This win is your second win of the season, officially locking you in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase. Being in the Chase last year for the first time, talk a little bit about what it means to be locked in at this point of the season.
JOEY LOGANO: It means a lot. We kind of thought with one win you’re going to be all but locked in, but this really secures you, like you said. Having a couple wins this early in the season and in two completely different racetracks make you very confident for the rest of the season. At this point we really have nothing to lose, it’s all about going for wins and having fun out there and making sure we’re ready for when the Chase starts.
We’ve put ourselves in a good position this early in the season, and we’re going to have some fun.
AMANDA ELLIS: Todd, talk about that last restart. I know Joey was about fourth or fifth in the rundown. Talk about your thoughts and did you think you guys would be in victory lane at the end of the night?
TODD GORDON: Yeah, I thought we had a good shot at it, honestly. If you looked at it on any of the restarts leading up to that, we would typically – we had taken the lead a couple different restarts earlier and we had run about 20, 25 laps before we’d lose a little front turn. 25 to go when that last caution came out, I felt pretty good about our opportunity there. I felt Matt drove a heck of a race, but he kind of checked us up on the second-to-last restart and we lost some spots, and actually I think it helped us out because, one, it got him mad and he drives really well when he’s mad and got us in the outside groove. Got to thank Brad, because Brad really went up there and raced his guts out to get around the 24 and get to Matt.
Joey does a really good job closing. I think that’s one thing that’s impressed me in the last year and a little bit. I knew we had a shot at it, it all kind of lined up for us.
Q. Joey, I guess there’s been a lot of reasons why there’s been good finishes, but there have been a lot of them this year. Obviously there’s some cautions that set them up sometimes, but it seems like every week there’s some exciting, close finish. Why do you think that is? What do you think is going on, and what’s different this year?
JOEY LOGANO: Well, I think you see the race cars, obviously those are the big difference from last year, obviously. But I think just a lot of times just the way these races have been coming down to these cautions at the end. It makes it – it’s so crazy. I felt like in that long run before the last – well, the long run before the last couple cautions there, we started losing our track position. I was like, man, I really need to hold off these guys the best I can because it’s going to be my only shot when the late-race caution comes out because I was really thinking there was going to be another one really because I felt like the tire – someone was going to blow one out before the end of the race and there would be a caution for that reason, and that’s what happened.
At that point, like Todd said, that was my opportunity. I didn’t have a very good restart, and then I was pretty mad about it, and then after that I had a decent restart, but the 88 didn’t have the best one in front of me, and then I was watching them all race in front of me, and I was like, okay, here’s my shot. The 2 car was really fast up top and he was really good on restarts all night, and the 20 realized it, and the 20 was blocking him.
Eventually the seas parted because I got all air on the nose while they were up there racing each other and I was able to get underneath and pass them both in one shot, so it worked out pretty good for me.
Q. This is actually for both of you. One year or less than probably six months ago, you were battling down to the wire to make the Chase for the very first time. Now less than six months later, you’re in a position where you’re basically guaranteed a shot to compete for the championship. Could you just both talk about how much your team and your combination has come in a very short period of time?
JOEY LOGANO: You know, I think you’ve got a notebook now, and I think Todd really understands what I need in a race car and what we’ve got to do and what we need to go fast. Really you look at Darlington was our worst race of the year, really, to be honest with you, and we were still a very good car. We led a lot of laps. But that was the one racetrack that we really didn’t have any notes to go off of, and as we come to these racetracks over and over again, we’ve got something to build off of, we know what we fought last time and we’re able to overcome it.
If you look at the fall race here last year, we were really bad, and we were going down laps. To come back a year later, or not even a year, six months later, and you’re up here battling for wins and you get a win, I feel like we’ve got to know each other, we know what each other likes and what we need in a race car, and our team is just building off of that, and obviously Team Penske is putting together great race cars, and we’re capitalizing on it.
TODD GORDON: A lot of the same pieces there. I think the biggest part is when you come back to – I think if you look at last year, the first half of the year when we went to racetracks for the first time, we were decent but we weren’t at the level we were at the second half of the season. I thought when we turned down the second half of the season, we got an opportunity to come back to Michigan, we won, sat on the pole and won, but we had the notebook to build off of and we came back to it.
I think this whole race team, not just the 22 Shell-PENNZOIL team but Team Penske, we’re focused on what we need to be successful, and that’s I think the chemistry not only between Joey and myself but I think between Joey and Brad and Paul and myself continue to grow, and I think as we’ve gotten more successful it’s allowed all of our organization to have more confidence in the notebooks of each other and how we build off of each other, and that’s the piece that I think it allows us to continue to build and push each other. It’s proven successful. I think both of our cars had a shot at winning that thing at the end of the day. If we weren’t in a position I think Brad was going to race the 20 pretty hard.
We’ve had speed every week, and I think it’s just a continuation of chemistry of communication.
Q. Joey, nine laps to go it seems crazy to talk about patience, but you’re surrounded by former champions, you’re obviously looking for something to dart through. How much do you kind of have to measure yourself and make sure you make the right move and see the move that’s available when it is just to make it work?
JOEY LOGANO: You know, any time you’re down to the end of the race there really is no patience. It’s wide open. Obviously I was able to see that in front of me and wanted to make sure I was close enough when something happened I was able to take advantage of it, and that’s what I was able to do.
Restarts, anything, it comes down to the end of the race. Patience is out the window. It’s all about just go for it. I think that’s what the fans want. That’s what you got this year. You’ve got the new point system where everyone just goes for wins and you’ve got late-race cautions, and everyone has the same attitudes. Everyone is the heck with it. If we crash, we crash. We’re going for wins.
Q. Joey, heard from a couple guys on pit lane after the race that even though this is a short track that if they pulled in behind people going into 1, they were losing the nose completely, probably because of the high speeds. Were you having that, as well?
JOEY LOGANO: It was tough, really tough out there. It was still a good race even though we were really fighting air all night long. My car was good enough that I was able to move up the racetrack and still turn across cars be able to pass them that way, but late in the run when you’ve got no tire grip, all you’re relying on is air and then even catching a lapped car, a few times I’d catch from a ways back and I’d get to him and I’d just stop, be stuck. I can’t get closer and I’ve got to wait for him to give me a half a lane, sometimes even less on the inside just to get some air on the nose of the car, and then I can kind of hook the yellow line and at least get close enough to take the air off his car and go from there. It’s an aero battle out there just like it is any other place we go to. That’s what we deal with, and that’s why you have to – the whole time you’re racing someone you’re thinking about, okay, how can I put him in a bad spot, how can I get a little bit closer, what do I have to do to – the typical stuff you learn growing up as far as late model racing and stuff like that and how you pass a car, it’s completely different when you get to this level when you’re relying on air so much. You’ve really got to learn to pass cars in a completely different way.
Q. Just wondering where this stands as far as your career goes just knowing the circumstances with the Chase and all that.
JOEY LOGANO: They’re all great. I’ve never had a bad win before. Obviously coming to a racetrack that I don’t feel like myself as a driver was very good at, you know, and I told Todd after practice, actually while we were switching over to qualifying trim during practice, this is the best car we’ve had in practice since Michigan. I felt really good about that, like man, we can win this thing. That’s saying a lot at a place like this for me. I wanted to make sure I backed that up.
But we talked this morning even, and I said, man, I feel a lot more confident about today going into the race if we were at a mile-and-a-half or somewhere that we’ve proven ourselves and kind of know which way the track is going to go and know the adjustments we need to run well in the race. Here I don’t have a great feel for what adjustments we needed, and I think Todd was the same way. I think the both of us we kind of – we talked it out and just kind of went with it, and our car drove fairly similar to what we had in practice, and we get in the race, we started 17th, we drove up to the top 10 fairly quick and kept making some little adjustments here and there and able to get the car a little bit better and able to capitalize on restarts was the biggest thing that was able to get us that track position and you just kind of had to secure it and hold off what you can in the long run.
Q. Todd, I noticed this morning when we came in at 8:00 or whatever it was for the K&N race if you looked at the track there was really no noticeable amount of rubber on the track even though they had run 250 laps on those tires with the Nationwide cars. Did that play any kind of a role of how aggressive or not aggressive you were with camber, knowing that they weren’t really rubbering up the track?
TODD GORDON: Yeah, we looked at the race last night and it kind of dampened our thoughts on what happened there. With the race starting at 10:30 or 10:40 or whatever it was last night, track temperature was really cold and I think you had a similar situation last night to what we had at Martinsville earlier this year where it was so cold that the track would never take rubber. They track surface has got to get hot enough that the rubber will actually get into it. Watched the Nationwide race last night, and obviously with the 22 Nationwide car and Blaney driving it, we kind of had some ins on what was going on.
We had calmed ourselves down on camber throughout practice and really didn’t see – we found balance with it. We had already worked our way kind of conservatively. I won’t say overly conservatively because we showed cords about every run today, but we showed a little, not a lot.
But I was hoping that it was going to be warm enough that we’d get some rubber on the racetrack, and the track took a little but I don’t think it took a ton. It never really made that big jump of taking us from 50-some laps of showing just a weep of cords to usually if the track will take rubber you’ll see that turn into a 100-lap run. Didn’t see it, but we were aware of it, kind of had built ourselves into a box.
That’s where the new aero package and the new ride heights and everything that we’ve done differently to this year’s car has now put a lot back in my hands of risk and reward. Goodyear does an awesome job for us in building good race tires, but they’re in a box that gets smaller as we make those cars go faster as far as what they can do. That becomes part of my job to manage the risk that we want to take for performance, and I think we hit the number we needed to tonight. I thought that the Hendrick cars probably did a little better job than we did in the long run as far as managing that, but I knew that this race traditionally if you look at stats comes down to short run, and we didn’t want to give up the speed from that.