points and needed a win to get in. With only five top-five’s since the Richmond spring race, Logano’s performance did not indicate he would have a realistic shot at finding victory lane.
When the checkered flag fell on the regular season, Logano had made a valiant effort, but came up just short, finishing second, one position shy of his goal.
The penalty Logano received earlier in the season completely derailed his season. In the wake of similar infractions by Denny Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing a week ago at Darlington, many fans and media members alike have opined, and often joked, about the “encumbered” finish stating the penalty is not enough and needs to be stronger. Former driver and now television commentator, Jeff Burton, said it is time for NASCAR to take away wins.
The sanctioning body was obviously listening. This weekend, NASCAR announced penalties would be increased for rear suspension violations. In addition to the encumbered wins, NASCAR increased the mount of the fines and suspensions.
Perhaps the sentiment is true, the penalty may need even more “bite” to deter teams from pushing the envelope in this area. But, for Joey Logano, the encumbered finish ultimately cost him a shot at the series championship, a significant penalty for playing in the gray area.