After Joey Logano dominated the FireKeepers Casino 400, he made a remark that was at once both nonsensical and, perhaps, prophetic.

“The future of NASCAR,” Logano said, “is present.”

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Joey Logano with a Coke and a smile.

Whoa. One day does not a season make. Logano became the first driver under 30 years of age to win a Sprint Cup race this season, and it’s impossible for the future to be the present, anyway.

The whole race was a departure from the norm. The drivers who finished second and thirdChase Elliott (20) and Kyle Larson (23)are even younger than the 26-year-old Logano ,who, while alarmingly youthful, is already a winner of 15 Sprint Cup races.

“Yeah, it’s neat to kind of see how it’s come along,” Logano said:

I’m eight years into this thing. I’ve been doing it for a while, which it definitely plays into my hand at this point, going through the struggles and maybe getting thrown into a situation too young and too soon and when I wasn’t prepared for it. …

Going through all that has really changed me as a person and helped me kind of look at every race situation maybe a little bit different than I used to. I wouldn’t change that for anything, because now I’m able to use that for my advantage, and I’m still only 26 years old. I’ve still got plenty of time left, and Todd [Gordon, crew chief] is going to be here with me and…we’re all going to be up there in Victory Lane winning a bunch more.

Summer is when NASCAR fills its Chase, which begins in September at the end of a 26-race regular season. Then everyone keeps racing for 10 more weeks, but only 16 are eligible for the championship that Kyle Busch won last year. Logano became the 10th to qualify by virtue of winning a race this season.

Sprint Cup Race Winners to Date
Driver Wins Point Position Avg. Finish
Kyle Busch 3 9 14.5
Brad Keselowski 2 3 9.9
Carl Edwards 2 4 10.5
Jimmie Johnson 2 7 12.6
Kevin Harvick 1 1 7.1
Kurt Busch 1 2 8.5
Joey Logano 1 5 11.6
Martin Truex Jr. 1 8 12.1
Matt Kenseth 1 10 14.7
Denny Hamlin 1 13 16.3

The likelihood is that only 12 or 13 will get the Chase-clinching victory. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is still out there, not to mention rookie Elliott and Larson, neither of whom has ever a Cup race. Three-time champion Tony Stewart is showing improvement but must still win and get inside the top 30 in points—no small task given he missed the first eight races with a back injury.

Stewart remains a long shotseventh on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway with only one other top-10but at this point, almost everyone left winless is a bit of a long shot.

Elliott, whose father Bill is in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, has finished in the top 10 in six straight races. If anyone knows the distance between first and second, it’s him.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Six straight top-10 finishes for 20-year-old Chase Elliott.

“I had another fantastic opportunity today, and I feel like I definitely messed that one up for my guys,” Elliott said. “You can’t do dumb stuff and expect to win. That’s just the way life is. That’s certainly the way this sport is, and I did dumb stuff, so I can’t expect to win.”

The kid beats himself up too much. He’s sixth in Sprint Cup points, the only driver in the top 10 without a victory. Whether the elusive victory occurs in the remaining 11 regular-season races or not, Elliott is almost a shoo-in to make The Chase. The clincher could come at any time.

The more Elliott calls himself dumb, the smarter he gets.

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