Interview With Joey Logano – Winner of The Pure Michigan 400
Talk a little bit about the last few laps, the race today, and your thoughts on the Chase.
JOEY LOGANO: We’re close. We’re close. This is a hard-fought win throughout this whole Penske team, this 22 team in particular, gone through a lot this season.
It’s well-deserved. Gave me a great Shell-Pennzoil Ford that was capable of winning. Kept tuning it in, getting a little better, a little better. When it was up to me on the last restart, I had to be very aggressive to get by the 29 and do what I had to do. Here we are.
What a great place to win. What a great time to win, being in Ford’s backyard, being in Roger’s backyard. Just a great opportunity for me. I’m glad to make the most of it.
Q: Also joining us is crew chief, Todd Gordon. This is Joey’s third victory. His second win from the pole. Talk a little bit about the strategy there.
TODD GORDON: I think the biggest part started on Friday. Race team did a fabulous job, Joey did an awesome job. Qualifying on the pole on Friday got us that good pit stall, allowed us to make some different calls in the pits, maintain track position.
Clean air plays a big deal here. Joey drove his butt off out there. Once we got to the last stop, did some awesome things on the racetrack.
Really proud of this whole race team.
Q: Team owner, Roger Penske, Michigan holds a special place in your heart. Talk about this win today.
ROGER PENSKE: As I go back probably 30 years here at the track, this is probably one of the biggest wins. With Joey coming onboard, his first win with the Shell-Pennzoil car, our relationship with Ford. It’s my home state, my home track. Detroit is my city.
To have Joey come onboard with Brad, it’s a real team effort. Todd and Paul work together. Even Brad today said he thought Joey had a little better car, put a couple of his setups on. It’s clearly a team effort.
I want to thank Jaime Allison for the support Ford has been giving us. We’ve been lacking in delivering what we said we were going to deliver when they signed us up. At least we could shake their hand today in Victory Lane.
Q: Jaime Allison, talk about being the inaugural winner of the MichiganHeritage Manufacturers Trophy.
JAMIE ALLISON: First I’d like to congratulate Joey and the entire team from Penske Racing. Phenomenal race, great restart on the last start.
JOEY LOGANO: Ford power, man (laughter).
JAMIE ALLISON: Phenomenal job.
It is a team sport. There’s a lot of team support along the way. At the end of the day, race day on Sunday, a driver has to go out there and wheel it and win it. That’s what you did. Congratulations.
Obviously we’re very honored to receive the first and inaugural manufacturers trophy. It is special. Every win is special. But to win it here in front of our employees, our fans, with our team, just makes it even more important.
With me here is our vice president of product development, Raj Nair, without whose support we couldn’t provide the tools and technical support that our teams need to excel on the track.
RAJ NAIR: It’s always great to win at home. I want to thank Joey. Great partners with Roger, Penske Racing, Roush-Yates. To win at home in a Ford Fusion is a dream.
Q. Joey, a lot of numbers can still be jumbled. How does today change the next three weeks for you?
JOEY LOGANO: I think we got to be consistent. This is something Todd and I talk about before we come to the racetrack every weekend, how aggressive we need to be to try to get into this Chase.
We kind of decided we needed a win a couple weeks ago. So we did one, we got one. That’s what we got to do. We should decide to get more wins, maybe we’ll win more (smiling).
We need to try to figure out how aggressive we need to be. That’s a conversation we’ll have throughout this week. Right now, as long as we’re consistent, knocking off top 10s like this team has been doing, if we get another win, yeah, it’s going to help us get in the Chase, but it is definitely a great help for our Chase hopes.
I also want to say to Lisa and Paul and Heidi, she’s not here today, but I met them a year ago, talking about getting into this car. It’s ironic that a year later here we are in Victory Lane and getting a pole. Thanks for taking a chance with me, folks.
Q. Todd, when Joey was in here Friday, he talked about how different qualifying and racing was going to be. I know you can’t be entirely specific, but how much did you change the car from Friday untiltoday to ensure you would have what turned out to be as marvelous a run in 400 miles that you got in a lap around this track?
TODD GORDON: We definitely had two different packages, a qualifying package and a race package. Fortunately for us with the way Friday practice rolled out, we started out with the race package and had good speed. There’s definitely different parts to it. This Gen-6 car, it’s kind of created a little more separation there. You’ve got to definitely develop two different packages, one that goes fast for qualifying and one that races really well.
I think Joey did a great job with it today.
Q. Joey, it’s not only been an up-and-down season in the points for you, but the way you started out in March with thewhole Hamlin thing, being viewed as a villain by some.
JOEY LOGANO: I look like a villain, don’t I (laughter)?
Q. To have gone through that in addition to climbing up in the points, falling down, climbing up, has that made you more battle-tested for this stretch run coming up?
JOEY LOGANO: If that doesn’t toughen you up, nothing does. This team has gone through a lot this season. That’s what I’ve meant by some of it. Obviously there’s other things we’ve gone through. They don’t quit. They keep pushing hard.
We’ve got to do that for years to come, not just the rest of this season or next four races. We have to keep doing that as long as we’re all together. Hopefully that’s a very, very, very long time. If we keep doing this, we will be.
Q. Roger, Joey was thanking the Shell people for taking a chance on him. Did you feel like you were taking a chance on him when you hired him? Joey, does this win kind of solidify any questions, the fact you have this ride?
ROGER PENSKE: As we look at drivers, we do this in conjunction with our sponsors, obviously we had a little rough time with the first two drivers we had in the Shell-Pennzoil car. I said to Lisa and the team that I wanted to make the right choice here.
I think, as Joey said, it was a year ago that he had the chance to meet with the Shell people and Pennzoil. I think we said he had been a winner, he was focused, wanted to race. Those are the things that made the difference for us.
I can tell you that Brad was a key part of that because I can see that these two guys are working together and it makes a huge difference because they play off each other, they’re pushing each other. To me that’s key. You have to have that chemistry within the team.
Same thing with Paul and Todd. Paul got a lot of notoriety last year. Todd was there listening, watching. Today these guys are working hand and glove.
It was the right move. We’re investing for the future. I have two young drivers. We’ll match them with anybody today. We’re looking long-term. As Joey said, it’s not one race here at Michigan, it’s about the future.
JOEY LOGANO: It was a no-brainer for me. All you have to do is walk through the shop once, meet Roger, the guys that work there, the Shell and Pennzoil folks, it was a no-brainer. It was an amazing opportunity to have a fresh start working with my idol, Roger Penske. He’s an amazing person. Impresses me every day how he does so much, does such a great job at it. To be working for a guy like that, very, very easy decision for me.
Q. Do you feel like it answered any questions?
JOEY LOGANO: I feel like all the questions were answered as soon as I started. Even before I got to Daytona, I knew it was the right call, knew we did the right thing.
Right off the bat we had speed in our cars. No, I haven’t second-guessed since I signed that contract.
ROGER PENSKE: Also Joey was kind of in no man’s land. Gibbs wanted to keep him. I have to thank J.D. and Joe. They asked me to wait a couple weeks, which we did. We knew we wanted him.
I think his dad played a big part in this, too. Tom has been a greatfriend. Fathers of race drivers, there’s all sorts of stories. He’s been a great supporter of ours. Stood by us which we’ve been having some trouble. It’s been a great team effort. I take my hat off to his dad, he has a great son, and his mom obviously.
Q. When the series came here in June, a lot of our storylines leading up to that race is, What is wrong with Ford? Greg won here in June. Joey wins today. What changed? Was the gap closed? What’s happening now?
JAMIE ALLISON: As Joey just alluded to, if you look at the first five or six races, the final restart of every race in the first five races, a Ford was on the front row in the final restart. You can’t be on the front row without having speed in your car. Clearly the team had speed. The season is long. There’s all types of circumstances that create lack of performance.
The Gen-6 car, certainly we’ve had to do a little bit more diligent preparation, diligent analytical work on understanding how to race in that type of a vehicle.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, we at Ford Motor Company had faith in the fact that in the elements wesupport our teams with, principally around the engines, the design of the body, all the other elements around race strategy, those pieces were being used by our teams to complement and add their value to prepare their cars, show up at the racetrack, qualify, race, make great calls.
So a long way of saying to you that, although the performance hasn’t been there, the results have not been there, there have been circumstances where we’ve not had the opportunity to show the capability of the program. We felt that we had a lineup of great teams, great drivers, and the ability to perform.
We feel, if you look at the last few races, we see a little bit more momentum returning to the Ford camp across all of our teams. You see what’s going on with RPM circumstantially at Watkins Glen. Look at Roush over the last few weeks, as well as Penske.
We feel the Ford camp is strong and is gaining momentum. It’s the right time of the season. The last couple of seasons, Ford drivers have led the regular season in points, but then come the Chase we did not have the results we expected.
This time around maybe we won’t be leading the points coming into the Chase, and hopefully we’ll end up with different results.
ROGER PENSKE: One of the things I read in the paper, the Ford teams are not working together. I think it took probably half the season before we really got open communication. We needed it with Roush on both sides.
Today Joey can look at the traces on the Roush cars and vice versa, qualifying, race setups. There’s good cross-pollenization to me and transparency, which I think is also paying good benefits to us.
Also we had to understand the engine program, some of the things. But I think overall it’s strong. Obviously Roush brings a lot to the table. What we’re trying to do is be 50/50 here. We had some tough breaks. We obviously dinged our drivers with 25 and 30 points because of the axle situation I think back at Texas.
Overall I’m glad to get the momentum now. I think this is where you start to have it. We started that last year. As we started to get to the Chase, we got better. The team is coming together. See if we can’t be in the Chase with both cars. It’s a wild card with how close the points are.
Q. You were chasing one of your heroes, Mark Martin. Do you think you could have caught him if he hadn’t run out of fuel? Roger, who is easier to handle, Joey or Brad?
JOEY LOGANO: I can’t wait to hear that answer (laughter).
No, I mean, it’s kind of ironic. In Pocono last year, racing for a win against Mark Martin, my childhood hero, who I can honestly say I wouldn’t be sitting here today without him. Yeah, I would never want to race against someone else.
It was a lot of fun to race against him. Could I have passed him? I don’t know. I was able to catch him a little bit. The way these cars are, as you get closer to him, your car is going to start handling worse.
I really felt like he was going to run out of gas when Todd told me he was two to three laps short. Originally he was seven laps short, when the 55 came out of the pits. So I knew that in the back of my head. So I really thought I was racing the 29 car the whole time, doing whatever I got to do to make sure the 29 stays behind me, keep momentum up.
If I was able to get to the 55 and try to pass him, that would have given the 29 a huge run, probably would have passed me, 55 would have run out of gas, I wouldn’t be sitting here.
Had to play that smart, look seven or ten laps ahead, play that as smart as I could.
ROGER PENSKE: I guess the two guys are working close together. I get a race report from Joey, very specific. I get a list from Brad of what we need to do with the car. I put those two together and I guess it’s working (smiling).
Q. Joey, you talked about needing to get ahead of the 29. Can you talk about the restart. It really looked like you made a pretty big move at the bottom. Talk about the aggression and the forcefulness of what that move looked like from the outside. Roger, can you talk about certainly Brad is eighth in the points right now. Without that win, he’s kind of still in a tight situation. How do you feel that team is?
JOEY LOGANO: To answer your first question, basically when it’s go time, it’s go time. That is when everybody is going to pick it up a notch, including myself.
The 55, he spun his tires a little bit on the restart, which made the 29 have to check up because he can’t beat him to the line. That’s a toughsituation as the inside car ’cause he had to check up, which gave me the run because he had to check up.
I timed it just perfectly that when I got to his back bumper, right at the start/finish line, I couldpull out a line and almost try to surprise him, get down there that quick that he can’t block me in time, side draft and pull him back in the apron. Make sure you can come back up off of two, I didn’t successfully do that. 78 got by me. I was able to run down the 78, pass him.
Just have to go aggressive. That’s what you have to do to win these things. You just got to show that you want it more than them. It was a race-winning move.
Q. How aggressive a move was it? Was that out of the ordinary?
JOEY LOGANO: I didn’t feel like we were going to wreck by doing it. Yes, it was aggressive. But it’s game time, you know. I’m here to win. I’m going to do what I got to do.
ROGER PENSKE: As far as the 2 team, obviously they’ve had some very good runs. Probably the Sonoma thing hurt them a lot. We had a poor run there.
Brad almost won last week. I think we’re eighth in the points. But it’s going to be finishing in the top 10for both these guys here the next three races if they’re going to get in the Chase.
I’d have to say we’re on the bubble with both guys. I feel good about the momentum. What we got to do is execute. There’s a lot of drivers that are going to be vying for the two wild card spots, obviously be in the top 10.
Q. From the beginning of the weekend, both in qualifying and race, Joey had a dominant car. Especially for the Chase races, are you planning to do more development for the Gen-6 cars? If so, which are areas you can still improve?
ROGER PENSKE: I think that everybody brings their best game to the Chase. There’s no question we’re working on aero. Doug Yates and Ford are working on more power. Every week we’re trying something new.
I think we need to get the reliability, which is going to be key. If you look at the drivers who are up in the points, they’ve had thereliability. We need to keep that.
I mentioned the list that Brad gives us. Every week we have seven or eight things we try to do. That’s one of the benefits of having a two-car team. We can make changes so much faster than if you have three or four cars. I think that’s an advantage we’ll have in the Chase, if we catch on something we think is meaningful and it’s a speed opportunity for us.
JAMIE ALLISON: Echoing what Roger is saying, this is big-time racing. Every team is working on preparation, upgrade specifications to prepare for the Chase. Obviously on the Ford side with the Roush-Yates engines, continuous development on making sure we have the right specification for the right tracks into the Chase.
Obviously aero, aero, aero. We know these Gen-6 cars are highly sensitiveto aero. A lot of work through our CFD analysis to make sure we understand how these cars behave obviously by themselves and in the race.
Also race craft, race strategy. There’s a whole host of things that one prepares for to enter the playoff version of the season.
The short answer is, absolutely, we’re prepared for the Chase.
ROGER PENSKE: One of the things I think is going to be important as we go into theChase is that NASCAR takes a look at the cars that have been submitted and just see how far, as they’ve made rule changes over the last, what, 20 some races I guess it is, how close are these cars. It’s hard to tell.
Once you’ve had a car for three or four years, you have a pretty good idea where we are. I think there’s lots of discussions by teams and manufacturers about, Where are we? As they take our engines and cars to the tech center, I think a goodaerodynamic look will make a big difference going into the Chase so we have a level playing field. That’s going to be important.
Q. Joey, you touched on your relationship with Mark Martin growing up. How would you describe your current relationship with him and did you speak to him after the race?
JOEY LOGANO: I have not got to see him after the race. It becomes a whirlwind after you win, all the interviews and stuff you got to do. I haven’t gotten to talk to him yet.
Obviously he’s been a huge help in my career, like I said earlier. It’s good to be out there racing against him still. A wealth of knowledge from doing this for so long, being in this sport for so long. You can gain a lot of experience and learn a lot of things from him. He’s a cool guy to have on your side and be out there running door-to-door with.
Q. You have a few top-10 finishes coming into this race. Before you got some consistency going, how would you describe your season, its first 19 races?
JOEY LOGANO: Rollercoaster to say the least. We’ve been very strong, even the beginning part of the season we had some issues, was able to work through that and found or consistency, got all the way up to 10th in points a few races ago.
We had two straight 40th-place finishes with a couple tire issues that we had at Daytona and Loudon. From there it’s been okay. We’ve had four straight top 10s since then, including a win today.
We have to keep that momentum going. Just goes to show, as long as nothing goes wrong, knock on wood, we’ve been pretty good. We’ve had some good speed in our cars and been in the top 10. We have to keep that momentum and that consistency for the next few races.
Q. Roger, if you had to compare Joey Logano to another of the great drivers that you’ve had throughout your entire career, who would that driver be and why?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, it’s so difficult. We’ve had so many great drivers. I think I answered the question the same way before. I really focus on the drivers we have today. They earned the right to race for our team, represent our company and our employees.
Joey fits the mold. He reminds me a little bit of Rick Mears. Understated, stands on the gas. I can just see him maturing. As he come to our team, he had a great opportunity with Gibbs. I watched him. He beat the hell out of us in the Nationwide so many races. We knew he knew how to win. I think giving him a chance to come with us, he’s just matured and he’s exactly what we expected. As you saw today, he’s not afraid to stand on the gas when it counts.
Q. Jamie, Ford’s name is the first to be placed on the Michigan Heritage Trophy. What does that mean to Ford? What will you do to let the public know this has occurred?
JAMIE ALLISON: Well, certainly we think it’s a great idea to have this trophy now (smiling). We’re going to let the public know that we’re the inaugural winners. We haven’t quite decided how we’re going to make use of that.
I think it’s a tremendous opportunity to reinvigorate the competition between the manufacturers as well. We take a lot of pride in where we place as manufacturers. We’re proud to have this home win and keep this trophy till next June. It will be important you win that August race so you can keep the trophy longer.
Q. Earlier you were asked about some adversity you faced this season, being in the ‘bad guy’ role. Did it bother you and did you seek out any advice to get through that tough stretch?
JOEY LOGANO: Yes and no. Obviously when you go on Twitter and read that everyone hates you, it doesn’t make you too excited to read something like that.
I know who I am. I know I did the right thing. I’m confident in myself. There’s no regrets for any of that. I can’t control what everybody thinks about me. I know the people that really know me know how I am. You can put that stuff behind you.
I just race like I always have. I didn’t change a thing. That’s what has got me here and is going to keep me here, keep me winning races.
No, I really tried not to let it bother me at all. Sometimes it’s easier than other times. For the most part I had a good support group around me to get me through stuff like that. Obviously having a great team and running well answers everybody.
Q. Roger, both your guys are on the bubble to make the Chase. Can you explain where making the Chase ranks as far as whether it’s a successful season or not. What type of advice are you giving your guys over the next three weeks?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I’d have to say we’re all here to make the Chase, win the championship. We’ve had cars in the Chase continuously almost since the beginning. It would be a disappointment if we didn’t.
I understand we put ourselves behind in Texas. But I think the success that we’ve had, we’ve been competitive, we’ve forged a new relationship with Ford Motor Company, which will be a long-term relationship. I think Joey has forged a relationship with Shell-Pennzoil.
At the end of the day I have to look at the glass is half full. To me that’s important. I guess we’ll look at the scoreboard in three more races and find out whether it’s been a success or not. But I’m going to tell our guys to do what they’ve been doing, work smart, bring their car home. Same thing I told Hornish as he sits there where he is now in the Nationwide. He’s got a win now. Believe me, he’s got to continue. That’s what we’ve got to do here in the next three races.
JAMIE ALLISON: I know this is Cup. I would be remiss if I didn’t have a mention about what’s going on in Nationwide. Top-level teams competing for championships. Somebody asked earlier what’s wrong with Ford.
NASCAR is made up of all these series. In one of the series, Ford is stellar, won 10 out of the 20 races, team owners, points, drivers, manufacturers.
It just shows the potential, the capability of this combined strength of this team sitting right here. The ability is there. The capability is there. It’s the same people who work on these cars. We’re prepared for a brighter future in Cup.
Q. Travis Geisler at New Hampshire said pretty much whoever came out on top after NewHampshire, they kind of put the effort behind them. Joey had a bad finish. Now that they’re both there, you’re concentrating on that. Given these last three races, what do you do? What is your strategy going into those final three to keep him in fighting form?
TODD GORDON: Start out with a test tomorrow. We’re in Richmond tomorrow. We came out with kind of an aggressive testing program leading up into the Chase. When we identified we were going to be in the bubble position with both race teams, I don’t feel there’s been a separation of effort. Roger talked about it before, but we race as one team with two cars. I get everything Paul does and Paul gets everything I do.
The effort has been completely behind both of us. We’ll continue to focus on closing up the 17 points we need to 10th, and that starts tomorrowwith a test at Richmond and on to Bristol.
If you look at the races coming up, we ran really well at Bristol in the spring before an altercation. We ran well at Richmond. But we saw that as an opportunity to take running well to how do we make victories again.
We’ll continue to forge forward, and it’s both teams together.