LOUDON, N.H. -- The "Magic Mile" has often been just that for Joey Logano, but in a season that has been far from magical, it was just another dark place for the driver of the No. 22 Ford on Sunday.
Logano earned his first career Cup victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and the 27-year-old native of Middletown, Connecticut, has partied with Loudon The Lobster twice at what he considers to be his home track in a career that has now reached 18 victories in eight-plus full-time seasons.
So why is his 37th-place finish at Loudon so indicative of a season gone awry? Logano has a win this year, at Richmond in April, but has struggled with speed and consistency. And by the way, that win doesn't actually count. Well, it counts for the career wins total, but after his car failed inspection at Richmond, NASCAR "encumbered" his victory.
That means it doesn't count toward putting him into NASCAR's win-and-you're-probably-in 16-driver playoff format. For the purposes of making a run at the championship, Richmond is worthless to Logano.
So with no other wins to show, time is growing short to make it in.
Logano spelled out what he needs to do in a tweet Sunday night.
We were in a spot two times last year in the playoffs where we needed to win and we can do it again this year to get in.
- Joey Logano (@joeylogano) July 16, 2017
How did Logano get to this? He sits 17th in the standings once all the "real wins" are counted for 10 other drivers, one spot behind old nemesis Matt Kenseth for the final playoff spot. But at 52 points behind Kenseth, and with seven races to go before the playoffs start, making up that ground is going to be a tall order.
Logano's mediocre Sunday at New Hampshire got bad when his rear suspension failed midway through the race. It might have actually gotten worse when NASCAR seized the part taken off the rear of his car for repairs for further inspection. Teams and drivers aren't usually wild about "further inspection." And while having NASCAR confiscate a part mid-race is not unique, it's not something any team wants to see.
Any issues from that will come out later this week, and there might be none. Or he might be more than 52 points behind Kenseth before taking the green flag at Indianapolis on Sunday.
So for Logano, as it is for other potential contenders, it's win and put the burden on some other driver -- or else.
"We just broke," he said. "Plain and simple. It is not good, at all. Right now, we are in the position where we have to execute. We have to finish the best as possible, and we didn't do that today. We have to go back to work and make sure our cars stay together, and we have to get faster. ...
"It was a humbling day. This race team knows how to do this. All of Team Penske knows how to win races and make cars fast. They do it in a bunch of different series and have been doing it over here for years. We have to stay together. Stay as a team. Keep pushing. If it happens, it happens. Hopefully, we can get some speed enough to squeak a win out before the playoffs."
So it's looking like Logano vs. Kenseth for a playoff spot, barring another surprise winner over the next seven races that could push both of them out.
And while Logano has more than one other driver in the garage with whom he has tangled in the past, Kenseth is the only one who took his job at Joe Gibbs Racing -- a job it was announced last week Kenseth is out at the end of the year -- and the only one ever penalized for intentionally knocking Logano out of the playoffs.
So, as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads for the home stretch of the regular season, no drivers might be more entertaining to watch than Logano and Kenseth.
Xfinity Series: Ryan Preece turns heads as Kyle Busch dominates
Kyle Busch ran away with Saturday's Overton's 200 at New Hampshire, winning by more than 10 seconds.
It's the driver who finished second that garnered serious attention after the race.
Ryan Preece, driving the No. 20 for powerhouse Joe Gibbs Racing, is from Berlin, Connecticut. He ran a full Xfinity schedule last season for the underfunded Johnny Davis team but took this year off to concentrate on racing in the Northeast until another opportunity came along.
JGR certainly gave him a good one.
"I don't take back doing what I did last year," the 26-year-old Preece said. "It was great. People don't even know that I ran full-time, but I got laps. That's what you need sometimes. I've been doing this all my life, so all I needed was the right opportunity.
"Joe Gibbs gave it to me. Congratulations to Kyle, my teammate. That's pretty cool to say. Right?"
Saturday was his first start of the season in the series, and he has another coming up at Iowa in the No. 20 on July 29.
Camping World Truck Series: Getting dirty
The most anticipated event of the season is on the schedule Wednesday, as the trucks are set for the half-mile, dirt-oval Eldora Speedway near New Weston, Ohio. The track, owned and, for this race, groomed by Tony Stewart, has become a signature event going into the fifth year of the race.
Many of the entrants are dirt-track experts from throughout the Midwest. The Eldora Dirt Derby draws a standing-room-only crowd and usually gets rave reviews from competitors, even the ones who aren't usually dirt trackers.
"Yeah, I mean, obviously Eldora is a little bit different situation," series points leader Johnny Sauter said. "Especially a guy for me that's raced asphalt his whole life. I've been to a couple of dirt races throughout my lifetime, I guess. But I've always been an asphalt guy. So I have fun at Eldora. I think it's a fun place. Obviously, a good atmosphere. A lot of great race fans there. But for me, it's just a place where I just haven't figured it out quite yet.
"But I've had some decent runs there, but for some reason got tore up toward the middle stages of the race. I guess my mindset going there is just to have fun, first and foremost."