Middletown, CT’s Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang for Team Penske, is fourth in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings heading into this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Bristol Dirt Race winner was a guest this morning on a NASCAR Zoom call, where he spoke to members of the media about this weekend’s annual marquee event.
JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang — THE CONVOY OF HOPE IS GOING ON THIS WEEKEND AT CHARLOTTE. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT? “As you guys know, last year with the Joey Logano Foundation Elevation Outreach, we teamed up and did a $1 million response and recovery fund for Covid-19 and the impact that we were able to make was incredible. One of the things that we did was with Convoy of Hope, which is a great organization. What we were doing with them was trying to bridge the gap of how we were showing up at the racetrack without any race fans. In my mind, we were taking and not giving anything back because typically when NASCAR shows up to town there’s 100,000 people or more and we’re impacting the market with hotels, restaurants, rental cars. You guys know. You guys travel. Everything that you do while you’re at the racetrack is a big impact on their market. We were just showing up and racing still, but we weren’t giving anything back. Convoy of Hope shows up with 30,000 pounds of food and other essentials as well. You think about what this pandemic did. People were relying on food at school for their kids — a couple meals a day possibly — and that was gone. Jobs were going away and this was before there was all this relief stuff that’s going on in our government right now, so this was a huge piece in the moment and we wanted to do another one here in Charlotte, our hometown. We’ll be down on Independence Blvd. May 29 at 10:00 down at the Bojangles’ parking lot. We’ve been able to have some great partners — NASCAR Foundation has helped us a lot with partnering up with these things. Shell has for one as well, so we’ve got some great supporters and had more impact over the last year with the foundation than ever before. It blew away all of our projections and it just shows how much good is going on in our world right now, so something we’re still obviously very passionate about and excited about and this weekend makes it so special because I feel like this weekend, to me at least, feels like a grand opening. I feel like we’re back. I feel like America is back this week and it couldn’t happen on a better weekend — Memorial Day Weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Coke 600. To me, this is it. To have our race fans back and, to me, it just feels like the reopening of America, so I’m pretty excited.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY?
“Love-hate, I guess. I haven’t won it yet, so It hink I’d love it more if we were able to win. I’ve been able to run really well at Charlotte over the years. It’s been a really good racetrack for us, whether it’s been the Roval or the All-Star Race, BOA 500, whatever it is those have been some good ones. I just haven’t won the Coke 600 yet, which is the one that stands out for me. Everytime I look at a bucket list race, probably Southern 500 and Coca-Cola 600 and Brickyard are the ones that stand out that I really want next. I feel like we’ll have a great opportunity this weekend. As a Coca-Cola Racing Family member throughout all of this, you really want to get the win, believe me. There’s a lot of really good things that come along with it, so I’m ready to go. I love that it’s different. I love that the race, you talked about the relationship, I love that the race is longer than normal and it’s unique, it sets itself apart. That’s what makes the Coke 600 special is because it’s different. Just like winning at COTA for the first time or winning the Bristol Dirt Race for the first time. Those races stand out because they’re unique. Well, the Coke 600 is unique in its own way being longer than any other race, so you really want to try to knock off that crown jewel event.”
YOU CAN’T DO ANYTHING MORE TO PREPARE FOR RACES LIKE THAT, SO WHAT’S IT LIKE TO WANT SOMETHING SO BAD?
“You really can’t do much more. It’s just another race is the way you kind of have to look at it. Is there more on the line that you’re racing for? Of course there is, but you don’t do anything different. I don’t prepare for the championship race in Phoenix last year any differently than I would the races leading up to it. The goal is still the same. The goal never changes, so you don’t have to change the way you prep. The goal is to win, period, done, that’s it. The mission is how do you do that? How do you figure out how to do that? It doesn’t matter what race it is and there just might be a little bit more on the line this week.”
HOW DID THE DAMP WEATHER TIRE TEST GO AT RICHMOND AND WAS IT PRODUCTIVE?
“Yeah, it was productive. I think we learned some things. It’s not as simple as we all think it is. Go figure, right? Everything is a little more complicated than it looks on the outside, but I think after COTA the main thing was not the tire. The tire’s got pretty good grip, it’s about the spray, the mist. You can’t see the vision and that’s what we had to fix. I texted O’Donnell after the race and said, ‘You got mud flaps for this test tomorrow?’ Because that was something I thought would possibly help and all three teams showed up with their version of a mud flap and all three very different, which was great to see. We went out there and saw things I’ve never seen before. I’ve seen water trucks on racetracks before, but they’ve always been dirt. I’ve never seen a water track on an asphalt racetrack, so I feel like I’ve seen it all now and we went out there and learned a lot. The mud flaps kind of adjust the spray, but it doesn’t completely eliminate the spray, so we need to try to figure that out, but I think the biggest things we realized is when we put slick tires on it. Slicks were obviously very slick. The cars were undriveable, but there was no spray, so that means it’s coming from the treads on the tires, so maybe there’s a less aggressive tread pattern that, one, allows us to have grip. We need to have that as well, but maybe can eliminate some of the spray. The mud flaps helped some. It kind of just changes where the spray is coming out, so I feel like we made some good gains and learned some things to go back and try again, but, still, probably a lot of work to do there to get it to where we can see. That’s the biggest thing, and understanding how wet we can go back racing because maybe the goal is different than what we think. Maybe it’s not that we’re racing in downpouring rain, but maybe we can race on those racetracks when it’s still damp and go out there and race then, and the track dry off quicker and not have fans sitting there waiting for the track to dry. The Air Titans are great, but they’re not that entertaining, so trying to get the race back going is probably the number one goal and probably the most achievable goal at this moment.”
ON SATURDAY IT SEEMED LIKE GUYS WERE JOKING ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE TO SEE, BUT ON SUNDAY IT WAS MORE DANGEROUS.
“Well, when we were practicing and it was raining probably just as hard as it was in the race or close to it, we were by ourselves. If you were going down that straightaway between 11 and 12 going 150 miles an hour and no one is in front of you, it feels pretty safe. It feels fine to me, but when you’re going 150 miles an hour and you can’t see 30 feet in front of you, it doesn’t feel too comforting anymore. It feels a little unsafe at that moment, so the closer you are to the front, the better it was, but once you were further back in seventh or eighth, good luck. You couldn’t see anything and we saw some pretty scary crashes because of that, so lessons learned there I think for everybody and so we move forward from that. I don’t think we’ve been to a road course where you’re going that fast. When it’s slow through the esses and the slower parts of the track, no problem, no spray, everything is good. It’s just when we started going fast and the tires were pumping so much water out from underneath the car. Boy, it just comes to the point you can’t see where you’re going.”
GOODYEAR SAID AT COTA THAT BECAUSE OF THE USE OF WET WEATHER TIRE LAST WEEKEND, THE SAME WHICH WOULD BE USED AT A SHORT TRACK, THAT LOGISTICS WOULD MAKE IT LESS LIKELY TO HAVE ENOUHG TIRES PREPARED FOR POTENTIALLY NEW HAMPSHIRE IF EVERYTHING WAS IN A GO POSITION TO TRY IT. IF THAT DOESN’T WORK, THE NEXT SHORT OVAL WOULD BE A PLAYOFF RACE. AT THIS POINT AS A COMPETITOR IS IT YOUR FEELING THAT IF SOMETHING IS NOT READY FOR BEFORE THE PLAYOFFS, IT SHOULD NOT BE TRIED IN THE PLAYOFFS AND BE PUSHED BACK TO NEXT YEAR AT THIS POINT?
“It’s a fair question. That’s news to me about running out of tires. I feel like when someone’s back is up against the wall they figure out a way, so I feel like, yeah, there may not be tires now, but if you put the full court press on them, I bet there would be tires (laughing). But I also think understanding — we have to fix the spray issue first. That’s it and before we talk about what race we’re bringing it to, a playoff race versus regular races — we first have to figure out how to make it safe enough to be able to see where we’re going. That’s the number one priority. Once you fix that, I’m fine with racing it wherever. If we feel confident that the tire is gonna stay in one piece and not come apart, and we feel confident we’re gonna be able to see and not gonna have some freak crash like we had last week, have at it. I don’t care. We’ll road racing start at it as long as we feel confident in that, and that’s up to us as a sport to understand when that moment is and when to green light it. At this moment, I don’t think we’re there, but I don’t think we’re far away from it. Like I said earlier, is the goal going back to where the track is just damp. Can we do that? Maybe we can. Maybe that’s actually something that we can do, but racing in the rain, we’re not there yet, but we can be. We’re not yet.”
THIS WEEKEND APPEARS TO HAVE A BIG TEMPERATURE DROP FROM FRIDAY IN PRACTICE TO THE RACE ON SUNDAY. HOW HAS WEATHER CHALLENGED OR THWARTED YOU, WHETHER IT’S RAIN OR DRASTIC CHANGES, AND HOW HAS IT HELPED YOU?
“I won one race because of the rain. It was 12 or 13 years ago. That was a long time ago. I thought we were really good at calling the weather for a minute, but it’s been a while since I’ve been able to cash in on another one of those, but the weather is what it is. You can’t change it. Trying to call a race or set up your car to the weather is very challenging. All you can do is go back on your notes, maybe what hot temperatures compared to cool temperatures are and what it does to your balance, and try to adjust to that. That’s where experience, I think, really pays off and keeping good notes can really help with that stuff, so that’s unique, but last week was the most unique scenario of all time — practice in the rain, go qualify when it’s dry, and I don’t even know where to hit the brakes, and then go race in damp and pouring rain at the end. We went through all the weather you could possibly go through last weekend and you just have to adapt quickly, and I think the communication back to the crew chief, making adjustments to the car, making adjustments to your driving style all has to happen really, really quick to be able to stay up front or get yourself up front and take advantage of the opportunity that’s there.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE VINTAGE COKE VENDING MACHINE THAT GOES TO THE WINNER OF THE COCA-COLA 600?
“That one is super cool. I wish I had one (laughing). I saw Brad took a picture of his or something this week on his social and I thought, ‘Man, I want that.’ I was a little jealous, so I want to be able to do it. Like I said, I’m part of the Coca-Cola Racing Family. I really want one of those things, so that’s definitely, to me, a unique little gift and something that you’ll most likely have the rest of your life and have a really cool story behind it of how you got it.”
IS THAT SOMETHING YOU WOULD PUT WITH THE REST OF YOUR TROPHIES OR DO SOMETIHNG DIFFERENT WITH IT? “
I don’t know, I’d like to have that problem to know what to do with it. I don’t know (laughing). I’ll figure it out when it happens.”
HAVING PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING AT AN OVAL THIS WEEKEND, WILL THAT MAKE IT FEEL MORE NORMAL IN A WAY? “Yeah, I think there’s some normalcy there. You’ve got 50 minutes. It’s not a lot, but you have some time to tweak on your car and, believe me, there are plenty of things I think every team wants to try after racing this way for over a year now. Going to these 550 race tracks and I always say it’s a little bit of shooting from the hip in a certain way of not knowing what to do to your car and kind of scared to try something way outside the box without practice, so this gives you the chance to A-B a couple things and see if we can make some gains, so I look forward to the practice a lot, especially at this racetrack. And then as far as qualifying, here with the 550 you’re most likely gonna be pinned all the way around, so you’re gonna have what you have. Qualifying will still be a little different than what normal is on a 750 track for us, but what you’ve got is what you’re gonna have there.”
HOW MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE TO HAVE FULL GRANDSTANDS?
“It’s everything to our sport. It is so big. TV viewership is important, don’t get me wrong, but having fans at the facility where we are racing is huge, bigger than I think anyone puts any kind of number on. When you think of having your fans there, having your sponsors there, the experience at the midway, the energy that people bring to the racetrack, that’s what our sport was built on. There were fans at the racetrack before there was any TV deal, and I think that’s so important to have our fans back and cheering, booing, screaming, whatever, just making noise. I’ve missed it so much. I hated last year. I hated how we were showing up to a racetrack with nobody there. It just doesn’t even feel right. It’s just feels off. I said it last week, I’ve never been so excited to sit in traffic leaving COTA. I didn’t think I could be happy about sitting in traffic. When I left I said, ‘Wow, look at all the people that were here.’ There were cars lining up on the road trying to get out of there. I was like, ‘This is great.’ You learn to really love the stuff that you miss sometimes and that was definitely one of them, so I’m excited about this weekend for sure.”
WHAT DOES SUPPORTING THE TROOPS AND RECOGNIZING THE MILITARY MEAN TO YOU PERSONALLY?
“It’s been an amazing experience for me. I feel like I’m so lucky for a lot of different reasons. One, to live in this amazing country to where we can live and have our own little problems that we think are so big while someone is fighting problems for us that are so much bigger than that, and the selfless acts that our military shows for us and we don’t even know it. I’ve been fortunate enough to go on a few USO Tours over the years and do that experience you just talked about, and ask questions and learn about their commitment about their focus, their preparation. It is second to none. They are very special individuals to be able to work the way they do, and that’s what this weekend is about. I completely hate when people say Memorial Day Weekend is such a big racing weekend. No it’s not. Nobody cares about that. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about saluting our military. We do a great job at the NASCAR race and the NASCAR Salutes program and the Coke 600 to show the appreciation that we’re doing what we are doing today. We are racing the Coke 600 today because of the men and women that fight for us and we really put that example in front of everybody to remember that. I wish that happened every day. The more I learn about the military, the more I’ve gotten to be around it and understand it, the more I’ve learned to appreciate them and think about how lucky we are to have our problems. Think about how lucky you are to think about, for me, my kid doesn’t want to go to school today. That’s a pretty lucky problem to have when you think about what the alternative can be, or my car is too tight. It’s just a different way of thinking and you have to take yourself out of your own little world sometimes. Memorial Day, to me, is about that. It’s about showing honor and respect for our country, and in today’s day and age we don’t do that enough, not even close to enough, and this is an important weekend for, I think, all of us to take a step back and understand that.”
SONOMA IS AFTER CHARLOTTE. IT’S BEEN ALMOST TWO YEARS SINCE THE SERIES HAS BEEN THERE, SO WILL IT FEEL LIKE A NEW EVENT?
“The last time we were out there we had the high downforce. That’s a big difference as well. I’m looking forward to going back out there. I always love going to Sonoma. It’s a beautiful area obviously and the racetrack is fun. I’ve always looked at it as the short track of road courses. You don’t have a bunch of speed. You’ve got a lot of tire wear. You’ve got the bumping and banging going on. Your car is trying to accelerate with forward drive. It’s a tough place, so that makes it, to me, a fun challenge. It’s different than every other road course we go to. Right now, most road courses we go to have a fair amount of speed, where Sonoma doesn’t, so it’s a unique one and a fun one and I miss it. I miss going out there, so there are gonna be a lot of new changes out there and no practice, so here we go again (laughing).”