NASCAR SPRINT CUP | WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (3 P.M., NBCSN)
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Joey Logano isn’t quite ready to push the panic button as NASCAR’s playoff season looms.
At least he knows what will ease his mind — winning one of the next five races.
‘‘I’m not sure it’s even a must-win yet, but it’s getting closer to that point,’’ Logano said Saturday before Cup practice on the road course at Watkins Glen. ‘‘This is one of our best shots, but we also have some great racetracks coming up. We’ve won at four of the next five. We know we can do it.’’
Logano has a victory already, but NASCAR ruled that his win at Richmond in April was ‘‘encumbered,’’ so it won’t count toward a playoff berth.
Logano has become a fixture in the playoffs and has made the final round two times in the three years the current format has been in place. The only time he failed was when he was intentionally wrecked by Matt Kenseth at Martinsville in 2015. That year, he led the series with six wins and appeared to be the driver to beat.
But this summer hasn’t been kind to him. In the last 10 races, Logano has six finishes outside the top 20, and last week at Pocono the No. 22 Penske Ford team self-destructed with pit road problems. He had to make three stops late and finished 27th, leaving him 69 points behind Kenseth in the race for the final berth in the playoffs.
Both Logano and Clint Bowyer, who enters Sunday’s race just 17 points behind Kenseth, have road-course wins on their Cup resumes — Logano at Watkins Glen two years ago and Bowyer at Sonoma in 2012. Bowyer finished second at Sonoma in June behind Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick, and at Watkins Glen International he’s earned one top-five and four top-10s. Kenseth has never won on a road course.
Logano has emerged as a real threat at this track. He’s won two straight races in the Xfinity Series and finished second last year in the Cup race to Denny Hamlin. Logano won the pole for Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, but Kyle Busch recorded his 90th series win after recovering from a spinout and pit road penalty.
Logano said he anticipated a lot of different strategies as the Cup race plays out on Sunday. Under the new condensed weekend format implemented by NASCAR, qualifying is three hours before the race.
‘‘We’ll have to see where we qualify,’’ said Logano, who was 12th at Sonoma in June. ‘‘If someone crashes in qualifying, it puts them in a pretty big bind. It is what it is. It’s the same for everybody. Our goal is still the same. Our goal is to win the race, no matter what.’’
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