Joey Logano previews Charlotte


May 16, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Joey Logano (22) before practice for the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway, its own backyard, for the Coca-Cola 600, the circuit’s longest race of the season. To preview Sunday’s race, Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, participated in a NASCAR teleconference.

Logano is one of only two two-time winners in the series, so far, this season, with the other being Kevin Harvick. During his teleconference, Logano discussed the new Chase for the Sprint Cup qualifying format that puts greater emphasis on race wins, in addition to talking about the upcoming race at Charlotte. Here’s some of what he had to say:

WHAT WOULD A WIN MEAN FOR YOU THIS WEEKEND? “Anytime you go to Charlotte it’s everyone’s home track. Everyone knows that most of the race teams are here and friends go out there, so it makes it a really big deal to win. And the Coke 600 is one of the crown jewel events that we have, which makes it a big deal. We’ve got Shell/Pennzoil Pure Platinum technology on our car this week, which is really cool. It’s a new paint scheme we’re breaking out and a new product Pennzoil has come out with, so it’s definitely a different-looking car than what the typical yellow 22 looks like out there.”

IS IT TIME FOR THE COKE 600 TO BE SHORTENED TO 500 MILES? “No, I don’t think so. I think what’s really cool about the Coke 600 is that it is 600 miles. That’s the thing that makes it kind of our crown jewel event. That’s the longest race we have of the year, and it feels like it believe me, but it definitely makes it very rewarding. Now if we had to run 600 miles every week, I may have a different answer for you, but the fact that it’s only once a year kind of makes it unique and makes it a fun race. Like I said, it’s one of the crown jewels to win, so a lot of people put a lot of effort into winning this race, just like they would at Daytona or Indy. I feel like this is next in line behind those two.”

IS THE 600 TOUGHER MENTALLY OR PHYSICALLY? “Both. The way our cars are set up inside you have your seat and headrest to help support you throughout these long races, so physically you don’t get very tired – hopefully. Obviously, mentally it’s very straining because you’re in there for four-plus hours running 600 miles at 200 miles an hour. It’s mentally straining and it’s very hot in these cars, especially when you’re going into the summer, so the heat takes a toll and it eventually mentally gets you, so you have to physically prepare to be mentally prepared during the race. It’s not just the driver, it’s the car and the motor – putting that extra 100 miles on that you typically don’t in a normal race weekend makes it a lot tougher. I will enjoy an ice cold Coca-Cola after the Coke 600, that’s for sure.”

HAVE YOU HAD TO EXPLAIN THE NEW FORMAT TO FANS BECAUSE JEFF GORDON LEADS IN POINTS, BUT YOU HAVE MORE WINS AND WOULD BE LEADING THE CHASE IF IT STARTED TOMORROW? “I’ve had to explain to some people what that means, but at this point in the season it doesn’t mean anything until we get later on in the Chase, but having those two wins definitely helps for when we get past Richmond and head into Chicago and have a couple wins there and some bonus points to get through the first round there. I think that’s a really big deal and that’s why I want to win a few more before we get there. You never know what can happen. Look at us last year, we had an engine expire on us in Chicago the first race of the Chase and when that happens it kind of takes you out, so to have a little extra cushion is gonna be a good thing and that’s why we’re gonna keep pushing to get some more cushion. So far we’re doing what we need to do, but it is a little confusing because we’re sixth in points, but we’re leading the Chase points if it was Richmond.”

HAS THIS NEW FORMAT CHANGED YOUR THOUGHT PROCESS NOW THAT YOU HAVE A COUPLE WINS? “It turns every race into an All-Star Race in a way. I think that’s what NASCAR wanted and I think that’s what the fans wanted was something that forces you to make those crazy moves and make those gutsy pit calls because you look at it like you’ve got nothing to lose. If you do have a win, you’ve got to race like that because you’ve got nothing to lose. If you do have a win, you might as well race like that because you’ve got nothing to lose. So I think that’s what makes it cool to watch. You see a lot of entertaining things going on out there on the race track and on pit road and I think you’re gonna see that throughout the season. I think the point system definitely plays into the fan’s hands, really. I think it makes for some really good racing out there and a lot of guys that don’t really think about points that much. It’s nice to be up there in points. I’m sure Jeff Gordon likes being in the points lead. That’s something pretty cool to have, but at the same time, it’s like, ‘Hey, it doesn’t really mean anything.’”

YOU SAID RICHMOND WASN’T YOUR BEST TRACK YET YOU WON THERE EARLIER THIS YEAR. ARE THERE ANY OTHER TRACKS YOU FEEL THAT WAY ABOUT LOOKING FORWARD? “Not anymore. It used to be like that, but Richmond was always one of those tracks I didn’t quite dread going to, but I just know I never really had the success that I wanted to have. I never really led any laps there before and never really had a legit shot at winning it, so who saw that one coming? That was really cool to be able to get that and conquer a track that’s really tough for you. In the past, I thought Atlanta was tough for me and last year I had a car that should have won the race, we finished second, but we really should have won that one. Really, the toughest track for me right now is Loudon. In the past, we’ve had decent cars and when I say tough track, I feel like I’m a solid top-10 car there most of the time, but it takes something to be in the top-5 and to be a winning car, but the way our season is going right now and the speed we’ve had a short tracks, mile-and-a-half, two miles, pretty much every type of race track we’ve gone to so far we’ve had a lot of speed at and we’ve led laps. We’ve led laps in every single race so far, except California where we had a gear break on us before we were able to get there, so we’ve had fast cars at every track so it’s not really a track I look at and dread going to right now.”

— Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

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