Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Daytona 500 Win Takes off Pressure; It Means Logano Already Qualified for the Chase

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Daytona 500 Win Takes off Pressure; It Means Logano Already Qualified for the Chase

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Coble

Amid all the euphoria at the season-opening Daytona 500, car owner Roger Penske found time to realize one of the important consequences of Joey Logano's victory - an automatic spot in the Chase for the Championship.

"We're going to have fun for 25 weeks," Penske said.

A victory qualified Logano for the playoffs. Jimmie Johnson joined him by winning last Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

While Logano and Johnson have the luxury of spending the rest of racing's regular season getting ready for the Chase, everyone else in the Sprint Cup Series still has the pressure to win a race to make the cut.

"Excited about it," Johnson said. "It takes pressure off in some ways. We don't have the questions in here. It's nice to dodge that. Buys us a little bit of a reprieve.

"It's nice to know we're locked into the Chase. There's a lot of good things that come with it. We're pumped, excited, and looking forward to going racing next week."

Logano and Johnson have another reason to be relieved. Just two races into the 36-race season, both are in good shape to build on their fast starts. Along with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick, the four have posted top-five finishes in both races.

On the flip side, Brad Keselowski (22nd in points), Kyle Larson (29th), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (30th), Jamie McMurray (32nd), Tony Stewart (35th) and Jeff Gordon (36th) are off to slow starts.

Gordon, who is in his final season, has two crashes in two starts.

"It's an unfortunate way to start the season," Gordon said. "We just have to dig ourselves out of this hole."

However, the beauty of the new Chase format is a single win changes everything since it moves a driver into the field of 16 in the playoffs.

It also takes pressure off to get a win during the difficult summer stretch.

The Daytona victory allowed Logano's team to change its approach at Atlanta. The team already could start working on new ideas for the future.

It also allows teams for Logano and Johnson greater opportunities to gamble on tire stops and fuel mileage since the rewards outweighs the risks. …

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