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Championship contender media availability – Joey Logano

An interview with: JOEY LOGANO

THE MODERATOR:  We are joined by the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, Joey Logano.

Before we open it up to questions, Joey, this is your fourth Championship 4 appearance.  That is incredible.  Each year has a different story, a different feel.  What is your story this year as you go into Phoenix for the championship race?  How would you define or describe you and your team this year?

JOEY LOGANO:  I think every year has its own personality that it takes on.  Honestly I feel like this year feels a lot like 2018.  It’s actually kind of funny because I think about 2018 where we had not the best summer months, then we kind of picked it up as the Playoffs started.  Won Martinsville, the first race of the third round, which set us up to race for a championship in Miami that year.

It’s funny, I brought this up to my guys, I don’t know, a month and a half or so before the Playoffs started.  I said, Hey, you never know, you got to keep fighting.  You never know when the tides are going to turn, the next thing you know you’re up there in contention to win every week, also race for a championship.

We went from in the summer months searching for a direction to make our car faster, to being in contention to win.  Now in my eyes, like I said in 2018, feeling like you’re the favorites by winning the first race in the third round.  I honestly feel that way again.

Interesting how it’s kind of lining up to be the same.  Hopefully it lines up to be the same all the way to the end.  A lot of things can happen between now and then.  I like our chances.  I like where we’re at.  We’ll go out there to Phoenix and give it a shot.

Like I said, feels a lot like 2018 so far.

THE MODERATOR:  We’ll open it up for questions.

When you look back on this year from a competition lens, will you look back and say, Man, this is a year that a guy with nine wins didn’t make the Championship 4, or will you look back and say, It was an abnormal year with nine weeks off, no practice, no qualifying, just racing?

JOEY LOGANO:  Nothing is normal this year.  That’s what’s presented so much opportunity at the same time to try to overcome the adversity that we’re faced with.  Whether that means it’s no practice, like you said, having nine weeks off, sitting around wondering if we’re going to go back racing again, what is the schedule going to look like.  So many questions.

Like you said, you have the favorite to win the championship, one we all thought was a lock to be in the Championship 4, not make it.  Just an interesting year from that standpoint all the way through, right?

That’s for us in the racing world.  Imagine what it is for everybody.  Everybody has a weird story this year that probably everyone is ready to get to next year.

A lot of other sports, they had to change their seasons a little bit more than NASCAR.  Do you feel this champion is a very legitimate champion, no matter who wins?

JOEY LOGANO:  Of course.  We all have the same opportunities.  The rules are the same for everybody.  It’s an equal playing field.  There’s a trophy at the end of the day.  We all had to go to the same amount of races, we all had the same opportunity to score the same amount of points and wins.

The rules didn’t change in the middle of the year.  You know what I mean?  Maybe our schedule changed, the way we go about it.  It’s the same for everybody.

Honestly, yes, a championship is a championship.  Doesn’t matter if you won it in 2020 when you had no practice or you won it in 2019 or 2021.  Doesn’t matter, it’s a championship.

You’re not a worrier, at least on the outside.  Seems like you have this all in perspective.  When you do think about four drivers, all evenly matched, racing to the finish for a championship, do you worry?  If you do, what do you worry about?

JOEY LOGANO:  No worry.  I think a lot, though (smiling).  There’s plenty to think about, scenarios to run through.

I think when you look at the strategy of this race, what it can be, if you look back at the spring race, tires mean something, but also track position means something.  There’s opportunities to change up strategy compared to the cars you’re racing against.

When you think of Miami in years past, you run (indiscernible) laps, you’re putting tires on.  A no‑brainer.  The pit calls were simple.  A lot of times the fastest car was up front, the fastest car won the race.

I can’t say that may be the case or not when we go to Phoenix.  Like I said, you can drive through the pack if your car is really good.  But the question is, when you have 15, 20 laps on your tires, what are you going to do?  Are you putting tires on, doing two, staying out?  What are your competitors doing?

Those are the things I think Phoenix is really changing up for this championship race, this battle ahead of us.  It being a short track obviously changes a lot, as well.  A lot of interesting scenarios that can happen.  We just need to be prepared for every one of them.

You said you think a lot.  How do you not overthink it?  Do you have to turn the Joey brain off and say stop thinking about it?

JOEY LOGANO:  I stay busy, that’s what I do.  I’m pretty good at staying busy in my life.  Especially with the kids running around, everything that life kind of throws at you, it keeps you busy.

I kind of categorize what I do.  When I’m working on racing, I’m all in on that.  I shut that off, it’s off, I’ll go on to the next thing.  That to me helps me kind of go through the day.  Obviously it kind of helps me sleep at night.

Obviously you have a reputation for being a hard racer.  You ruffle feathers at times.  Are you concerned at all that some guys will race you harder than they’ll race some of the other championship contenders?  Sometimes we see in the championship race a guy not necessarily pull over, but don’t put up a fight.  Are you worried they’ll be putting up a fight when you try to pass on Sunday?

JOEY LOGANO:  I got to just run my race.  You know what I mean?  You have to continue doing what you’ve done to get to this point, what’s been successful for myself as a race car driver, the way we race.  We need to continue doing that.  That’s what we’ll continue doing.

Obviously with this moving to a short track, it opens up the game to what more the athletes can do.  We’ve seen things happen at Martinsville.  How much of a temptation, how great is the temptation with being more aggressive, making more contact at Phoenix as opposed to what the mindset might have been at Homestead?

JOEY LOGANO:  Very well it can happen a lot easier.  You seen what happened at Martinsville last week.  Shoot, I was running fifth or so in the beginning of the race.  They’re rooting and gauging each other out 20, 30 laps into the race, running into each other.  Oh, boy, this is going to get crazy.  That was just to get into the Championship 4.  Imagine what it’s going to be to win the championship itself in Phoenix.

I don’t know what that looks like.  Obviously the opportunity for contact is up compared to what it was at Miami because cars can get to each other easier here.  I think the line itself is also running higher on the racetrack.  Presents more opportunity for cars to go in low and try to pull a slide job or do whatever.  Who knows.

I’d say you’re never safe.  So you just got to expect the unexpected and try to adapt to the situation around you, be aware of what’s going on around you.  Like I said, also stay focused on what makes you you, right?  What makes your team good, stay focused on those things more than anything.

Is there a line at this point or at the end of the day it’s a championship?  I know a lot of drivers have talked about the goal is to get to the Championship 4.  This can be the gravy because the way this format is.  Is there a line in what you do or don’t do because there’s so much at stake come Sunday?

JOEY LOGANO:  We’ll just have to wait and see.  It depends on how things go during the race, where you’re at, what strategy.  Like I said, there’s so many different scenarios that can be played out.  Who knows?

Like I said, you just got to focus in on you and running your race and being aware of what’s going on around you.  Will there be contact for a championship?  Probably, most likely something like that will happen.  Is there a line?  Of course, there’s a line.

It’s not the last race we ever run, right?  I’ll be here for a long time.  The drivers that are in this are also going to be in this for a long time.  This is not like my farewell tour, I’m going to be done racing after that, not have to worry about things after this.  It’s not like that.

You still have to race with the future in mind, as well.

You and Paul are the only former champions racing this weekend.  You’ve won championships, he’s won a championship with Brad.  Does that give you an advantage between the two of you going in?

JOEY LOGANO:  For sure.  I think any time you’ve been in these situations before, you know how to prepare for them.  Like you said earlier, been in the Championship 4, it’s my fourth time, I know what’s coming my way.

Yes, it’s at a new track, but I know what the week is like going into it, I know how to prepare for it.  Same thing for Paul, right?  Paul has been in the Championship 4 before.  He’s won a championship with the other Playoff format.  But he’s been there in high‑pressure moments.  He knows how to prepare for it.

Like I said, we’ve had three weeks to think about it, be ready for it.  With those things I feel more confident than ever.  I always go back to think about my first Championship 4 round back in 2014.  I remember crapping my pants about how nervous I was.  If I’m being honest, I was very nervous.  I had everything on the line for the first time.  I didn’t know if I’d ever get back into the Championship 4 again.  You didn’t want to blow the opportunity, right?  You just wanted to make sure you made the most of it.

Now going through it before, knowing how to prepare for what’s coming ahead of you, that battle ahead of you, knowing you succeeded before in the championship round, it really gives you some confidence to go out there and do your job.

When the season started, I won’t say we questioned Roger’s decision to move you guys all around, but now having had an entire season, just about to get acclimated to Paul, figure out the personalities, dynamics of the team, how would you I hate to say grade yourself, but where do you think that relationship is?  You had such a solid relationship in the past with your team.  How would you rate this relationship with Paul?

JOEY LOGANO:  I would say we’ve come a long way and we have a long ways to go.  That makes me excited about what the future is.  When I think about where we started the season when we had practice, we came out of the gates, won a couple races, won a Duel.  Life is great, this is good.

COVID comes along.  We start going through quite the lull.  We’re trying to figure out a direction of what we need to do with our race car to be faster.  Don’t have practice to figure that out.  It became a struggle and challenge to find out where we needed to be.

Practice is not just practice working on the car.  It strikes so many very good conversations that need to happen, to get to know each other, to know what I want in the car.  Team dinners, team outings, those are so important for me to get to know my team, know the guys that are working on my car.

That’s one of the things that’s frustrated me about this whole thing, is that you feel like your hands are tied.  You can’t do the things that made me very successful in the past, especially with a new team.  That made it even harder.

I feel like over time we’ve really connected.  Being able to, like I said, go through the trench a little bit in the summer months, now making that climb to try to get to the top of the mountain, getting pretty close to it, makes me feel very confident about where we are.

I’m probably even more excited about 2021 than what we’ve done so far.  I feel like we’ve got a long road ahead of us being able to become more and more successful as we keep getting to know each other, seeing the growth we’ve had towards the end of the season.

The win at Phoenix in March, does that seem like 10 years ago?  Does anything from that time translate, if you can use anything from back then?

JOEY LOGANO:  Can definitely use a lot.  It does feel like a long time ago when we were out there.  So many things have happened since then, I think that’s why.

There’s definitely things you can go back on.  That’s really all we have, to be honest with you.  We don’t have the opportunity to try many new things without practice, right?  You don’t want to go too far outside of the box.  You know what worked for you in the spring.  We had a very fast car, overcame a lot of adversity, still won the race.  It just shows that we had a very good car.

We can make some tweaks here and there to the setup probably, some things that we feel very confident in will be better, but we’re not going to step way outside the box.  It’s just kind of what we got.  Even though it feels like a year and a half ago when we were out there, that’s really what we have to go back on, is our notes from that race.

I don’t know how to phrase this.  Do you have any sympathy for Harvick not being in the finale after the season he had?

JOEY LOGANO:  I tell you, as a competitor you’re so focused on you, right?  I honestly as a competitor don’t have many feelings for others.  I don’t mean that in a mean way or anything like that.  I do outside of the car.  But when I’m competing, it’s about my team.

I’ve talked to you guys about sports.  But my team is about winning for me, my sponsors, the hundreds of thousands of people that have an impact on making our car go fast one way or another.  That’s what it’s about to me.

Yeah, I mean, obviously you can put yourself in his shoes and say you won this many races, not being in it is surprising.  I can only imagine the frustration of that situation.  But it is the Playoffs, it is what it is at this point.

Yeah, I would be disappointed if I was him.  But I think at the same time you got to look at the season he had.  You can’t be too disappointed with that many wins.  Geez, so many wins that he was able to collect this year, being the fastest car for the majority of the season.

But the Playoffs are a different game sometimes.  When you have a couple not‑as‑good races, it changes the dynamics of the Playoffs.

You mentioned feeling confident now, being nervous during your first appearance.  How important is confidence to winning a championship?

JOEY LOGANO:  Everything.  Believing in yourself, right, our tagline the whole time since this Playoff started…  I came up with a list of six or seven things I thought was the most important things for a team to be able to rally behind.  I brought that list to Paul.  I said, ‘What is the most important thing on this list to you that makes a great team?’  These are the things we had to do to try to become a stronger team.

He saw the word ‘believe’.  He said that’s the biggest thing.  We got to believe in each other, we got to believe in ourselves, we got to believe we can win, we’ve got to believe we’re the best.  Be humble to work and find gains, but believe in us.

That was the word that we all rallied behind.  I’ve been wearing the mask all Playoff season long.  That to me is what has been able to really been that thing that kind of powers us forward.  Believing is confidence, right?  It’s the same thing.

Do you feel like you’re a favorite to win this weekend?

JOEY LOGANO:  Uh‑huh, I do.

Going back to what you said about knowing how to prepare having been here before.  How much of a curve ball do you think it will be that none of these four teams are going to show up and have a weekend to work through, build up to the championship race?  Now it’s fly in and it’s go time.

JOEY LOGANO:  Yeah, the practice was always nice because you got out there, you got to tune in on or your car, you made a couple long runs, kind of got to know what you’re going to have for the race.  You could really build your strategy on what you have for the race, right?  If you know you’re a fifth‑place car, you can build your strategy around that.  If you’re the fastest car out there, you know you have that, that will change your strategy.

We don’t know until the race starts.  We’ve been racing this way since we got back.  Makes it a little different when you go to the championship round.  How are you going to be?  I don’t know.

I know every single time we get to the final race of the year, the Championship 4, the fastest four cars, I’m almost certainly one of them is going to win.  I know it’s a different track.  Every single time you have to win to win the championship.  I don’t see that being different on Sunday.

Like I said, different racetracks, a lot of different things can play out.  Like I said, strategy can be different, just everything that Phoenix brings.  It can be different.  But I can promise you all four of us are going to be pretty good and probably have to be around each other quite a bit during the race.

Last year there was some conversation regarding Championship 4 appearances being weighted potentially more valuable in this specific era than championships themselves.  Where do you stand on that, how valuable title appearances are versus titles themselves?

JOEY LOGANO:  I think titles are the most important thing.  Any sport you look at, the question is, How many championships do you have?  Not how many times have you made it to the finals?

I take some pride in saying we made it to the Championship 4 this many times.  That’s great.  It shows a body of work throughout the year.  I know it comes down to one race, it’s all or nothing.  I get that.  But the trophy is what it’s about.

I ask this question all the time:  Anyone remember who finished second last year?  I don’t.  I honestly have no clue who finished second last year, or third or fourth, or even who was it in.  I know I wasn’t in it, that’s what I know.

When I look at it that way, it’s about the championship.  It’s about the big trophy.  That’s all anybody remembers.  Everybody remembers Kyle Busch won, that’s all I remember.

You had that stretch during the summer where it was from I want to say Homestead till about Texas where you guys had some tough luck, then you got back into it.  What was the message to the team back then?  How important was it that you guys had that message that you talked about of ‘believe’?  How did it power you through that tough stretch and eventually work your way into a lucrative fall?

JOEY LOGANO:  Mainly the biggest thing was, hey, this is what we got, this is who we are, we will figure this out.  The message was we’ve all been successful, right?  We’ve all won races, maybe not together as much as they have in the past.  I’ve won races.  All of them have won races and won championships.  We know what we’re doing.

We just have to find the magic formula that makes it work together.  That was the biggest piece.  Obviously we know the word ‘believe’ is what we rally behind.  Behind that as well, like I said, believe in each other in that way.

The message was at that moment that we know how to do this, we just got to stay confident in ourselves, which is hard to do at times.  Don’t get me wrong, I know I say I’m a confident person, I really am, I’m a silver linings person.  I’m also a realist at times.

That bottom line is the result you get on Sunday.  We get that every week on how we did.  We know exactly where we stand.  Hard to sugarcoat that sometimes.  We needed to stick together and find what we can do to be better.  I feel like we’ve done a good job at doing that, having those hard conversations, asking the tough questions.  Those things is what pulls you out of it.

You’re fighting for a title with your teammate Brad this week.  Ryan Blaney has been running really well.  Austin Cindric will be joining the fold.  How excited are you about the present and future at Penske Racing?

JOEY LOGANO:  For me Team Penske, it’s my home.  I’ve been there for a long time now.  Being able to have a leadership role in the company really makes me take a lot of pride in the fact that, hey, we got a 50% chance of winning a championship this year, right?

I think the guys in the shop take a lot of pride in that, and they should.  Austin in the Xfinity championship.  That’s a really big accomplishment to be able to achieve.  We’ve never done that before.

Any way it ends, no matter what, it’s been a successful season to put ourselves in position to try to win.  So I’m proud of that.  A lot of adversity we all had to overcome to get to this point.

Yeah, I’m excited about that and excited what can be coming our way next year, like I said earlier.

You said earlier you feel you are the favorite.  Why is that?  Is it because you’ve won at this track?  Because you have the experience, experienced crew chief?  Because of your speed all season?  Chase has the momentum.

JOEY LOGANO:  You said it.  You answered the question for me.  I don’t even have to say anything to that (laughter).

I think the experience is there, the speed is there.  I think the mentality of the way we race is there.  I truly believe that we’re the favorites to win this thing.  Like I said, that’s important to me to feel that way.  I feel like I have real things to back that up, which is good.

Yeah, you kind of answered the question for me as you were talking (smiling).

Team Penske has been the class of the field at these flat, one‑mile, low‑downforce tracks.  What makes you so good at this kind of laps?  Would you be surprised if a Penske car wasn’t in Victory Lane Sunday?

JOEY LOGANO:  I don’t know how to answer that one, exactly what it is.  It’s a package that you have to put everything together to be successful at a certain type of racetrack.  It could be setup, it could be body builds, car builds, chassis builds, everything that goes into engine packages, tire pressures.  It goes down to the little things, right?  It’s not like it’s one thing that stands out.  To say that’s why we’re good at flat, one‑mile racetracks, it’s not there.  There’s a hundred different things that can play into that.

I also think the 11, the 9 are going to be fast as well.  I don’t think it’s going to be like someone is going to get out there, check out, drive away.  I think everyone is going to be fast, everyone is going to be there, no matter what.

It’s happened every year, the top four cars in that championship round are probably going to be the top four cars on the racetrack.  I don’t see that changing even though this has been kind of our bread and butter type of racetrack.  I don’t think it’s going to be something that’s handed to us.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you so much for taking the time with us.  Best of luck to you on Sunday.

JOEY LOGANO:  Thanks, everyone.  Have a good off‑season if I don’t see you.

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