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NASCAR mailbag: Explaining Joey Logano’s lack of popularity

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Answering questions on why drivers continue to take issue with Joey Logano, NASCAR’s schedule and Auto Club Speedway’s growing reputation as the sport’s best track.

With five consecutive races, all of which were largely entertaining and not devoid of rich developments, NASCAR enters its first break of the season in observance of the Easter holiday weekend. But though the sport may be on a temporary hiatus there are no shortage of subjects to tackle in the weekly SB NASCAR mailbag.

If you have a question in need of answering send your submission either via Twitter or by emailing jordanmbianchi@gmail.com.

Why does everyone hate on Joey Logano? He doesn't even touch [Martin] Truex Jr. and yet Truex acts like Joey just dumped him and it's all Joey's fault.

-- Chris

When you're young, aggressive and unapologetic and win with the regularity that Logano has over the past two years -- only Johnson owns as many victories (11) since 2014 -- disdain and jealously is going to come your way. Similar feelings were once expressed towards Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt by the old guard when they started their ascent up the NASCAR hierarchy.

For Logano, the list of those who've expressed contempt at him includes Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and, infamously, Matt Kenseth. Yet, if you ask Logano if he cares, he shrugs and dismisses any criticism. As he should, considering he's doing what he needs to do to be successful -- the results speak volumes -- has done little to warrant the scorn he receives.

Eventually the animosity will subside and Logano won't get an earful of boos during driver introductions. Until then, he'll have to accept being one of NASCAR's top villains even if the label isn't justified.

I get why there is no Cup race this weekend, but why does NASCAR have to shut down completely? Wouldn't this be a good weekend to have an Xfinity Series or Truck Series races as the main event?

-- Jon

No one is going to begrudge the Sprint Cup or Xfinity series from getting the weekend off following a grinding start that saw races in five states on both coasts. It's deserved and much needed for all involved, especially the crew guys who often bear the brunt of the travel and whose labor can often be underappreciated.

But with Cup and Xfinity off the idea of featuring the trucks has merit, considering it would allow NASCAR to have one of its national divisions remain in the news cycle to some degree and fulfill the desire some fans have to see racing. And with the trucks off since Feb. 27, it makes the series the logical choice to bridge the gap.

The potential hurdle is money, as team owners are reluctant to add additional races with sponsorship already difficult to obtain as is. So with cost containment in mind, a one-day short track truck race somewhere in the Mid-Atlantic region would be ideal. This would curb travel due to the short distance and a short track event has a better chance of drawing a decent crowd than a speedway race.

With Fontana (Auto Club Speedway) now one of NASCAR's top tracks can we give it a second race again? Does Kansas really needs two races? Chicago is boring, so how about that? Michigan? I'd even rather see drivers race three-wide and be forced to manage their tires at Fontana than even some short tracks where drivers just slam into each other and it's caution after caution.

-- Ron

The above email perfectly encapsulates how Fontana has evolved from being a race almost universally loathed to now one of the more anticipated events on the calendar. In many respects, it's almost the ideal speedway because it showcases speed, but also features close racing and puts a premium on a driver's skillset in managing tires on a surface among NASCAR's most difficult.

All that said, Fontana is unlikely to get a second race anytime soon. Too many factors are simply working against it. Kansas Speedway, whose parent company, International Speedway Corp., just built a casino outside of Turn 2 and needs the facility to have two races annually to help recoup its investment. While Chicagoland Speedway, also owned by ISC, is in the nation's third largest media market, which makes it attractive to both NASCAR's television partners and team sponsors -- even though attendance and the quality of racing remain problematic.

ACS should be commended for what it is and all it's become. However, there is something to be said for less is more when it comes to oversaturating Southern California, which still hasn't embraced NASCAR the way executives envisioned when the track was constructed in the mid-1990s.

Seeing Kyle Larson's crash and I can't help think he wouldn't have walked away had a SAFER barrier not been there. Where do SAFER barriers rank on the list of great innovations, it has to be at the top, right?

-- Hal

Witness the past two Cup races alone where Larson and Jimmie Johnson provided prime examples of the kind of crashes drivers previously didn't escape unscathed. In each instance, Larson and Johnson were running at a high rate of speed when they veered head-on into a concrete wall thankfully protected -- Larson due to a blown left-rear tire, Johnson because his steering wheel became detached.

Emphatically, the development and now widespread implementation of Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barriers have prevented serious injuries and in some instances fatalities.