To Play the Victim Is Cheap
After having 48 hours to stew on it, I’ve come to a conclusion – what Joey Logano did Sunday was downright vile. At first, I had no real problem with the bump and run he put on William Byron Sunday, because that’s just what Joey Logano does. I’m also of the school of thought that “Rubbin’ is Racin’ Son.” But Joey didn’t have to do him like that. First off, I’m a little biased because the throwback scheme that Byron ran was my favorite paint scheme of all time. To see that blue and red 24 with the flames down the side was like being 14 again, and like he does a lot, Joey Logano ruined it. Second but perhaps most importantly, Logano got out of the car and tried to justify what he had done by saying Byron had squeezed him into the wall on the final restart, which honestly, is incredibly flimsy if not flat out untrue. I maybe could accepted the move a little more if Joey had said, “yeah man, you know I wanted the dub so I took it.” But to play the victim is cheap. Dale Earnhardt “rattled cages.” Tony Stewart has been quoted in the past saying that he would wreck his own mother to win. Joey Logano is not a victim. He needs to just own up to his actions. He might gain a few fans that way. Maybe.
Lastly, Logano never tried to pass Byron clean before putting the bumper to him. Look at what happened between Briscoe and Reddick at Bristol Dirt last month. Briscoe tried and tried to get by the 8 before the last lap cleanly, and when it was all on the line in turn four, he sent it. Joey Logano got to Byron’s bumper and just immediately let him have it. There were 2.5 laps to go. Some of you may say, “Garrett, that’s not much of a difference.” But you’d be wrong. A lap around Darlington is an odyssey of opportunity if you’re the guy trying to make a pass. It’s hard to pass, but late in a run, the tires fall off and there are opportunities for the guy ahead of you to make a mistake. Then you scoot on by and that’s that. If you need the bumper, it’s because you feel held up or fed up. Logano could have at least attempted a clean pass on the 24. Byron was noticeably loose and struggling with handling. Joey didn’t have the patience to try and make the move though.
I can’t wait to see what my buddy Jack has to say about all this. But I think it’s clear what happened Sunday. Joey Logano went for the win, and tried to cover himself instead of owning his actions.
Now, somebody put William Byron in touch with Matt Kenseth.
Rubbin’, Son, is Racin’
Joey Logano has already explained himself to the NASCAR world: “You’re not gonna put me in the wall and not get anything back.”
Coming off of turn two with 26 laps to go, the No. 24 made contact with the No. 22. That contact pushed the Logano into the wall and allowed Byron to gain the lead with about a one-second advantage.
Right then, I whispered under my breath “Oh if Joey can get there, he’s gonna hit him.”
I’d probably say that initial contact was unintentional, Byron has never seemed the type to just run a guy into the wall. It doesn’t matter. After that first contact, things change, that’s the unwritten rule of NASCAR. The door is open for retribution. In the replay, when Logano hits the wall, Byron’s car is pushing on his left front. That’s all there is to it.
(Now comes the part where I talk about moral relativism and stock car racing).
Many drivers, Denny Hamlin in particular, have said in the last few years that the unwritten rules have changed. With the championship format we have, full-contact racing is expected when wins are on the line, under any conditions.
This was for a win, not for 12th. Logano was on the longest losing streak of his Team Penske career, a career that is probably winding down. He needed this victory, Byron has already won twice this year. Maybe it’s not right, Hamlin would say, but drivers have to do what they have to do to succeed in this sport.
Frankly, I think moral relativism is BS. Some things are just plain wrong, and runaway retaliation, like Matt Kenseth’s kamikaze move on Logano in 2015, can pose a real danger.
But this was just a good, old-fashioned bump and run. It wasn’t out of nowhere, it wasn’t under caution or after the race. The No. 24 always pointed forwards. The move was entirely within the bounds of normal expected behavior in NASCAR.
Maybe we forgot in the last 40 races, but Joey Logano is a NASCAR villain. He never paid his dues in the lower series. He jumped right into the Cup Series for JGR while most fans still viewed Toyota with suspicion. He started winning regularly just as the elimination format started, and has ruffled more feathers in late-season rivalries than anyone else. But he got the hardware to prove it. In case you forgot, Joey Logano won the damn war.
So we as a fanbase will always interpret his actions in the context of the popular imagination of Joey Logano. In the words of the man himself, “that’s how that works.” It’s more about how we already felt about the drivers than their intentions or their actions on the track. If Joey Logano moves a guy to win, that’s a black-hat move. If Chase Elliott does the same, they had it coming.
Oh, he was always going to get Byron back. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t be Joey Logano.
Featured photo from Pat Vallely.