Ford Performance NASCAR: Joey Logano Talladega Q&A Session

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Alabama 500 Advance – Talladega Superspeedway

Friday, October 13, 2017


Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 AAA Ford Fusion, knows what it’s like to win a Playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.  He visited the infield media center on Friday morning to talk about this weekend’s race, along with other issues before practice.

JOEY LOGANO – No. 22 AAA Ford Fusion – YOU’RE GOING FOR YOUR THIRD STRAIGHT FALL TALLADEGA WIN.  WHAT MAKES YOU SO GOOD HERE?  “I think it’s a lot of different things.  We’ve been able to kind of hone in on as our strengths when we come to the superspeedways, one, I think we have good cars.  I think that’s important when we come to these tracks, and then you have to have good communication between yourself and your spotter, and try to make the right decisions when you’re out there.  When to push, when to make the big moves, when to maybe chill out a little bit and make sure you have something to race with at the end, the strategy of these races has come into play quite a few times and Todd has done a good job with that.  Without it sounding too basic, but those are the main things, I think, that make good speedway racers, knowing when to push and when not to is probably the key thing.  When to make those moves because every move comes with a risk and being able to weigh that risk and reward out in a tenth-of-a-second is the hardest part, but the most important part.”

HOW WILL YOU TRY TO HELP YOUR PLAYOFF TEAMMATES THIS WEEKEND?  “Right off the bat every time we come to a superspeedway like Talladega or Daytona the first thing we say is how we all work together because we need to be able to work together to win the race.  So whether it’s Team Penske or Fords in general we all need to be willing to work together to be able to keep ourselves up front.  I think when you look at the Daytona 500 from a couple years ago when the Toyotas worked so well together it forever changed how superspeedway racing will be, and now other manufacturers, other teams have figured that out and they’re able to break them apart, which keeps it kind of racy out there, which is a good thing, but that’s definitely something that has changed it.  So we all need to be willing to work together, but at the end of the race it’s game time.  We’re all going out there for the win, so we want to position ourselves to win the race.  It’s important for us to win, just as much as anybody else right now.  The goal is to go out there and put our Shell/Pennzoil Ford in Victory Lane again and try to make it three in a row for the fall race.  That’s our goal, but we also need to keep in mind that we want to work together with our teammates, make sure that they score good points for the Playoffs, but we also need to work together to even have a shot to win.  So it all kind of just happens naturally.”

DOES THIS RACE NOT BEING AN ELIMINATION RACE CHANGE THE STRATEGY FOR SOME DRIVERS?  “Yeah for some, for sure.  I think that the fact that it’s not an elimination race and they have stages.  I think those two things are the best things to happen for Talladega for a couple of different reasons.  We’ve seen in the past that drivers come in here and say, ‘I’ve just got to finish 25th.  If I finish 25th it doesn’t matter what happens,’ and then they just ride around the back all day until it’s the end of the race and they go up and finish 25th.  Well, that’s pretty boring.  That’s not what anybody wants to see.  Fans don’t want to see that, so NASCAR has made some good decisions, I think, by making this not the final race in this round, and then also adding the stages you can’t afford to give up those stage points.  You can finish fifth and score no stage points and it’s really not that good of a day.  You’ve got to be able to go up there and score those points, so those two things are great for superspeedway racing and particularly the fall Talladega race when there is so much on the line to force race teams to go out there and race.”

WHAT’S YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON TOYOTA HAVING WON THE FIRST FOUR PLAYOFF RACES?  “No, I don’t think they’re dominating, they’ve just won the first four (laughing).  No, they’re not much better than anybody else (laughing).  I’d say they’re doing pretty good.  They seem to be pretty fast.  That one is pretty easy to see.  They’re ahead of everybody, no doubt.  They’re the best cars out there on the race track and a lot of that is because they’ve done their homework.  They made some great decisions and they’re reaping the reward now.  Good for them.  Not good for us.  We’ve got to go to work.  We must work hard on our cars and make sure that we get faster.  We all talk about Talladega being the great equalizer.  It is a lot of times.  I feel like we have a great shot this week.  I feel like maybe for our race team it might be our best shot to go out here and grab a win because the advantage the Toyotas have I don’t think will show up at a race track like here or Martinsville or tracks like that.”

HOW CRAZY WILL STAGE POINTS MAKE THE MIDDLE PART OF THE RACE ON SUNDAY?  “I don’t think it will be as intense as the end of the race, but I do think the intensity level will definitely pick up.  I would suspect, if you’re 15th or so you’re gonna keep racing all the way to the end, but I think if you’re gonna be 20th on back is the risk of getting up there to get one point, maybe?  Maybe?  You might not even get that.  Is it worth the risk of crashing and getting no points the rest of the day.  Those are the decisions that drivers will have to weigh out in the heat of the battle out there, saying, ‘OK, do I want to get up there and try to grab a point or two and risk not finishing the race?’  I think those are things you’re gonna have to weigh out for sure, but that intensity level will pick up as each lap gets closer to the end of the stage, and the decisions that drivers will make will be kind of interesting depending on what they’re trying to do.”

FOR SOMEONE LIKE YOURSELF THAT ISN’T IN THE PLAYOFFS WOULD YOU BACK OUT AND LET THE PLAYOFF GUYS GO AT IT?  “I’m wired one way.  I’ve got one gear and it’s wide-open.  That’s all I’ve got, so, for me, it keeps it pretty simple.  When I come to the superspeedways it’s go to the front and stay in the front, race hard, and I think that shows in our results.  We either win or we crash and I’m OK with that.  I’m OK with that.  I don’t really, honestly, and I’ve said this a lot here the last few weeks that fifth, second, 15th, crashing, what’s the difference?  It’s all about winning.  That’s what we’re here to do and that’s what we’re gonna do is just to go out there and race for the win, and that means you’ve got to battle up front all day long, learn as much as you can about your car, get it as best as you can for the end of the race, know who is racing around you to go out there and try to win it.”

HOW DID YOU LEARN TO RESTRICTOR PLATE RACE?  “Being a student of the sport is the most important part, I think, of superspeedway racing.  My attitude when I first came into speedway racing was, ‘Ah, it’s a crapshoot.  If you’re in the right lane at the right time you kind of work your way up there.’  And then I started realizing that you see Junior and Kenseth and Brad and Kevin, there’s a lot of Denny, a lot of guys that always happen to be there and I thought, ‘Maybe they’re not just that lucky.  They must be pretty good at this,’ so trying to understand the draft and the moves that the guys make, watching a lot of film, watching and remembering what happens in the past, understanding what your car can and can’t do, the communication between yourself and your spotter is ultra-important because you’ve got to get that data from them before you can make those decisions and making them quick and being bold about it and being confident about when you make those decisions is all about preparation.  So you’ve got to have that prep work to go out there and be successful, and it’s always evolving.  That’s what’s fun about superspeedway racing, it’s never the same.  I talked a couple years ago about how it changed when the Toyotas starting working well together.  A few years before that we used to do the tandem draft, where two cars would hook up and go forever.  How awesome was that?  So it changes all the time, but I can see why it’s so exciting for fans.  I was watching it on the way down here, I was watching the race in the spring and I’m like, ‘This is awesome.  This is a lot of fun to watch.’  Just as a fan of the sport, which I am, it’s a lot of fun to watch just the way cars are moving around and the decisions drivers are marking on the race track at every moment is pretty entertaining.”

WAS IT NERVE-RACKING AT FIRST?  “I’m sure I don’t know what I’m doing now (laughing).  It’s nerve-racking for sure all the time, but my first Daytona 500 I didn’t make it very far before I wadded it up.  I remember the first time I drove a Cup car at Daytona was Shootout practice in Daytona and I remember swatting flies in there, just turning left and right, just out of control and don’t know what I’m doing.  I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m not gonna make it 500 miles,’ which I made it about 40 laps, so I was right.  It’s not easy.  It’s not a crapshoot.  You can’t control your destiny 100 percent here, but you kind of can at the same time.  You control the position that you’ve put yourself in to.  Maybe sometimes I’ve been crashed out running third here and say, ‘Man, I couldn’t do anything about that.  I’m as close as I can be to the front, where I think I’m safe,’ and they wad it up right behind me and the crash worked forward and got me.   It something that can happen all the time, so you’ve got to go in kind of with an attitude that, ‘Hey, whatever happens happens,’ but at the same time I believe you do control your destiny.  I don’t believe in luck, really.  I believe you control where you’re at all the time.”

DALE JR. SAYS THE HELMET CAM MOTIVATES HIM AND PAINT SCHEMES DO THE SAME.  IS THAT TRUE WITH ALL DRIVERS?  ARE THEY MOTIVATED BY BEING PART OF THE SHOW?  “I think every driver is different and every person is different.  Everyone in here has a different way of writing a good story or whatever it may be.  For Junior that motivates him and it’s good that he found something that motivates him.  For me, I see a trophy and I go, ‘I want that.’  That’s what I want.  Whether it puts on a good show or not, honestly, I don’t care.  I just want the trophy.  I want to win.”

DOES IT MATTER WHAT THE TROPHY LOOKS LIKE?  “Not really.  Sometimes a cool trophy maybe adds a little bit more to it and maybe you see something that’s really neat and you think, ‘Man, that would be neat to have in the house or something like that,’ but, really, each win is so important, especially for us with the position we’re in right now.  Any win would feel amazing at this point, so we don’t really need any more motivation than what we’ve got, but every driver kind of has their own thing.  Maybe there’s something special on your car that weekend.  A lot of times maybe you have something that’s close to your heart or is very authentic to you, you want to make the most out of that.  There are times that you’ll want to win more, but I don’t really know how to push harder than I already am.”

CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE CHALLENGES OF BEING IN FRONT OF THE FIELD TRYING TO MAINTAIN CONTROL OF BOTH LINES AND THE OPPOSITE OF TRYING TO CATCH THE LEADER?  “It’s very challenging and it depends on obviously the kind of car you’re racing.  If you’re racing an XFINITY car or a Cup car it takes a completely different mindset on staying out front.  When you’re up front you never look where you’re going.  You’re constantly looking in the mirror and where that car behind you goes is where you go.  It’s kind of like I’ve heard fighter pilots say when they fly in formation they stare at the one plane.  If that plane drives into the ground, they’re all going into the ground together.  It’s the same thing.  If the car behind me drives into the wall, I’m probably going into the wall with him from in front of him because you’re constantly in the mirror when you’re in the lead.  You’re listening to the information from your spotter where runs are coming from, how fast they’re coming, and there are times you can’t stop them, but there are times you maybe don’t want to get too far in front of the pack.  Are they two or three wide?  How tight is the whole pack?  In the mirror you can see only a certain amount.  You can see a fair amount maybe if you’re in the corner and the way the banking is you can see a couple rows back, but sometimes on the straightaway when they’re tucked up right on you, you can only see that car that’s right there in your mirror.  You can’t see everything else that’s going on, so the spotter painting a picture is what I call it.  Paint me a picture of what’s going on really helps me make the decisions on the race track as the leader and when you’re behind a car you’ve got to do both.  So now you’re trying to pass the guy in front of you, so you’re watching where he’s at, but you’ve also got to make the decision on what’s going on behind you and what lane you want to pick, and also understanding who that person is.

“There are some drivers that will push and push, push, push until they get up front and then they’ll try to pass you, and then there are other drivers that will try to slip you any chance they can to put themselves in a better position to get to the lead.  Understanding who those people are and when they’re gonna do it and when those runs are coming are the most important things to think of while you’re doing this a 200 miles an hour.  It’s not boring (laughing).  There are a lot of things going on that you’re trying to process at a really quick rate.”

IS YOUR FOCUS NOW MORE ON THE REST OF THIS YEAR OR 2018?  “Both.  We’ve got to think about how do we make our cars better for next year because I guess my biggest fear would be doing the same thing we did this year.  I don’t want to go through this feeling again.  It’s not any fun.  I want to go out there and I want to be racing for a championship, so I’m motivated to make sure this never happens again.  Looking at it at a big picture when we’re at the shop how we’re approaching different parts on the car, the outlook of how we do things, all of that need to be looked at and understood and maybe changed as the sport evolves.  So, yes, we need to look at that.  But we’re also in the season right now.  We still have quite a few races to go and we have an opportunity to win and we need to take advantage of that.  We don’t give up on this year.  We want to build momentum for next year, so by being on the race track we’re gonna try to make everything we can out of it, but from a global view we need to understand the changes we’re gonna have to make to be more successful next year.”

HOW DO YOU GET OUT OF BED AND LOOK AT EACH DAY?  DO YOU JUST SAY TODAY IS A NEW DAY AND I’M GOING TO MAKE THE BEST OF IT?  “Pretty much.  You’ve got to wake up in the morning with the right attitude.  Life is all about attitude and the perspective that you have on life.  A bad day at the race track is better than a lot of kids days that I see with the Foundation that we work with, and the cards that they’ve been dealt to try to handle, missing the Playoffs doesn’t sound that bad when you meet these kids.  So I think keeping your life in perspective is important and knowing that every morning God gives you a great opportunity to make something happen and I need to take advantage of that opportunity every day.  That doesn’t mean it always goes the way I want it to or the way I think it should be, but I can work towards that goal, so I guess I’m grateful for every day that I get to go out there and do my job and to try to make a difference in our world.  Sometimes it doesn’t go your way, like this year didn’t go my way, but I have to stay positive and I have to understand that I am living my dream.  This is what I wanted to do my whole life.  Since I was five years old all I wanted to do was drive race cars and not everybody gets to live their dream.  I still think it’s pretty cool even when it’s not going as great as you want it to.”

BRAD IS MAKING HIS 300TH START ON SUNDAY.  DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE BRAD STORY?  “I’m trying to think of one I should say or shouldn’t say (laughing).  Brad and I have become really good friends and the 300th start is really cool.  The stat that’s amazing to me is how many drivers have won on their 300th start, which I was able to do earlier this year – sorta, kinda, I guess, but I call it a win (laughing).  It was a win, but anyways, Brad and I have become great friends.  We hang out with each other a lot.  We went over to his house, I think it was maybe Scarlett’s first birthday or something and we’re all just hanging out.  And he says, ‘Let’s do something manly.’  And I’m like, ‘What do you want to do?’  And he says, ‘Let’s play croquet.’  I’m like, ‘Oh, God.’  But he was serious and I thought it was the funniest thing.  We got a good kick out of it.  He’s a very good croquet player, if you’re wondering.  I never would have thought that, but he’s a good person and I think that’s something that a lot of people don’t see.  He’s very competitive.  We’re a lot alike in a lot of different ways, but he’s got a big heart and I think a lot of people don’t see that because when we’re at the race track we’re in race mode and we’re in work mode, but when you get people away from the race track you start to see who they really are and I feel grateful to have a friend like Brad and a teammate like him as well.”

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR ISSUE AT CHARLOTTE THIS YEAR?  YOU WERE SO GOOD IN 2016 AND STRUGGLED THIS YEAR.  “We tried something new when we got there Friday because we’re in a position that we can take advantage of where we’re at by trying something different and have nothing to lose.  We’ve never been in this spot before and hopefully never are in it again, but we can take advantage of trying something new.  It did not work.  We qualified awful and then we tried to put in a setup that was closer to our teammates and took off from there.  We ran 30 laps or so until the nose got knocked in and that was pretty much the end of the day.  We kept trying to fix that and trying to keep it from overheating and before you know it you’re three laps down and you’re trying to just finish the race.  We didn’t really get the opportunity to really show what we had, but I don’t think it was very much either.  Our organization as a whole was off in Charlotte.  Charlotte is one of our best tracks.  It’s been a good track for Brad and Ryan Blaney as well and none of us really showed the speed that we thought we would.  We started to show signs of hope at Chicago.  I feel like all three of our cars were top-five contenders, hoping that would continue when we go to a mile-and-a-half like Charlotte, but it didn’t.  Charlotte is unique.  It has a big landing event in turn one.  It’s bumpy through three and four.  It’s unique and sets itself apart a little bit, so Kansas will be interesting to see what kind of speed we’ve got, but it was not a fun day, for sure.”



About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.