Joey Logano’s NASCAR Ally 441.223 win kind of changes everything and other Nashville takeaways

There was much to unpack from a decisive race in the battle to make the playoffs

Syndication: The Tennessean
Credit: Stephanie Amador / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK

Call it the Ally 441.223.

The exact distance doesn’t exactly matter because everyone’s figurative calculator appeared broken by the end of a NASCAR record five overtimes anyway.

Joey Logano defied the odds provided by crew chief Paul Wolfe and their engineers, while their peers on a similar fuel mileage number either fell short of that same mark or decided to pit when they realized the math wasn’t mathing, as they say.

Regardless, the outcome ‘could not have happened at a better time’ as Logano articulated it because his playoff odds were starting to not math, either. Sure, he entered the weekend with a 13-point advantage over Bubba Wallace for the final provisional playoff spot but there are also wild card races coming up in Downtown Chicago and Daytona.

He faced a must-win scenario even though that wasn’t officially true yet.

Now, the two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion can focus on what he and his teammate have done particularly well over the past two seasons, which is very silently qualify for the playoffs and find another figurative gear over the final 10 races.

Logano did it in 2022
Two regular season wins, second in points, two playoff wins and the championship

Ryan Blaney did it in 2023
One regular season win, 13th in points, two playoff wins and the championship

There’s a formula here, one that is becoming more reliable than whatever engineers use to calculate fuel mileage anyway.

So what now?

Logano winning drastically changes the complexion of the battle to make the playoff spot. Sure, maybe Logano would have qualified in on points regardless and you couldn’t count him out for a win somewhere before the final 10 races but it actually happening has a lot of consequence downstream.

There are two ways of looking at the above graphic.

Everyone currently on the outside looking in has to win and the points battle between Ty Gibbs, Ross Chastain, Chris Buescher and Alex Bowman is even more consequential because a new winner would bump one of them lowest in points, unless of course, they win and make it a moot point too.

Logano may have dealt a dagger to Wallace and Kyle Busch’s playoff chances too. Instead of being within a race’s worth of points, they are now facing must-win odds too. The same is true of Chase Briscoe, who hung around a playoff spot all spring and early summer.

Busch and Wallace both contended for the win on Sunday, depending on how liberal we want to be

“We just have to stop the bleeding,” Busch said on Saturday. “I think I’ve been saying that for the last six months. It hasn’t stopped. And the last weeks, it’s been gushing pretty hard.”


“I’ve been getting run into every week.”

Busch caught a break, more on that down the post, but then was unlucky again when Kyle Larson washed up the track and took him out of the race, at which point, he then ran out of fuel.

Wallace, who was the last driver into the playoffs on points last year, just hasn’t had the same pace this summer. He seemed to have it over the spring but was let down a few times on pit road too.

As one situation improved, the other regressed.

“We’re missing a little bit from last year — just feel wise, it’s kind of been our MO the last month or so we’ve just been so close to hitting it,” Wallace said on Saturday. “But then we try to do one thing and it goes the opposite way.

“We’ve just got to really dig deep, throw our heads together. We have a lot of smart people on this team.”

There’s now seven races left, and arguably only two of them remaining to generate a huge upset, so the figurative die has been cast.

Puzzling race control decisions

It was objectively a puzzling weekend for NASCAR race control.

In a vacuum, the decision to penalize Layne Riggs for aggressive driving for driving hard into a corner and spinning Stefan Parsons was without precedence because when has this ever resulting in punitive action?  

Okay, so maybe that’s the standard now, except then Carson Hocevar right rear hooked Harrison Burton under caution on Sunday and was allowed to continue without any penalty or objection from race control whatsoever.

And again, objectively, what Hocevar did was closer to what Chase Elliott and Bubba Wallace were suspended one race each over the past two years when they right rear hooked Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson respectively than what it parked Riggs two laps for on Friday.

NASCAR has since said it will review the footage and data to see if it warrants a response but the optics were not great, especially considering Hocevar has a history of such behavior and was himself held two laps for a right rear hook on Taylor Gray at Martinsville in the Truck Series last spring.

And then there was the decision to give Kyle Busch his spot back after determining that the Richard Childress Racing No. 8 was not in the crash, despite bouncing off the wall when Larson clipped Chastain ahead of him. Which, sure Busch was hard on the brakes and kept off Chastain but he fenced it as a result of the crash.

Reconsidering OT rules?

Syndication: The Tennessean
Credit: Denny Simmons / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK

It wasn’t the most professional looking of finishes, with the Ally 400 taking an extra 31 laps, and a record five overtimes to reach the white flag and then the finish.

Some even thought it was ridiculous or even a black eye, on par with the previous longest overtime races, the Truck Series finale at Phoenix last year and 2021 Truck Series race at Knoxville, which both went 29 laps past the schedule distance.

Some want a knee-jerk reaction to limit the number of overtime finishes allowed again, something NASCAR has gone back and forth with over the years. The league has tried a three-overtime maximum, the overtime line on the backstretch, and now back to unlimited overtime attempts.

“I don’t know. I really don’t have a good answer for that,” Larson said afterwards. “Obviously, I would’ve liked another one, but it’s just NASCAR racing, with bodies that are tough, and cars with low fuel. So yeah, it was wild at the end, but hopefully it didn’t look too amateur on TV.”

It did, but it was also just the worst-case scenario of the frontrunners mapping their fuel mileage out to the very last drop and a series of cautions resulting from the empty tanks and everyone doing whatever it takes to win and punch their tickets into the playoffs.

The points system and race format is doing everything it was designed to do — placing an emphasis on doing whatever it takes to win.

This is why Chris Gabehart, with three wins already in the bag, was willing to leave Hamlin out on fumes. It’s why Briscoe, Busch, Wallace and Zane Smith were all in that same boat with Hamlin and Logano.

Sometimes, the end result is just a little messy, but it’s certainly not something to knee-jerk a response over.

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

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