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NASCAR Cup New Hampshire

How a North Wilkesboro test could help Logano to a NHMS win

Joey Logano’s dominating victory in this year’s All-Star Race may not have paid any points, but it could play a pivotal role in securing his first NASCAR Cup win of the 2024 season.

Race winner Joey Logano, Team Penske, Shell Pennzoil Ford Mustang

Logano led 199 of the 200 laps at last month’s All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway and his victory was helped at least in part by being one of three drivers that participated in a Goodyear tire test at track in March.

Paul Wolfe, Logano’s crew chief, said the two-time series champion ran around 900 laps at the track that day, including on the tire that Goodyear ultimately utilized in the all-star event.

How does that help Logano in this week’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway?

Goodyear has changed the tire set-up at the Loudon, N.H., track this year, but the tire choices are still familiar ones – they were used this year at North Wilkesboro and last weekend at Iowa Speedway (where Logano finished sixth).

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Combined with the fact Logano typically runs well at the 1.058-mile flat oval and his Penske teammates Austin Cindric and Ryan Blaney have earned their first wins of the season in the last three weeks, Wolfe believes the No. 22 team’s experience on this weekend’s tire could prove critical.

“Anytime there’s a tire change in our sport, whether it’s a construction, compound, big stagger changes, those things can really affect your set-up, obviously, quite a bit,” Wolfe said this week in a Zoom call with reporters.

“So, with that being such a big factor, I think as we’ve seen the consistency now on this tire for us and what we’ve been able to do in the past at New Hampshire, I’m excited to get to the track. I think we have as good a shot as anybody to get to Victory Lane this weekend.”

Playoff hopes in jeopardy 

That would be particularly important for Logano and his team as he currently sits below the cutoff to make the 16-driver playoff field with nine races remaining in the regular season.

In his Cup career, Logano – a Connecticut native – has a pair of victories at New Hampshire and nine top-five finishes in 25 starts, including a runner-up finish last year.

Wolfe pointed out there are some important differences in the load on the tires between Iowa – which is shorter and faster – and New Hampshire. North Wilkesboro may actually be more similar.

“As we talk about our short track package and the things that have worked for the No. 22 team and Team Penske on the short tracks, you’re making small changes because Iowa to New Hampshire the loading, the size of the track is a little different,” Wolfe explained.

“I guess what makes you focus on a certain part of the corner, what makes success at Loudon versus Iowa is a little different, so you’re fine-tuning off from a base set-up and settings in a race car.

“When you do find something that works until there is a big change in the tire or aero package, I’ve found over the years you can really just take it from one track to the next and do your offsets or your changes for the different loads or speeds and you can continue to have success with it.”

Joey Logano, Team Penske, Shell Pennzoil Ford Mustang

Joey Logano, Team Penske, Shell Pennzoil Ford Mustang

Photo by: Danny Hansen / NKP / Motorsport Images

Logano isn’t alone in looking at New Hampshire as an opportunity for an important victory.

Of the six former Cup winners at the track entered this weekend, three are still looking to lock themselves into the playoffs this season with a win – Logano (six points behind the cutline), Martin Truex Jr. (122 points above the cutline) and Kyle Busch (31 points behind the cutline).

The recent success of Logano’s teammates, however, may help give him the edge.

“If we can’t be in Victory Lane, there’s nothing better than seeing one of our team cars (there) because it gives you another data point of, ‘OK, we’re on the right path here’ and the things we’ve been working on are correct,” Wolfe said.

“We’ll keep massaging on it as we move forward to Loudon this weekend.”

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