JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang Dark Horse – WHAT DO YOU EXPECT WITH THE NEW CAR IN THE DUEL RACES? “It will definitely be a learning experience for us. Probably the biggest thing would be just making sure the bumpers line up good and how we push each other as far as the new body stuff. Obviously, it’s a learning experience no matter what, even if it was the old we’d have a learning experience on what your car has got for the 500 and what we want to work on for practice the next day. There will be a lot to learn, lots of things, but it’ll be good. It should be fine. We’ll figure it out.”

IS THE PRESSURE OFF HERE SINCE YOU’VE WON THE 500 ONCE OR IS THERE MORE BECAUSE YOU WANT TO WIN IT AGAIN? “I don’t know if it changes it because the goal is the same no matter what. Your goal is to win it, whether you’ve won it five times or no times. It seems similar. We’ve been so close so many times since then that we’ve been leading on the last lap at some point. Last year, the caution just fell at the wrong time. If they hit that stinking button a little sooner last year, we would have won but it is what it is.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT ATLANTA AND THE RACING WE HAVE THERE? “I call it kind of a confused racetrack. It doesn’t know if it wants to be a superspeedway or a mile-and-a-half. It seems like you’re wide-open all the way around it most of the time. If you’re leading, for sure, but there are other times where you’re hanging on and you’re in the back and you’re lifting and all that stuff. Honestly, it’s similar to what this place here in Daytona was like before they repaved it years and years and years ago, where it had some bumps and some character and the tires would fall off to where you had to kind of hang on and handling came into play. The same thing can happen there.”

WHAT’S IT LIKE COMING THROUGH THE OLD TURN FOUR TUNNEL? WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU? “I still get excited about it, which is good. When I did that last night I said, ‘OK, I’m still excited to go racing.’ That means I’m not ready to hang it up, so that part is good. My kids, I didn’t think about this, but my kids love that tunnel so you know because you can jump out of it pretty good. You can definitely catch air, so if you were wondering if a Ford Expedition can catch air, yes it can out of the tunnel and they love it. It’s full commit, though. You’ve got to really want it (laughing).”

DOES IT MEAN A REBIRTH LIKE STARTING A NEW SEASON? “Absolutely. I don’t know if I get more excited about just the opportunity to win the 500 or just a new season. It’s probably more the new season than anything, but it’s The Great American Race. You get to line up in the biggest race that we have. To me, that’s pretty special still – 16 years into it. It’s pretty special to do it.”

YOU’VE WON EARLY IN THE SEASON. HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO GET THAT FIRST WIN WITH THE FORMAT? “It’s important any time you can win these days because those playoff points mean everything. We didn’t have enough playoff points last year. That’s not the only reason why we got knocked out, but some playoff points would have kept us alive. We need to win more often and it’s nice to get one early just because it’s like, ‘OK, we’re in the playoffs.’ That’s good. That’s one box checked, but it’s nowhere near enough to really make a solid championship run.”

IS THERE ANY DANGER TO IT? CAN COMPLACENCY SET IN? “It can happen. I don’t see that happening, but it can happen. It probably depends on the team.”

WHY DON’T YOU THINK THAT COULD HAPPEN TO YOUR TEAM? “I feel like it’s important for us as members of a team to remain hungry and knowing that it’s just one race. If your goal is to win more than one race, you’re probably not happy yet and I think this is a big point of our sport is that you have to set goals that are very hard to achieve and that keep you hungry. You have to say, ‘Yep, that’s just one stepping stone to the road of what we’re trying to achieve,’ so I think that’s how you stay out of that.”

HOW LONG DOES THE STING OF LAST SEASON LAST? DO YOU FEED OFF THAT DURING THE OFF-SEASON? “You can use it a fair amount. You can find motivation everywhere. You can watch the Netflix doc and find a lot of motivation. I did that. Check.  All of them. They all hurt. Every one of them hurts. It’s a great thing for our sport, but they all hurt when you’re a competitor and you watch that happen again. You’re like, ‘God, I wanted to forget that day for the rest of my life.’ You can find motivation in anything you do every day. You don’t have to look too hard most of the time.”

BLANEY SAID YOU SHARE A BOND NOW THAT YOU BOTH HAVE CHAMPIONSHIPS. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT? “I think the one thing that’s kind of nice that has happened over the last two years, but more so now probably, is that we can lead as peers together. There’s not one above the other. It seems like we’re pretty comparable drivers and strong in different areas, which is good, and I think leading Penske together we can do that. That part is good. I think that helps. I’m sure from his perspective it is probably a little different. For me, I always have kind of seen him as a really, really good race car driver, so it doesn’t change much that he won one to me, but I could see in his mind it could be different. I get that.”

HOW LONG DO YOU THINK IT WILL BE UNTIL YOU GET A FEEL FOR THE MUSTANG DARK HORSE? “You’re gonna get glimpses, like a little touch on it here and there just depending on the track. Like the Clash, it’s too slow to understand the aero advantages or changes that we’ve made. Daytona, Atlanta somewhat, but it’s still speedway racing, and then you get to Phoenix and Vegas and you start doing those and you’ll have a better idea of where we’re at. I’m sure there is going to be some learning curve there too as well, so it might prolong that a little bit more as we try to maximize the potential out of the car and we understand the aero balance and what heights the car really wants to be at and how we can maximize all those things.”

IS VEGAS WHERE YOU WILL GET A GOOD IDEA OF WHAT YOU’VE GOT? “Vegas will probably get a piece of it. Listen, everything looks good. I’m always a cautiously optimistic person, where things may look good, but show me reality first. I kind of have to see it to believe it, so we’ll see. Like I said, there are gonna be some little nuances of the body in the car that we’re gonna have to figure out as we go along, so there will be a little bit of a learning curve even after Vegas of things like, ‘Oh, maybe it needs to be more like this.’ We’ll figure it out a little at a time. It’s harder to figure it out these days because there is no practice, so you kind of just have to race and then try something else and then race again and try something else and see if you went the right way.”

HAS RACING CHANGES A LOT AT VEGAS WITH THE NEXT GEN CAR? “Oh, yeah. The racing has changed everywhere. The way you race, the restarts, everything is different with the Next Gen car. Honestly, I think that’s why the young guys have really excelled more quickly than you would expect with the old car because all of the little nuances of the other car that we really all had figured out – that the experienced guys had figured out – got washed away, so we had to all restart together, which made it definitely a lot more challenging for us, but probably easier for them. It’s a different world. We also figured out that the cream still rises to the top at the end of the day, but it definitely washed away any advantage you earned by being here longer.”

HOW HAVE YOU HAD TO ADAPT AT VEGAS? “Some of the big things are just understanding the bumps down in one and two. What’s OK and what’s too much. Even three and four a little bit there. Restarts have changed drastically than how we used to restart there to what it is now as a driver, and really just the balance of where the car goes on the long run compared to what it used to be is different too. The details of where the car goes on the long run and all those things is quite a bit different.”

WHY ARE THE RESTARTS SO DIFFERENT? “Mainly because the body doesn’t have skew in it anymore. The skew changed a lot of things.”

WHO DECIDES HOW TO SETUP THE CAR IF YOU FEEL SOMETHING DIFFERENT THAN WHAT THE ENGINEER DATA SAYS? “I do to answer the question because I’m in the car. Data can show us certain things, but it can’t show everything, so it’s probably different for every team, but, for us, I’m very involved with the engineers and the decisions that we’re making and why we’re in a certain place. A lot of times the data can be misinterpreted because you’re driving a car a certain way because your car can’t do a certain thing or vice versa – because your car is really good at something else and that’s why you’re driving your car that way and that’s why it looks a certain way. So there are a lot of times that the driver has to be involved in dissecting the data to have a clear read on that, so it’s pretty complicated. A lot of times you need an engineer, but you also need kind of a race savvy person too to go through it all together, and I feel like we have a great team with all of that for sure.”

WHAT KIND OF THINGS DID YOU SAY TO BLANEY LAST YEAR DURING HIS CHAMPIONSHIP RUN? “We talked a few times a little bit and we helped as a team a lot, just helping them with their setups and things like that. Once we were knocked out it was, ‘OK, what do we do to help the 12 win?’ That was where we were at. They did the same for us the year before and it’s the least we can do. You’ve got to do what you can to return the favor, so that’s how it works.”

WAS IT HARD TO COME UP WITH SOMETHING TO WRITE FOR THE JOURNAL? “No, it wasn’t. It was actually really easy because I know him so well. I went up to the second page. I had a lot to say. Sometimes I wrote in the thing and didn’t have much to say, but this time I did.”

HOW AMAZING IS IT THAT WHAT’S ON THE PAGES OF THAT JOURNAL HAS NOT GOTTEN OUT? “I love that part. Honestly, I was talking to Jimmie about it at the Fox shoot the other day and it’s so cool that he started that and it’s the best-kept secret in our sport. There are no secrets in our sport, like none. You figure them all out. We have one on you guys and you know it’s there and that’s the best part about it is you guys know it’s there but you can’t see it. Is it real or not? Maybe we’re screwing with you the whole time and it’s not even a thing (laughing)? It’s just cool. It’s really special for the champion to receive that book, but to have the privilege to read back years and years. Imagine how cool it’s gonna be 20 years from now or 30 years from now. It’s just badass. It’s a little nerve racking when you have it because you don’t want to be the guy that something happens to it, you lose it. I was thinking when I was writing in it and I put everything away because the last thing you want is to ruin it. It’s a special thing. We should have it documented somewhere or backed up somewhere just in case. That’s what we should do. It’s probably a good idea, but it’s cool. It’s really neat.”

WHAT IF THIS HAD STARTED WHEN RICHARD PETTY WON YEARS AGO? “I wish it was. It would be the neatest thing in the world and maybe some day it gets published. It will be a huge deal. I don’t think it’s big enough right now to do that, but it is really cool to see the personal letters to the next champion. That’s all it is and some of them are short. Some of them are really short and some of them are really long. It’s cool. It’s kind of neat.”

ARE YOU OVER LAST YEAR. IT SEEMED LIKE HAD NO FUN AT ALL? “I did not. You’re right. No fun. I’m over it. I was over it in Phoenix, but it is what it is. Sometimes you have an off year and unfortunately we had that. Not everything was bad. We still did a lot of things really, really well. Our team still executes races as good or better than anybody. We can make our car finish a lot better than where it runs more times than not, so that says a lot about our team, so if you pair that with speed, that’s where we become dangerous again. Hopefully, we can find a little speed here, which I think we will. I feel pretty confident that we will. More times than not after a really bad year we’ve come back pretty hard, so I’m hoping that happens again.”

Ford Performance PR