NAS: Joey Logano, Kyle Busch revved up for battle at Enjoy Illinois 300

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Joey Logano and Kyle Busch roll in to the St. Louis area for the NASCAR Cup Series’ 15th points race Sunday, and while winless thus far, the drivers have accounted for quite a few headlines over the past two weekends.

Technically, Logano does have a win — a $1-million, 199-lap-leading effort in the NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway two weeks ago. But other than adding momentum and optimism in his camp, that victory — which doesn’t count toward Cup Series points — will do little to help the Team Penske Ford driver secure a third Cup championship to go next to those earned in 2018 and 2022.

Owning titles in 2015 and 2019, Busch made headlines for the wrong reasons in the western North Carolina hills after Logano dominated the non-points exhibition race.

In a video that went viral on social media, he was slugged by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. after a pair of incidents in the first two laps — a far cry from Logano leading every circuit but one on the 5/8th-mile short track.

However, the two grizzled Cup stars — 21 seasons for Busch, 17 for Logano — have one major accomplishment they share between them as they get to Madison, Ill., and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway for the Enjoy Illinois 300.

They are the only drivers who have enjoyed Illinois to the fullest so far.

Sunday’s trip to the 1.25-mile track across the Mississippi River from St. Louis will be just the third time the series has raced there, starting in 2022.

Logano’s No. 22 Ford beat Busch’s then-No. 18 Toyota by 0.655 seconds in the 2022 event that featured 10 cautions and 12 leaders.

But Busch was one spot better last year after winning his first pole in four years, leading a race-high 121 laps and fighting off five late restarts. He eventually beat former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin by 0.517 seconds and Logano for his third win in 15 starts for Richard Childress Racing.

Two others to watch for in Sunday’s 240-lap race are reigning Cup champion Ryan Blaney and 2017 title winner Martin Truex Jr., with each having a top five and top 10 in the two races.

Logano was in the news this week when he weighed in on Kyle Larson opting to run the rain-delayed Indianapolis 500 Sunday instead of packing up and heading south to Charlotte, N.C., for the Coca-Cola 600.

Choosing to skip the NASCAR event meant the Hendrick Motorsports driver wouldn’t be eligible for the championship unless he gets a waiver.

“This is about the grayest rule we have in our sport, though it can be black-and-white but it’s not,” Logano said Tuesday on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio. “But he decided the Indy 500 was more important than the Coca-Cola 600. He made the decision. He put IndyCar ahead of NASCAR.”

However, Logano repositioned himself Wednesday via social media: “What Larson did for motorsports was amazing, and he should get the waiver.”

Gray area versus black-and-white, NASCAR versus IndyCar, Coke 600 versus Indy 500.

Stranger yet is that nearly a week removed, NASCAR has yet to make a decision.

Why the wait?

What will change between now or over the summer that would determine whether a fan-favorite will be let into the title chase or disallowed for skipping one of its crown jewel events?

A great case can be made for either.

–Field Level Media

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