Jul. 16 – These next two races on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule — Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon and next week’s HighPoint.com 400 at Pocono Raceway — have additional meaning for Joey Logano.
The courts are the sites of his first two cup wins.
“They’re definitely special to go back to,” Logano said in a phone interview. “Loudon is for me my home circuit where I saw my first cup race as a child. That’s where I rode my first cup race. I won my first cup race. Lots of special things and memories when I go back to Loudon. And then Pocono is also one of my favorite places. Two completely different types of race tracks, but we’ll see if we can make something of it.”
June 28, 2009. While a rookie driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, starting his 20th career, Logano won the rain-shortened New Hampshire race to become the youngest winner in Cup Series history at 19 years, one month and four days.
“I remember when I wasn’t very good. Honestly, we got really lucky,” Logano said. “I had a flat left rear tire that forced me to pit when other cars didn’t. There was bad weather on the way and everyone had to pit under the green. I had a little extra fuel through the pit lane because of the flat tire. I started to rain and we won.
“I have yet to have a race 15 years later that is this lucky. I’m taking it because I’ve lost races this way way more times than I’ve won at the moment.”
Nearly three years later – June 10, 2012 – Logano came to Pocono for his 125th career start, still with that lone win and his future with Gibbs Racing in jeopardy. But he started the Pocono 400 on the pole, led a race-high 49 laps and passed Mark Martin for the lead with four laps to go to earn his second career win.
“The win meant a lot,” said Logano. “The situation I was in that weekend, I lost my job. (Joe) Gibbs wasn’t going to re-sign me, I’d be out. We showed up that weekend, sat on pole and won the race. That was a career moment. Probably the biggest victory in my life to this day.”
In September 2012, it was announced that Logano would join Penske Racing as a driver of the No. 22 Ford starting in the 2013 season. He has been with the organization ever since.
During that time he has won 30 races, bringing his career total to 32, and captured series championships in 2018 and 2022.
This season, Logano won in Atlanta in March to extend his streak of consecutive seasons with at least one win to 12. He also has two poles (Las Vegas, Atlanta), five top-five and nine top-10 finishes for 10th in the points classification.
“We’re fine,” Logano said. “We’ve been going through one thing after another for about a month and a half, which has left us much further behind in points than we want to be. But I feel lately that we’re starting to find some consistency and some good ways to play throughout the race to find a track position.
“We’re not fast enough yet. We need to find a bit more speed to get to where we need to be. Last year we were in a similar scenario and won the championship. It’s all about finding the speed at the right time. We have a bit more time before the playoffs start to find that little bit extra But right now we have the consistency in front of us That’s also important in the playoffs You have to get through all the rounds and consistency will help you for sure through the first few. If we can keep doing what we’re doing here, that’ll be great. We need to try and get some more playoff points and find some speed in the next (seven) weeks.”
Logano will make his 28th career start at Pocono on July 23. In addition to his 2012 win, he has four top-five and ten top-10 finishes on the 2.8-mile triangular course at Long Pond. He also won the ARCA Series race there in June 2009.
He said the three different angles are what make Pocono so challenging.
“One has a lot more banking, the other is very flat and the other is a high-speed corner with a big bump in it,” Logano said. “It’s like, Whoa! How do you get it all together? So you have to prioritize. Which corner is most important? Where was the speed made? You build on that and try to compromise. Try to find one make corner really good and the others not so bad.”
After winning his second series championship last season, Logano said there’s not much difference from winning his first in 2018. The short off-season from November to February doesn’t give you much time to think about it.
“Obviously it’s a great moment to win a championship. It’s a huge achievement, it’s something that stays with you forever,” said Logano. “But at the same time, once the season starts in Daytona, it’s over. It’s not really relevant anymore. You have the off-season to celebrate and have fun. But then you have to do it again. Maybe be called reigning champion, that sounds “Great. But they’re after me. You should definitely go through with it.”
One of the perks of being a reigning Cup Series champion is being on the board of that year’s NASCAR Hall of Fame voting committee. On Wednesday, the nominees for the Class of 2024 were announced with seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and his crew chief Chad Knaus joining eight others in the Modern Era vote: Neil Bonnett, Tim Brewer, Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards, Harry Gant, Harry Hyde, Larry Phillips and Ricky Rudd. Donnie Allison was added to the Pioneer ballot along with Sam Ard, AJ Foyt, Banjo Matthews and Ralph Moody. There are also five nominees for the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR: Lesa France Kennedy, Janet Guthrie, Alvin Hawkins, Les Richter and the late Dr. Joseph Mattioli, founder of Pocono Raceway.
Vote is August 2. Two from the Modern Era ballot, one from the Pioneer ballot, and one Landmark Award nominee will make up the Hall of Fame Class of 2024.
“That’s probably the coolest thing for me,” Logano said. “Sitting in that room, hearing people talk about legends of our sport and why someone should or shouldn’t be in there. I think that’s pretty neat.”
NASCAR ON POCONO SCHEDULE
11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. — ARCA Series practice
12:30-12:50 PM — ARCA Series practice
1:35-2:05 PM — NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series practice
2:05-3:00 PM — NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series qualifying
3:35-4:05 PM — Practice NASCAR Xfinity Series
4:05-5:00 PM — NASCAR Xfinity Series qualifying
6pm – ARCA Series Sunset Hill Shooting Range 150
Afternoon – NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series CRC Brakleen 150
2:35-3:20 PM — Practice NASCAR Cup Series
3:20-4:30 PM — NASCAR Cup Series qualifying
5:30 PM — NASCAR Xfinity Series Pocono Mountains 225
2:30 p.m. — NASCAR Cup Series HighPoint.com 400
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