By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- The current five-race portion of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule couldn't come at a better time for Joey Logano.
That at least, is the hope that buoys the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford as he tries to force his way into NASCAR's playoffs.
After a mistake-laden performance last Sunday at Pocono Raceway, where Logano finished 27th after multiple pit road penalties, the 2016 series runner-up is 13th in the standings. He resides 69 points behind ninth-place Matt Kenseth. the last driver, as things stand now, who would qualify for the playoff without a victory.
Logano has a win, from Richmond in April, but an infraction involving the rear housing of his Ford, discovered after the race, means that victory is encumbered and doesn't count toward qualification for the playoffs.
But the next five regular-season races, give Logano reason for optimism.
"I don't think we're at that point yet, but we're close to the point where we're going to have to win," Logano told reporters on Tuesday night at a screening of the Steven Soderbergh film Logan Lucky, in which Logano has a cameo role as a security guard. "The positive side is that the next four out of five races (are at tracks) we've won at before.
"We've won at Richmond this year. Bristol's one of our best tracks that we always run up front at. Michigan's a really good track, but the fastest tracks haven't really been our forte, at least not this year. And Watkins Glen has been one of my best tracks, honestly, for a couple of years. We finished second last year and won the year before. Our best shot might be this weekend. But we'll fire away at it and see what happens."
Logano is right about the Glen -- the site of Sunday's I LOVE NEW YORK 355 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN). In addition to his two most recent Monster Energy finishes at the 2.45-mile road course, Logano is the two-time defending winner of the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at WGI. That track and Bristol, where he has won two straight Night Races, probably constitute Logano's best chances to get to Victory Lane.
"Speed has been an issue," Logano said. "At Indy (where he finished fourth two weeks ago) we had decent speed, and we were in a position to possibly win that race with the right race strategy, cautions going the right way and all that.
"The speed we had at Pocono, I don't think you can put the right strategy and think we were going to win the race. We were going to fight for 10th. We've got to get faster. No doubt. We've got to get faster."
GAUGHAN SET TO ENJOY HIS FAVORITE MONTH OF RACING
If Brendan Gaughan qualifies for the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff, the month of August likely will play a large part in his success.
Three of the next four Xfinity races take place on road courses, broken up only by a short-track event at Bristol. But this weekend's Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International, followed by trips to Mid-Ohio (Aug. 12) and Road America (Aug. 27 after Bristol) are the events that have Gaughan's attention.
In qualifying for last year's playoff, Gaughan finished eighth at Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio before posting a runner-up finish at Road America. The latter two races were settled in the rain.
"Everybody knows I love me my road racing," said Gaughan, who drives the No. 62 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. "I circle this month at the start of the season and say, 'This is what I look forward to.' I love starting it at Watkins Glen. I love Mid-Ohio. Road America, of course, one of my favorites in the country.
"This month to me is one of the coolest months of racing NASCAR's ever come up with. If it rains, that doesn't bother me much at all. I will be very, very happy if it rains."
Gaughan, 41, is currently 12th in the series standings, squarely on the playoff bubble.
Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano topped the speed charts, respectively, in Friday's first and second NASCAR Xfinity Series practices at Watkins Glen International. Keselowski had the fastest lap of the day at the 2.45-mile road course, running 122.200 mph in the first session. Keselowski was the only driver to top 122 mph in either practice. ... Seeking his 90th Xfinity Series victory, Kyle Busch was second fastest in both practice sessions, running a best lap at 122.586 mph in the opening session. ... Englishman Stephen Young, making his NASCAR debut in Saturday's Zippo 200, had the fastest 10-lap average in Happy Hour -- because he was the only driver to run 10 consecutive laps.