Joey Logano reflects on his first year at Penske Racing

Joey Logano is pretty much out of championship contention at this point in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, as he sits 12th in points, some 75 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson. But that doesn’t mean that Logano is looking at the 2013 season as a failure, quite the opposite. Logano recently participated in a NASCAR teleconference to discuss what has been his best Cup season, to date, making the Chase for the first time and his first season with Penske Racing. Here’s what he had to say:

WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THIS YEAR’S SUCCESS TO AND WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THESE FINAL FOUR EVENTS? “I look at a lot of different things and the reasons why we’ve run better this year. Obviously, switching to Penske Racing has definitely been an advantage for me. Being able to work for a guy like Roger forces you to be better and having a teammate like Brad has been great. Being teamed up with Todd Gordon and the 22 bunch, they’re definitely a very good race team and I’ve been able to kind of use that to my advantage. I’ve talked about it throughout the season, but having a fresh start or a restart has also helped, so I look at a lot of different things and the reasons why we’ve run better this year. We’re still not to where we want to be. We’re 12th in points and we’re not happy about that. We want to show the reasons why we’re in the Chase and I feel like we’ve definitely had some fast race cars that’s why we’re here but at the same time we haven’t shown the finishes that we deserve since we got in the Chase. We’ve had a few top-five finishes since we got in it, but that’s not enough to move ourselves to where we need to be. Right now, we’re sitting 12th. Finishing fourth or fifth is still an achievable goal and that’s where I feel like we’ve set our goals to get up there and do that. We have four races and Martinsville should be a good one for us. We had a test there a couple weeks ago and were able to learn some things to do and some things not to do, which are equally valuable, and we’ll go out there and try to attack and get a solid finish out of there, try to get a win and get a grandfather clock and gain some points and put ourselves up there.”

TO WHAT EXTENT HAS THIS SEASON BEEN BITTERSWEET AND DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR TEAM MAY HAVE PEAKED A LITTLE EARLY AND HAS COME BACK DOWN IN THE CHASE? “I don’t know what part is bittersweet, but at the same time I don’t feel like we’ve peaked too early, either. Yes, we had a lot of really good finishes leading into the Chase and that’s why we got in the Chase, but I also feel like we’ve still had a lot of good speed. We haven’t fallen on our faces, we just haven’t had the best finishes that we need. Charlotte was a little bit of a disappointment for us. It was a place that we really thought we’d run well at and we just didn’t take off at the beginning of the race as fast as we needed to and I wasn’t able to recover in time, and didn’t have the cautions fall the right way to be able to recover the time we lost early in the race, so that part is frustrating. But I look at speed and where we were at the end of it and I thought we were a sixth to tenth place car and we just couldn’t recover from that. I don’t see anything bittersweet about this year. I think it’s been a decent year.”

HAS THE PROBATION AGAINST YOUR TEAM HAD ANY IMPACT DURING THE CHASE? “Obviously, it changes a little bit of what we do. We’re very cautious about what we bring to the race track, as we should. I feel like we learned a lesson from that whole thing and we’ve moved on from there.”

LOOKING BACK AT THE SPRING TEXAS RACE WHEN YOUR CAR GOT HUNG UP IN INSPECTION BEFORE THE RACE. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE WAITING TO GET THE CAR AND HAS YOUR TEAM APPROACHED INSPECTION ANY DIFFERENTLY SINCE THEN? “I feel like you just asked the same question as the last one. It did obviously change the way we approached it a little bit and we have to be cautious. Like I said, we learned something from that day. As far as waiting for your car to get on the grid, it’s not ideal and what you want as a race car driver, but we recovered that day and finished fifth, so I thought we recovered pretty good from that. We expect to go back to Texas with a car that’s even faster and not have any issues and have a shot at winning down there.”

DO YOU THINK THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING IN THE CHASE WILL HELP THE NEXT TIME YOU GET IN IT? “Yes, I think it does. I definitely will learn a lot this year. Even though we’re kind of out of it right now as far as the championship, we’re not out of getting a top-five finishing position in the points. As far as my first Chase, Todd’s first Chase, the first Chase the 22 car has been in for quite a few years, it is kind of a learning deal for all of us, but, at the same time, not to say it’s all learning because we’re still trying to make the most of it and even all the way down to the last race, no matter where we’re at, we’re gonna give it 100 percent and try to get the most out of it. That’s what I expect out of my guys and that’s what they’ve been doing for me, so I love that out of them. I have learned a lot throughout this Chase already. For one, I know it’s really hard to make up points when you have a bad race because these guys running for the championship that are first, second, third and fourth right now, they don’t have any bad races. They’ve been really ripping it through this whole Chase, so it’s hard to make up on those guys when you have an engine failure or you have a bad race. It’s hard to recover, so those little mistakes and where we need to fine-tune is where we need to be better to be that championship-winning team, but we’re not far from it right now.”

DO YOU FEEL THE EXPERIENCE SOME OF THE OTHER GUYS HAVE IS HELPING THEM NOW? “It doesn’t hurt. I know experience doesn’t hurt. Having been in the Sprint Cup Series and gaining experience I’ve definitely been able to use it to my advantage, so being a rookie in the Chase I’ve realized has some disadvantages, but, at the same time, I’m able to use the experience that I’ve had racing in the Sprint Cup Series the last five years to my advantage the best I know how to, so I think the more years you race, the better you’re gonna get. That’s for sure, so, yeah, the guys that have been in it more than once or three or four times or 10 times, whatever it is, I think there’s definitely an advantage to being in it and kind of learn how things go.”

HOW IMPORTANT IS BETTER CONSISTENCY TO STRENGTHENING YOUR TEAM’S FOUNDATION TO WHERE YOU EXPECT TOP-FIVE FINISHES IN NEARLY EVERY RACE? “We do expect top-five finishes every race, but, you’re right, we haven’t been as consistent we need to be and that’s why we’re not contending to where we want to be right now. We’ve had runs that we’ve had that consistency, where we can go six or seven races with straight top-10 finishes or top-five finishes, but then we have the next race that’s a total blow-up. We either crash or blow-up or do something like that, so we’ve got to be able to find a way to eliminate those mistakes that we have, whether it’s guys working on the car, guys building the cars, the driver, or the way I communicate with Todd whatever it is we’ve just got to try to find a way to eliminate all the mistakes we possibly can and that feels like the next step for this 22 team right now because, like I said earlier, we’ve had speed in our race cars, we just make mistakes here and there. That’s the difference from being 12th to top-three right now.”

DID THE MOVE FROM CONNECTICUT TO GEORGIA HELP YOUR RACING CAREER? “Yes and no. It did help because in Connecticut there’s a law that you can’t race anything over a certain amount of horsepower until you’re 16 years old, but it’s some low number whether it’s like 10 or 15 horsepower so you’re basically stuck to quarter-midgets and go-karts until you get to a certain age. It kind of worked out that we moved down South and I was able to race Bandoleros and Legends cars and Late Models at a very young age. I feel like that part was kind of an advantage for me. I was able to jump in bigger cars at a very young age and kind of accelerate my learning curve a little bit, so that part was definitely good. Is it the fact that racing started down there and that’s what made it better? No, I don’t think so because I think there’s a lot of really deep racing heritage roots that are up North and in the Northeast. You see that everytime we go to Loudon because that place packs out and even when you go to Dover or Watkins Glen there are a lot of race fans up there and there are a lot of race tracks up there. The racing has always been very strong in the Northeast, so I feel like there are a lot of racing roots tied up there.”

– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR

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Tags: Chase For The Sprint Cup Joey Logano NASCAR Penske Racing

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