CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Joey Logano’s crew chief accepted blame Tuesday for not pitting Logano with a tire rub, a call that may have cost Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski a spot in NASCAR’s championship.
Logano was third with 12 laps remaining in Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway when contact with Kyle Busch created a tire rub on Logano’s car. Keselowski was leading and seemed to have the victory in hand, and the win would have earned Keselowski a slot in the season finale championship race.
But Logano was not called in to pit, the tire blew and he spun. It brought out a caution that ultimately led to Keselowski not winning the race.
“I missed the call,” crew chief Todd Gordon said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Logano is not eligible for the playoffs, and once he developed the tire rub, he was out of contention for the Martinsville victory. Other playoff drivers, including Martinsville race winner Busch, noted that Logano should have pitted for the good of the Penske organization.
“They’re not really racing for anything, if you will,” Busch said Sunday. “Obviously, they’re racing for spots and points to be as high as they can, but when you’ve got to look at the greater good of the company, I would like to expect that our guys are smart enough to do that.”
Gordon said that in the seconds he’s required to make a decision, he failed to consider Keselowski’s situation and was thinking only of gaining a momentum-building finish for Logano’s team. Keselowski had marked Martinsville as a must-win race for him to earn one of the four slots in the championship.
“In the time Kyle got into us, we were third and fighting,” Gordon said. “I only got a couple of glimpses of [the tire]. It was smoking. The first lap and half of that, I wasn’t sure how bad [the tire] was and as I saw, I didn’t know with a few laps left, whether it was an external rub or whether it was on the tire contact patch, and the smoke kind of clouds it a little bit for me.
“Honestly, it was looking at the fact that I felt like if it was just a tire rub we might [salvage] a top-five finish out of the day.”
As Logano’s tire situation became more perilous, the driver was stuck on the outside lane of the track and getting to pit road would have been difficult. By the time Logano could get out of the way, the tire had failed and Keselowski’s lead was erased.
“I guess I should have called him in earlier with the grander picture in my head. I missed the call. I just own that I missed the call myself,” Gordon said. “Regretful for that for our teammates and everybody here at Team Penske. Brad had a dominant car all day, and I think was in a great position.
“Wish you could take those things back but you can’t. At that time, my focus was on a momentum-builder for our team. Saw that opportunity, didn’t know how bad the rub was and as it became more clear it became too late to react to that.”
Gordon indicated that Keselowski crew chief Paul Wolfe was annoyed with Gordon’s decision, and the two colleagues had a conversation.
“I’ve talked to Paul about it and I’ve shared with him my shortcomings and thought process. I think we’re good with where we’re at,” Gordon said. “Obviously he was disappointed with it as he should be.”
ESPN’s Bob Pockrass contributed to this report.