THE MODERATOR: We’re joined here by Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, and Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance.
We are going to go straight to questions.
- Joey, how long do you think it will take for the upper level drivers to get used to a new car and be able to capitalize on the knowledge with a new vehicle? I know there will be an adjustment, but how long do you think it will take?
JOEY LOGANO: I think that’s hard to say till we have our heads completely wrapped around the car we have now. I don’t know. It’s always evolving is what I’m trying to get to here. You’re never where you want to be in sport. You’re always looking for more. I think as soon as you get comfortable and you say I’ve reached where I’m supposed to be, next week you’re going to get beat. It’s just how it works.
I think the initial year of this car, every track is going to be a new track. It’s just how it’s going to feel. You’re going to have to go out there and learn what you need in your race car to drive good, for one, but then when you get into dirty air, what do you need. Then we’re going to have to learn the strategy of this thing.
Every piece of this car, every piece. They even added another gear. They’ve done it all here. The brakes are different. The tire is way different. The body couldn’t be more different. You tell me, it’s going to take forever to get somewhat close to refining into a smaller box. I think it will be like that for all the competitors. From there, you’re always going to be looking for small are gains.
- The iRacing Pro Invitational tonight will be in these vehicles. Is that day one to start learning about them?
JOEY LOGANO: I don’t know about that. I like iRacing, but I don’t know how much weight I’d put into that since we haven’t tested this car much on the racetrack itself yet. I don’t know how realistic that is going to be yet. It will be fun. I’ll be up in the FOX studios tonight racing from there as well. It will be some fun. We’ll have a good time. Whatever happens, I don’t know. We’ll have some fun doing it.
- Joey, I think it was OD who talked about with this car the tires would be more protected, you wouldn’t have to worry about cutting a tire if you make contact. Have you driven the Xfinity car enough to know how far you can push a composite body, how aggressive you can be, that you might not have been with the current car?
JOEY LOGANO: I’m not sure if it’s just contact from car to car that cuts down tires. It’s also hitting the wall. You look at the Xfinity races at Miami, at Vegas, Kansas, you name those racetracks where you run the wall, those guys smack the wall all the time. We cannot afford to do that in our car. Look at Darlington this weekend. You can’t afford to hit the wall, you knock all the shape out of the right side of your car. Even if you don’t cut a tire down, you lose performance in your car, it bends and it doesn’t come back until you make a pit stop or worse, you cut a tire down and your day it pretty much over.
This will allow you to be more aggressive. I think that’s what the fans want to see, is drivers being more aggressive, getting closer to things, not being worried about making a little bit of contact, whether that’s side by side with other cars or just pushing it harder up against the wall. Sparks will be flying a little bit more with this new car.
I think even with the smaller, lower profile tire, there’s less tire to cut down. At least that’s my non-engineering thoughts over here. This is my high school degree telling me that. I believe that’s what it would be back just off of common sense.
- Sounds like that is going to play right into your wheelhouse.
JOEY LOGANO: Possibly. I like how you asked me that question (laughter).
- Mark, from the manufacturer standpoint, what did NASCAR come to you with or what did the OEMs put in or contribute as far as safety? Joey can attest to this after Talladega, Ryan Newman. I’m not sure whether or not the safety has kept up with the different changes to these cars. Tell us what kind of input we’ve seen as far as safety goes into the Next Gen vehicle.
MARK RUSHBROOK: As a sport, we need to make sure we’re paying attention to that. Putting a new car out there, it’s got to be fast, look great, but it also has to be safe for what these drivers are doing.
As a sport, we’re collaborative, looking at liftoff, the aerodynamic effects of it as well, innovative features to take advantage of the new platform to bring some more safety in. That was an important part of the sport, something we’ll be able to talk about tomorrow.
- Mark, how do you see this playing out now the car looking a little closer to what people can see at the track Sunday, then in the showroom on Monday? How do you see that connection playing out? Do you see it being something old school really going back to race on Sunday, sell on Monday?
MARK RUSHBROOK: Yeah, that’s always been an important part of the sport, an important part of NASCAR, win on Sunday, sell on Monday. Now that we’ve got more relevance, anybody that wants to go buy a Mustang, it just resonates even more for them.
We think even for an F 150 customer, if it looks more like a Ford Mustang, it is more clearly Ford to them, and they’re going to be happy and proud of Ford on track in that Mustang and go buy a F 150 on Monday. It is good for the brand, just not that nameplate.
- Right now the competition level is so good in NASCAR, racing is outstanding, any worries it’s not going to quite live up to that at the start of the Next Gen, it will take a while to get to that competitive level?
JOEY LOGANO: Absolutely not. I think it’s actually more exciting and probably a little bit more fun for all of us because the opportunity is there. Any time there’s change, there’s opportunity. We have an amazing opportunity in front of us to redo everything, right? Talking about the way we race, strategy. What about the pit crew? The pit stops have to change. We have single lugs on these things. That will be different. There’s opportunity to figure that out for the competitors. That will be your opportunity to win.
Any time they change the rules to a car, whether it’s spoiler heights, splitters, going to a completely new car like Next Gen here, it presents an opportunity to figure it out before the next guy does. We have that.
It’s on us at this point, right? There’s so many parts and pieces of this car that everyone is going to have, right? You’re not going to get beat by someone having lighter spindles or have a part or a piece that you can’t develop or your team cannot financially invest in. That’s not going to be your excuse any more. This is going to be about the best of the best, the cream will rise to the top. It’s just what this will be.
It will change the first few races, for sure. I think you’re going to see just kind of this back and forth where there might be a team that hits on a setup that might work at mile-and-a-half tracks, then one on short tracks. It’s just going to keep changing back and forth. It’s just how our sport works. Nobody sits still for a long time.
- Joey, you were talking about it, but is there any concern you don’t necessarily control parts and pieces? You have all these people at Team Penske that design parts and pieces, develop them, you don’t have control of that. Any sort of worry or concern you won’t control your own destiny?
JOEY LOGANO: I think in a way I might control my destiny even more. As a driver looking at it, from that perspective, you’d probably say more might be on the drivers at this point. As a team, there’s still plenty of areas to race. You look at all these cars here today, there’s plenty of areas that we can look at and try to become better at and try to look for a competitive edge. It will be like that. No matter how many parts you put on this thing, it’s the same as the next guy.
There’s an area of the race, there always is. You look at any motorsports series out there, there’s an area where you can find a competitive advantage. Even if it’s not with the car itself, there’s other areas you’ll be looking to find it.
You have to be creative, you have to be willing to look outside the box and outside of your comfort zone and not be stubborn to what you know works now. There’s a good chance that might not work any more.
It’s going to be a very, very challenging year for every race team out there, drivers included.
MARK RUSHBROOK: I want to add something to that. I think an important point is it’s not just the parts. That’s not what makes a race car win. It’s how the parts come together, the system it creates, the vehicle performance it creates. That’s done by the people.
Like Joey is saying with Team Penske, they’re great at taking a common part and putting it together in a different way within the variance that’s allowed into making it a winning car. Then Joey can drive it.
JOEY LOGANO: Absolutely. He’s right. You can give everyone the same 9-iron, but the way you hold it, swing it, everything, becomes what makes the winners and the losers when it comes to golf, right?
There’s even more areas here we can still race in. Believe me, there will be a lot of work to do.
- Do you have any idea how this car is going to drive, especially on road courses? Are you going to hustle it more than muscle it?
JOEY LOGANO: I don’t know. I don’t know yet. I brought up the brakes earlier. I got to drive this car a year and a half ago. Put that into perspective for a second. It was a long time ago. It started as a blank sheet where NASCAR was able to develop whatever they wanted to, with a lot of help from the race team, all the OEMs to develop a car. I was the second one to drive it. You can imagine how far it’s come from there.
One thing I did realize right off the bat, the brakes are ridiculously good. You can’t smoke the brakes off this thing. You can only use so much on road courses, especially before they overheat. You can’t stop as good. You had to kind of be smart in that area. I’m not sure that will be like that any more. I think you’ll be able to hustle the heck out of this car for a while before you start paying penalties. Maybe the penalty you pay is in the tire. I don’t know.
That’s the thing that’s going to make this fun. I’m sitting here saying I don’t know, because I really don’t. If someone is telling you they know at this point, they’re probably lying to you. I don’t see how you can possibly know at this point.
- Mark, since you got to start with a blank sheet of paper, had the ability to put ‘stock’ back into the stockcar, what were characteristics of the Mustang you definitely wanted to get into this car and maybe some you didn’t get in?
MARK RUSHBROOK: Yeah, a lot of it is underneath the car, the architecture of the car, the bones of the car basically. To be able to have an independent rear suspension, the rack-and-pinion steering, the driveline, that’s all important to us as a manufacturer to have more relevance to that architecture, be able to transfer learning back and forth between road to the track, back to the road again.
Then the biggest part, as the fans see it, is in the shape of the car, the proportions of the car. To be able to change that so you get the long hood, the short deck, the short overhangs, the front wheels forward, just from a distance, even without looking at the detail, it is very clearly a Mustang.
Then the opportunity, more opportunity, than we’ve ever had to put in the design detail, all the design cues, the headlights, the grilles, three dimensions and depth of the grille, the whole side of the car and back of the car. We never had that much freedom before.
When you look at this thing, especially when we get to show these side by side, it is a Mustang. We think we have all those cues carried over.
JOEY LOGANO: The coolest part, all the other generations of the NASCAR race cars that have been released over the years, I’ve been around long enough to see a lot of them, it’s like, It looks cool, more like the car on the street. We’ve been saying this for years. This time it actually looks like it.
We did a video shoot in Hickory, North Carolina. It had the race car right next to it, parked side by side. That’s it, finally we got it. It looked like a GT 500. It looked mean, aggressive, the grille looked right. It looks like you can drive it down the road. The cops might pull you over, but it has the same look. To that point I say, Finally. We always said it looks closer. I think we got it finally.
MARK RUSHBROOK: Yeah, it’s there.
- Mark, you described the Next Gen car as future proofed for hybrid and electric tech. How important was seeing that integrated into the car to Ford? How excited are you about potentially hybrid generation of NASCAR?
MARK RUSHBROOK: We’re excited about what this platform does. It’s an opportunity to future proof. We’re great today with what’s going to be racing in 2022, but we know as our world is chasing with hybrid power trains, full electric power trains, if we were going to do this new car as an industry, we have to make sure it’s able to grow with the automotive world, what people are going to be parking in their driveways and garages.
The ability to have hybrid in there very easily in the very near future was important to us, something that NASCAR and the industry has already worked on. We’re able to do that. That’s going to be important so that we can continue learning the technical innovation of hybrid systems, and beyond that to full electric cars, too.
The future is coming pretty quickly. I think we’re ready for it.
- The thing about racing, your job is to win, to be the fastest. At the end of the day Ford’s job is to put cars in driveways. Do you think with this latest iteration of this car we’ve come full circle again, the old adage of win on Sunday, sell on Monday? Did that play into it?
MARK RUSHBROOK: Yeah, absolutely. Relevancy is important for us. I think it’s important for the racing fans, for our customers. We wanted to make it look like the Mustang, but also the architecture underneath.
It is a true story of relevance from an engineering perspective and from a styling perspective so that the racing fan can see a Mustang racing on track that will look like what they can put into their driveway or garage.
- Joey, you’ve been pretty vocal about safety since the incident in Talladega. What are some of the safety advancements that have caught your eye so far with the Next Gen car?
JOEY LOGANO: I think quite a few. As a race car driver, yes, you’re going to look at safety, you should. If you don’t, you’re maybe not the smartest race car driver. I want to know I’m driving a safe race car so I can make big moves on the racetrack to win races.
The first thing I noticed sitting in it, I sit lower. For a driver like myself that’s 6’3″, getting lower in the car is important. I realized that in Talladega a few weeks ago when the roof was crushed down on my head. I need to sit a little lower, that will give me a little bit more margin to start. Initially that’s a big win for me, sitting more at a comfortable height. Not crammed down in the car so much opens up a little bit more room.
Then you see added structure around you, more support braces to the roof in case of a situation where one rolls over, which will probably happen at some point. It’s racing, cars roll over. We got to protect for that.
Door foam is different. The driver I think is sitting a little bit closer to the center of the car. That’s a win. There’s added dash bars to try to keep the car from getting narrower during a T-bone incident. Front and rear crash structures in the bumpers. That is something that will be good.
I haven’t crashed one, so I can’t tell you. At some point I’m sure I will, I will be able to tell you how it felt (laughter).
When you’re building a new car, obviously racing is a priority of improving what we have on the racetrack already, which is a great product to start with, How do you make that even better? Also it’s safety. We have to keep looking at how do we make our cars safer.
That’s why we are the No. 1 most safe racing in the world. I don’t think there’s a safer race car you can jump in than a Cup car. That’s because of the attitude and mentality we’ve had to become better and better and better in the safety department.
This is no reason to stop now. Just because we’re already the best, you don’t stop. I think NASCAR has been able to continue that throughout the design process coming up with what they have here today.
You can tell, like, I said, added structure, impact zones to try to absorb some of the impact, then working with the racetracks like we always do now with angles of walls, SAFER barrier, whatnot.
THE MODERATOR: Joey and Mark, thanks for joining us today. We appreciate your time. Looking forward to seeing that new Mustang on the track.
JOEY LOGANO: Can’t wait.
MARK RUSHBROOK: Thank you.
— NASCAR —