Ford Fusion and Team Penski sit in the drivers’ seat after third straight win
Joey Logano combined a quick pit stop to grab four new tires on Sunday during the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, with a great restart to take the lead with just two laps to go and then won the race down the stretch to the finish line. This victory punches his ticket to the Contender round of the 2014 Chase to NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series Championship.
Sports History Today was on hand after the Slyvania 300 to hear what Joey Logano had to say about his victory and the upcoming race at Dover International Speedway.
Did you know that four tires would be the call of the day?
“No, I thought we gave it away at that point, but four tires were good and we had some good restarts and were able to get ourselves back up there. We worked hard. This is my home race track, the coolest place to win for me. I could never pick a better race track to win. I watched my first Cup race here when I was five and I won that other Cup race here, but I just felt like I had to win one the right way here, and this means so much. I’ve got to thank all the boys at Team Penske. We’re doing what we’ve got to do to win this thing right now – both teams are – and I’m proud of that. This is my home track so it means so much to me.”
What went through your mind when the caution came out with four to go?
“I had a lot of things I can’t say right now that came to my mind, but we were able to have some good restarts. The guys did a good job setting this thing up and gave me something to win with today. I went to sleep last night hoping for a top five. That would be good for me at this track because it’s not one of my key places, and that’s why it means so much to win here.”
How does it sound to be going to the next round?
“It feels good to go into the next one. We’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing though. We’ve got to keep our eye on the prize and think about the big trophy at the end.”
How did you feel heading into the race?
“A lot went into this one, that’s for sure. I’ll just take you back to when we unloaded we were OK and then yesterday in practice we were so-so. I didn’t feel like we were great and towards the end of practice we made a couple changes and found some speed, started seventh today and was able to work our way up a little bit in the beginning of the race. I felt like, ‘OK, ‘we’ve got something to contend for a victory with,’ if everything worked out right and we ran around top-three most of the day. We came in and put two tires on and a couple cars stayed out, and at that point I had a bad restart third and another bad restarted when I was fifth and that put us sixth or so when the caution came out. Todd put four tires on it and at that point I thought he was crazy because we came out 16th, and I was like, ‘Well, let’s just try to salvage something out of this and try to get a top-10 or top-5,’ because our goal coming into the race was to get to the next round. We’ve got to get to the next round to win the championship. That’s our ultimate goal is to win the championship and we had to get through this day the best we could and had some really good restarts. Before I knew it I was sitting third and was like, ‘Huh, I’ve got a shot at winning this thing.’ I’ve got 30 lap newer tires than anybody and we were able to capitalize with that, and then of course it was caution after caution after caution and that was making me nervous for sure. I don’t know if Todd and Walt were, but I know I was and we were able to capitalize and have some good restarts and be here in Victory Lane. Too me, this is almost like Daytona. It’s such a special place for me. I watched my first Cup race here when I was five and started my first one and won my first one. After the week I had in Connecticut doing some really cool fundraisers, to top it off with a victory is really neat.”
Does this increase your confidence heading to the next round?
“I would think so. It definitely didn’t go the other way. You get a win like that. This is personally I consider my worst race track. That’s terrible to say because it’s my home race track, but I’ve always struggled when I come here. To be able to win at your worst race track that makes you feel like you can win anywhere. It’s just special to be able to do that and the confidence is high with the 22 team right now and all of Team Penske. We all feel like we’ve got some championships to win this year, not only on the Cup side but on the Nationwide side also. Obviously, we’ve already got one with IndyCar so we’re just trying to catch up to them.”
Did you think you had a good chance to win with all of those late cautions?
“Restarts you never know what’s gonna happen, but Todd gives me a really good car that I can be aggressive with on restarts and I think that’s a big deal because the more in control I am the more aggressive I can be, and the more aggressive you are in restarts the more you’re in control of the restart. You don’t want to be the guy going the wrong way. Todd said a second ago about being on the offense and not on the defense. It’s not just putting tires on that makes it like that, it’s having a car that’s capable of running in traffic and it’s something we work on a lot in practice and making sure that we have something that’s gonna be good in traffic and that can restart well. We’ve seen it time and time again with these Sprint Cup races that it’s most likely gonna come down to a late-race caution, so you’ve got to be able to execute the restart and the first five laps around traffic. That takes a good car and kind of knowing what to expect and trying to play it out in your head before it happens.”
How does it feel when you have a car that responds to your input?
“It’s nice when you say something about the race car and Todd is able to adjust it and fix it and it gets better. That’s what we get paid to do. When we go to practice it’s, ‘OK, where we are on speed and what do we need to be better.’ We talk about it and be methodical about our adjustments and go from there. I think Todd does a great job. Todd doesn’t just make changes to make changes. I know that’s how I would be if I was a crew chief. I’d be like, ‘Yeah, yeah, just do that and do that and it will be fine and go for it.’ But Todd really understands and takes the time to talk it out with me, which I think is very important to dig out the deep information and then think about what the adjustment is gonna do and what the reaction to other parts and pieces of the car is gonna be when he does it, and understand why it changes a certain thing. I think that’s what makes him very strong as a crew chief, and that’s why I wouldn’t be a crew chief because I would just go for it. So together we work out.”
How much sweeter was it to win this race today compared to the last time?
“I didn’t know where Victory Lane was here actually, so I just made another lap. I said, ‘I’m just gonna keep going around.’ I didn’t have any rear tires on it. I think it drug the frame rails off the car, but I just didn’t want to come in. I wanted to stay out there. This is, like I said, how big of a win this is for me. I never got out in front of all the fans on the front straightaway before but it was just too cool. I couldn’t give up that opportunity. Then I just wanted to keep going, so I just kept making laps out there. There might not be much left of the car, but it was really special to win here and I wanted to make it last as long as I could.”
Has this track always been an outside line restart track or did weather conditions play a role?
“As far as I can remember, yes, the outside has been the preferred lane, but it’s kind of sketchy. It is where you can get the momentum and most likely you come out in the lead, but the way you get in the corners here, it’s so flat just one lane down that the inside car gets loose really easily, so it’s dangerous being out there, but it is the preferred lane and that’s why when I was in the lane I did everything I could to make sure I had a good enough restart that I had position on him, that I didn’t have to race him through turn one. That was my big goal on every one was just getting through the gear box as quick as I could.”
What happened on the restart when you and Brad were together and Harvick passed you guys for the lead?
“It’s exactly what I just talked about. I got on the inside and we were both racing for the lead and I got loose and I started chasing it up. Thank goodness he held onto it and we held onto it and we both ended up with good days out of it. The important thing is that both of us have moved on to the next round and we can keep racing and working together and trying to win the championship.”
Did you think your shot at the win was gone at that point?
“No, it’s not over until it’s over. I’ve seen these races change a lot in the late laps. No, it’s never over until it’s over. If I’m running fifth with four to go, I still think I can win this thing a lot of times. I think that’s the attitude you’ve got to have. If you get a late-race caution it’s like, ‘I’ve got a shot at it. It might take a miracle, but I’ve got a shot,’ and that’s all I can ask for.”
What’s your attitude heading to Dover?
“Dover is a crazy race track. It’s so much fun to go around it. Right now, my focus is on Texas though. We’ve got a test down there the next two days and we’ve got to make sure we make that test everything we can do out of it and make sure we’re ready for it when we get to Texas and try to win down there again. Right now, I’m focused on that and then we’ll think about Dover. You talked about being relaxed, it’s not really the case. Walt said earlier our next focus is the next race and we need to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We focus hard on each and every race track and we want to go to Dover. Knowing that we’re in the next round is nice, but we want to go out there and win. We want to keep the momentum going and you never know what’s gonna happen later on in this Chase. There could be a time that we don’t make it to the next round and we’ve got to revert back to points. It would be pretty nice to have a solid finish at Dover to try and get a good, solid points position at the end of the year. Our goal is to win the championship though, so we have to get from round to round, but just because we’re in the next one doesn’t mean we’re gonna take an off weekend next week.”
The next test for competitors is the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 28, 2014. Four drivers will be eliminated from the Chase for the 2014 Sprint Cup Series Championship next week. You can catch the race live on ESPN starting at 1 p.m. eastern time and the race begins at 2 p.m.