How in the world did Joey Logano make his fuel last to win NASCAR at Nashville?

Right now, no one is really sure because they shouldn't have

Syndication: The Tennessean
Credit: Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK

No one fully understands yet how Joey Logano made that happen.

The Team Penske No. 22 Ford Dark Horse Mustang made it 110 laps on a tank of fuel at Nashville Superspeedway and even with the number of cautions laps factored in, what they pulled off was a long shot at best.

Even coming to what was finally the last restart, crew chief Paul Wolfe told Logano to be prepared for it to sputter back on throttle but it never did. It only started to hiccup coming out of Turn 4 coming to the checkered.

It lasted one restart and 10 laps longer than those who arguably had the same amount of fuel did.

“I laughed because Paul asked me what I thought, and I said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t have the computer in front of me’ and we had a laugh about it,” Logano said.

All the computers told Wolff to pit him because they were going to run out on the restart, if not before it.

“My engineers are figuring the fuel mileage manually and then we have simulation tools and things that are predicting how many laps we can run, which is based off of … when the engine is running or not, how much Joey is saving,” Wolff said. “They weren’t totally lining up, but I went with the one that told us we could run the longest.

“But that last one, that one said we were running out, so at that point, it was very tough to keep him out.”

The Penske No. 22 team was also in the challenging position of having to factor a cost-benefit analysis of entering the race just 13 points above the playoff cutline but also potentially needing a win if another surprise winner bumped them about before they could win first.

And those surprise winners were al around near the front of the field, too.

Either the fuel lasts, they win, and they’re in or they run out after taking the white flag and give up twentysomething points in the process.

“I thought it was worth the risk,” Wolff said. “It’s hard. I know we’re on the points cut but you’ve got to figure over the next few weeks someone else is going to win a race, and then it’s all about winning I feel like.

“I think that made the decision a little easier, knowing someone behind us in points, it’s pretty likely they could win a race here with all the different style tracks coming up as we lead into the playoffs.”

Logano conceded that it was a huge risk, but when they’re debating it with nothing but clean track in front of them, how do you really give that up?

“That was to me a ginormous risk because you’re taking what … I mean, you pit and you go back out and you maybe can finish in the top 15, maybe, versus going for the win, but you could finish 25th,” Logano sad. “Makes it a pretty hard call.

“But gosh, when you’re winning the race, how do you not? Especially when you see the other cars that were up there. If Chase Briscoe, he wins, that wouldn’t have been good for our playoff hopes. It would have been good for Ford, but that would have been it.

“I think (Bubba Wallace) was somewhat close up there, as well. When you think about who we were racing against, we needed to make sure that we were able to at least stay on the strategy the same as they were.”

But still, how?

The were 68 green flag laps and 42 caution laps driven under that run, and by literally every calculation available to Team Penske engineers, that car should have run out of fuel well before the checkered flag.

So maybe it’s just Logano doing that good of a job saving under caution. Maybe it’s little things he knows to do while drafting.

“Like I said, it takes a little bit of everything,” Logano said. “I think that’s really what it was. There was obviously a lot of cautions within that period. A lot of cautions. Like I said, we didn’t feel comfortable about it, but you go for it, and it’s pretty risky when you think about where we were in the playoff grid. You really can’t afford to have a bad one, but gosh, it’s really hard to pit when you’re in the lead and you’re in position to win the race.

“You just go for it and cross your fingers, say a couple prayers and it worked out all right.”

Prayer doesn’t propel race cars, though.

It wasn’t just the calculator that Logano had to defy but also the likes of Briscoe, who he ran up the track on the penultimate restart and then all the aero blocking that kept Tyler Reddick on fresher tires and a full fuel load behind him.

“When (Reddick) was within a car length into 1, I was like, ‘Geez, I’m going to have to block this pretty hard’ and off of 2, I thought, ‘Okay, I’m good, (Zane Smith) clamped him.’ I was able to side draft him down the backstretch and I feel pretty good.

“Then I went down the backstretch and it started spitted and sputtering, and I was like, ‘Oh, no, not good.’ Had to throw another block on Reddick.

“Then off of 4, it’s kind of hard to say which lane to go for. But I definitely felt like I couldn’t led Reddick get to my outside because it would have been over. So I definitely had to pick a car to block, and Reddick was the fastest car. He was going to win the race. I had a fighting chance to beat (Smith.) Definitely felt like it was an easy decision on which one to throw the dirty on.”

Statistically, this is the worst season the two-time Cup Series champion has had since joining Team Penske … by like five spots on the grid over the course of the season bad. Sure, they dominated the All Star Race at North Wilkesboro and won a million dollars in the process but they have not raced to their standards all years.

And that’s why Logano was fighting for his playoff life every week.

“You think about this playoff scenario that we were in, being on that cutoff spot, man, it sucks,” Logano said. “It’s not fun. That pressure is real, and you don’t sleep good. You’re constantly thinking about it. It’s nice to be able to get this win to where you can take the next seven weeks to be able to — not take a breather but be able to at least sleep a little bit and start thinking about the playoffs as much as the next few races.

“When you think about Chicago coming up next week and you’re on the cutoff spot, not a comfortable spot to be. Just the timing of this one couldn’t have been better.”

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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