We’re joined by Joey Logano, winner of today’s race. It’s his first career victory at Texas Motor Speedway. Your third consecutive top-five finish here at Texas. Third win in Sprint Cup Series competition for Team Penske here. Ironically Roger was inducted into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame earlier this week. Now you’re the seventh different winner in the first seven races of the Sprint Cup Series schedule. Talk about the last couple laps, the emotions that you ran through at the end.
JOEY LOGANO: When you got like 40 something laps after the last pit stop, you got a pretty sizable lead, really all you’re thinking is, Where is the white flag? Where is the white flag? Brad was able to catch us a little bit. Then you go into turn one, you see the 41 up against the wall. You’re like, Please no caution, please no caution. Boom, it comes out. You got to be kidding me.
You get so mad you barely can control yourself – at least for me. I had to make sure I stayed calm and tried to give Todd the information I needed to, then he had to make the right call.
Really, I was so mad, I didn’t really tell him what the car did until I was coming down pit road. He made a last-minute decision to put fuel in it because I heard, No fuel, no fuel. I was like, No, no, no, I was tight. He made the right decision at the last minute to put fuel in the car, give me a better balance for what I needed, the guys made the money stop, put us out as the first car with four tires on, restarted third.
At that point I got Kyle Busch on the outside of me. I know he’s very aggressive on restarts, very good on restarts. My number one goal at that point was try to figure out how he doesn’t get clean air and get out to the front. I had to make sure he didn’t stick it three-wide, get in the middle, do something like that.
The 24 was lucky enough to have a good enough restart with his older tires. I was able to follow him through, get a second, get a run off of four, cross him over, get the lead. Then we get the win.
Just awesome. We’ve been in contention every race this year to win these things. To get the Shell-Pennzoil Ford in Victory Lane, it means a lot. It’s such a tough racetrack. We have had plenty of time to think about this the last couple days. Pretty cool place to win. I got a ring, guns, a trophy, a hat, a duck call. That’s pretty cool.
THE MODERATOR: We’re also joined by winning crew chief Todd Gordon. Talk about the emotions and the decision to take four tires at the end.
TODD GORDON: Joey did a good job of communicating all day. We had some work to do to get ourselves better the first half of the race. Once we got rolling the second half of the race, knew we had a lot of speed. We kind of looked at the fuel windows, what was going to happen.
When we made the last stop there around 300, we immediately started the conversation of how many laps into the run do we take tires. My number was eight. Then we also had a conversation of if it comes down, how late do we come. We said green-white-checkered.
We kind of made that decision before we got to that point. Really it’s ’cause it takes the emotion out of the decision.
JOEY LOGANO: Didn’t know you were eating ice cream up there. That’s good.
TODD GORDON: I didn’t have ice cream at all today. But I do like ice cream.
Had that decision made before it came. Then it came with the caution. You’re watching the 41. It’s like slow motion on the TV. He’s coming down, don’t throw it, don’t throw it, all right, come in for four tires.
I’d rather have Joey playing aggressive offense than defense. I think that was the right call, especially with how much drive we had off the corner. I think Joey had a really good line and got himself off the corner, and four tires worked.
It’s one of those gut check calls. You have to think a little bit ahead, and we did. It worked out for us.
Q. We’re often told you keep qualifying up front, you keep running up front, eventually you’ll put yourself in position to win races. You and Brad have both been doing that pretty much all season. Does it get a little frustrating when you keep doing it week after week and don’t end up in Victory Lane, or does it help to stay positive just because you’re running well week after week?
JOEY LOGANO: Both. It’s frustrating when you have winning cars and you didn’t capitalize on it. That’s frustrating. On the flipside of that, you got winning cars, it’s a lot better to struggle than finish 10th, so I’m proud of that. You’re able to ride that momentum of having fast racecars at every racetrack.
Martinsville we had a top-five car, California we did, Bristol we did, Phoenix we did. All these tracks, we’ve been in contention, been up there. I’m proud to be a part of that. I’m glad to drive this racecar and this team has been doing a great job. I tell you, they’ve been giving me what I need to go out there and win these things.
You never know when it will end, of having great racecars. When you have those opportunities like today, like we’ve had this year so far, you need to capitalize on it.
Obviously these wins are so important this year to get into the Chase. To have both Team Penske cars with a win already, both of us up there in points, we feel good about that. You can kind of start getting your ducks in a row for Chase time, making sure you get everything ready for then. You’re not playing on the backside of your foot trying to win a race a couple races before Richmond. You feel a little bit more comfortable now than what we would have been.
Q. After the issues that you’ve had, California, do you have to do anything specific or special to make sure you don’t kind of wig out on what the tires are going to be, what’s going to happen, almost psych yourself out there before getting here this weekend?
TODD GORDON: Do you want me to answer that to start with?
JOEY LOGANO: Go ahead.
TODD GORDON: We had a couple issues at California. We had two in practice. But I think the biggest part as a whole organization I think we make a lot of decisions based off of facts at Team Penske, looking and analyzing what we’ve got.
We understood the issues that were there. I talk to Goodyear a lot about where I make decisions to jeopardize our longevity, where I can change that. I think we did a lot of investigation to know what the issues were and what we could do to help alleviate ‘em.
We didn’t overreact. I think as you look, you know, there were issues at California. But really I think the issues here were limited to one. When you get to that, usually that doesn’t fall on anybody other than that particular situation.
I think we were cognizant of where we were versus the limit. I thought we played that smart.
JOEY LOGANO: I don’t really have much to add to that. He knew what we had to do to make sure our car made it. It’s always a balancing act because you want to have all the speed in your car you can have, but you have to have that reliability and balance in your car. That means you have to take a little bit of performance out of the car.
This week was way smoother than California. You look at the green-flag stops, very limited tire issues at all today. Goodyear brought us something that I thought was reliable. Yes, we were worried about it. At the same time we were able to run hard the whole run. As a driver, I ran hard the whole run and really didn’t have an issue.
TODD GORDON: I’d like to add to that, to thank Goodyear for the information they’re willing to give everybody. They identified this would be another place that they could be up against a limit. They made sure there was enough information disseminated to everybody to make those decisions. I talked to Rick Campbell myself. I think they’ve done an awesome job of trying to handle making sure we have the best show out there.
Q. Joey, could you talk a little bit about your teammate Brad, your reaction when you heard he got the speeding penalty? How good was he? How concerned would you have been if he was right there?
JOEY LOGANO: I feel like he was the second best car. He was going to be our main competition there I thought on that restart.
You don’t have much time to think about other people’s stuff that’s going on, especially when you’re coming to a green-white-checkered and you have a shot at winning it. You hear about it. I know I’m lining up against somebody else. We didn’t really discuss it. He told me Brad got a speeding penalty. I don’t think I said anything. That just means I line up against Kyle, figure out what I have to do to get the best restart. That’s what the race comes down to.
We talk about it all the time: You need to be able to restart to win races. We feel like we’ve been one of the strongest cars on restarts, able to capitalize on it today.
Q. Todd, you said you wanted your man playing aggressive offense. Is that something from the first day or is that reflective of the situation with the Chase this year?
TODD GORDON: I mean, Joey’s really, really good when he can be aggressive.
JOEY LOGANO: And I’m really mad (laughter).
TODD GORDON: That’s good, too.
When you get to restarts, when we put him in a position to be aggressive, he can be aggressive. He knows what he needs to do with his racecar to capitalize.
He gets after it. I didn’t want to put him out there with a situation where he didn’t have a left rear to drive off of turn two. I watched it last year. Brad did it in last year’s race, cycled himself forward.
But I feel like you give your driver the best opportunity to capitalize. Joey is really good at capitalizing on restarts. He’s one of the best. I don’t know that I can put anybody beyond him.
I didn’t want to handicap him with where he’s the most talented.
Q. Joey, you talked about the last stages of the race and your thoughts. What is your personality like as a front-runner? Todd, what do you do to manage a 23-year-old’s emotions there with a chance to win?
JOEY LOGANO: I can’t wait to hear his answer (smiling).
You know, my personality, when my car’s good, I’m not talking much. I felt like my car was pretty good. I had plenty to say when the caution came out, but nothing real productive.
I tried to stay as calm as I could. I’m young. I got a lot of fire in me. I get mad. I feel like I should, as any competitive person would. But I also stayed calm enough to keep my eyes on the prize, do what I had to do to get back in the situation to be sitting here right now.
TODD GORDON: To the second part of your question, my job is pretty easy. I think Joey and I both kind of share a passive attitude. Neither one of us gets very fired up. We don’t get emotional and tie into that. I think that’s part of what makes us successful.
Even when our car is junk, we’re always communicating. We always talk. There’s never me against you. I think we do that well.
The only thing I could do there through the last run was I’m just going to make sure there’s something that’s rhythmic to him. I’m going to give him lap times off of turn two. Then there came a point I quit giving him lap times, I just gave him separations, something in his ear, so he didn’t feel alone, what the separation was to P2. At that point lap times don’t matter. We’re not looking to make our car better, we’re looking to make sure we win the race.
Just try to give him that consistent off turn two separation to second and let him focus on what he’s doing because he does an awesome job at doing these things.
JOEY LOGANO: I feel like we talk to each other as a driver/crew chief relationship probably more than anyone else in this garage. I might annoy him because I come in the shop. I basically sit in his office. He fills me in on everything that’s going on. The more I feel like I know about the racecar, the better racecar driver I can be.
We go to lunch. We hang out. Really a lot of it’s about racecars. But I consider him a friend of mine. We talk about everything, work things out. Anytime there’s an issue between us or whatever happens in the race, we talk it out. You don’t let anything go too far. I feel like our attitudes are very similar, similar to each other, the way we handle certain situations, stuff like that.
Q. Todd, we’ve asked a lot of drivers about once you get that win, how things change. From a crew chief’s perspective, how does that change your thinking now? He mentioned the sense of relief. Do you feel now you can go for it a little bit more than you ordinarily would, not worry about protecting points so much?
TODD GORDON: Yes. The short answer to that question is yes. It’s within reason. You can’t be stupid about it. But it does open up your box to be a little bit more aggressive on how you call a race. You can be a little bit more aggressive on how you tune a race. It allows you to be a little more explorative.
NASCAR has given us this huge open box to work with this year, more downforce, no ride heights, the new shock spring rules, the new spring rules. The box is big, and I think we’ve had speed with the path we’ve picked in that box they’ve given us.
That doesn’t mean that path is the ultimate speed. That might only be 90%. We may be at 90% versus somebody else being 88%, but there may be another path that’s 95%.
I think it allows you to look at some more of those things, but we can’t get too far out of that box of what’s been successful for us. It allows us to be a little more aggressive and maybe try a few things.
You look at it, we’re seven races in, seven winners. 26 races before we race the Chase. If we continue this path, there will be 10 cars that win that won’t make it. History hasn’t said that that will happen, but you can’t write that off as not happening.
You don’t want to throw everything away and be reckless with it, but it does allow you to be a little more aggressive.
Q. Joey, Brad said this was huge because now you all can just plan your organizational tests around the Chase, Homestead. How big a deal is that?
JOEY LOGANO: We were concerned enough to talk about it Saturday after practice for a while. It was definitely a concern, trying to plan out how we’re going to use these tests. Now that we’re in the Chase we can use these tests a little differently than what we were thinking.
It’s big. The way you strategize to build the racecars, what you need to do for when it comes Chase time, like I said earlier, it allows you to go the right direction and be able to really focus on later in the season at this point.
Not saying we’re not going to work hard to win races later in the year. Like Todd said, we need to run well and win some more races because you want to go into the Chase with momentum. As far as updating specs, stuff like that, we can start to focus on Chase stuff.
Q. When Kyle Busch was in here earlier, he was asked about your start to the season. He said that, I think Joey learned a lot over the years at JGR but maybe never felt quite comfortable there, but he certainly has found a home at Penske. Those guys are really good. Could you explain a little bit what you think works so well for you where you are right now in your career.
JOEY LOGANO: There’s a lot. I talked a little bit earlier about the first time I came here, I think it was in the 02 car. I ran terrible. I ran 38th. I didn’t have an excuse for running 38th. I didn’t know what I was doing. You’re 18 years old with less than half a season of Nationwide under your belt. You get thrown into a tough situation. But I didn’t realize that at the time.
Then over the years I’ve been able to just kind of hone in who I am as a driver, who I am as a person. When you’re 18 years old, you got to grow up. You’re not quite done growing up at that point. I may not be now. I feel like I’m getting closer (smiling).
When I was able to go to Team Penske, get that fresh start, be able to take everything you’ve learned there, but you’re not taken as an 18-year-old kid anymore. I came over when I was 22. You’re looked at a little bit more as a man than an 18-year-old kid that was still in high school.
Completely different situation now. I’ve been able to take advantage of that, kind of walk in the doors of Penske the first time and say, Here is who I want to be, here is what I want to do, here is how I feel like we can win races, do it together.
Todd and I have had many discussions about all of that, about how I feel like I needed to be. On the Nationwide side at JGR, I felt like I had that. I didn’t have it on the Cup side yet. I knew I needed to have that same attitude I had in Nationwide, that same relationship and confidence on the Cup side for me to run well. We’ve been able to do that. You see the results show for that.
I used to race a lot more confident and aggressive in the Nationwide car than I did in the Cup car. Now it’s the same. I’m here to win. I feel like the competitors see that now. We run up front enough, they don’t look at you as a guy that’s going to run up there once in every 10 races. It’s every week now. It’s a lot of hard work to keep that going. To come here the first time and finish 38th to Victory Lane five, six years later, it’s pretty awesome.
I used to dread coming here. Now it’s one of my favorite racetracks. I told Todd before we came here, I feel like we’re going to win this week. I felt really confident. Now I have a cool ring. My fiancée got a ring when we got engaged, and now I’ve got something, too.
Q. Todd, the Penske cars have been so good this year. Did you know as early as the Charlotte test that you had something or has it evolved as the season has gone on?
TODD GORDON: I guess when you go back to the Charlotte test, we had talked about the fact we had speed in our racecars. I think Joey and I had talked about that.
Did you know? No, you don’t know. I mean, the 4 car was stupid fast at that point. Rodney Childers, I worked with him at Waltrip. He’s pretty sharp. He had four months off to focus on this. I felt like they made a jump.
That was enlightening to all of us, how much we needed to dig in, because they were that far ahead. It’s a testament to everybody at Team Penske, I mean, every facet of the organization dug in and they’ve kept heads down going forward. They’re not looking back.
As Joey said, we’ve been in contention. We’ve been in the top five every race this year. Nobody is sitting back on their laurels and saying, We’re good enough. That’s something that I think at Charlotte we had glimmers of it, but we kept focusing on how do we make our stuff better.
The guys have done a phenomenal job. It’s been a lot of non-traditional track testing. We’ve been a couple different places that aren’t on our schedule trying to understand what happens with the packages we have, and where within this big box, like I talked about before, what path we want to go down.
I feel like Paul and I are on the same page. I feel like Brad and Joey are on the same page. We have a unified effort and I think that shows every week.
Q. Joey, how close were you to the white flag when you realized the caution was out?
JOEY LOGANO: Into three. Into three. My heart dropped. I got really angry instantly. I saw it happen off of two. Initially when I saw the caution I was like, What was that for? When I come back around, I saw there was some door foam on the racetrack. Whatever. The caution is at that point. You got to go out there and win at that point, figure out how to do it.
TODD GORDON: And he did it.
Q. Friday you had a contest with Eddie Gossage to raise awareness of dialing 811 first. The fact that he dug out a win today, do you call 811 now?
JOEY LOGANO: Yes. You always call 811 before you dig. Know what’s below, man.
Q. Obviously Team Penske has been strong all year, dominant on the mile-and-a-half’s. A few races in, who are the teams that are pushing you, other than you guys?
JOEY LOGANO: I’ll name off a few. I don’t think you can write off anybody. You never know what’s going to happen. You never underestimate your competition.
I’m going to say a lot of the Stewart-Haas cars are really fast. The 14 was fast today. The 41 won last week. The 4 is fast week in, week out. They’re quick. You never count out Hendrick cars. Roush cars have shown a lot of speed here recently. I think even the Petty cars have shown a lot of speed here recently. You look at the way they’ve been qualifying, they ran well at Martinsville last week.
You can’t anybody out. I think when you start getting a little overconfident and full of yourself, that’s when you are going to get caught off guard.
I think everybody, but I’ll let Todd go with that.
TODD GORDON: It’s hit-or-miss every week. You look at the guys that have won races. It’s about every organization we talked about, the box is big enough. People can recover. Even if they’re off a little bit, they’re going to recover. Every week there’s 15 cars out there that can win. Coming into the weekend, you don’t just focus on one.
I mean, I’ll say it, I wouldn’t have picked Kurt to win Martinsville. It’s not his favorite track. He’s professed that himself. But they’ve had speed. It’s just a matter of time before anybody that’s struggled at all is going to figure it out.
We’ve all got great organizations behind us that are pushing every day to make our racecars better. You almost have to keep looking forward, not looking back.