THE MODERATOR: We are joined by today's winning driver, Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Autotrader Ford for Team Penske.
Joey, you have such a rich history and a legacy with this racetrack, but today is your first NASCAR Cup Series win here.
JOEY LOGANO: Finally. We've been so close so many times here. To get a win, it's meant so much to me, just the memories, right? I was here when Harvick got his first win. I remember watching that from the grandstands, how cool that was.
Racing here with my parents, running Legends cars, thinking about the first time we drove down here, driving through the infield tunnel, thinking this was the biggest racetrack we've ever been to. We were just down visiting.
We met Kenny Ragan who runs Legends of Georgia, David's dad. He said, Why don't you race a Bandolero, give it a shot. We did that day. He let us rent one for the weekend. We raced. Came back down here about six months later when we moved and started racing right here.
Ran so many races. There's so many memories of showing up here Monday nights, practicing. Sorry, Wednesday nights, Thursday nights we'd race. Our race shop was two miles up the road. I lived in the condo up there.
The dream was always to race on the big track, right? Every time you run that quarter mile over and over again, someday I want to go straight and hit the big banks. That's what it was about for me.
I guess this win here is for those kids. I got to meet a lot of them this weekend. I'm sure you saw them around. Just shows you keep working hard, chasing your dreams, the dream of always driving a Cup car into Victory Lane lane came true today. It was really neat.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. How would you describe that battle with Brad? Cat and mouse? Chess match?
JOEY LOGANO: It was just lane versus lane is what it was, right? Inside versus outside. I mean, there were times that I could have almost cleared him and moved up. I really wanted to get my teammates clear because I'd much rather have my teammates behind me if I could.
I knew how fast the Team Penske cars were. Obviously they qualified fast. I felt like, man, if I can get them clear, I have a better chance of winning this thing.
I thought I messed up because there with three, four laps to go, the outside lane got like four cars cleared. Oh, man, too far back. One of them is going to pull down in front of me, now I'm not the leader of the lane. It all changed. As quick as I thought that, Corey moved down to the bottom lane and gave me a hell of a push down the frontstretch. Able to clear the 20 who was second on the outside at the time, I think, maybe it was the 45. I think it was the 45. Was able to get to Brad's back bumper.
I thought I just got to break the plane. I got to get one or the other, I can't let him stop. Was able to get to his outside. When he came off the corner, he had me pinned up against the wall. That really was what pinned the 20 behind me to where he had to push me down the backstretch. When I backed up to him, got the push, that was enough to clear me plenty into the final corner, be able to race them side by side and kind of get to Victory Lane there.
Just a really fast Mustang, very fast Team Penske car. Just special to win here for multiple reasons. We talked about Heritage, but also Autotrader's backyard, Coca-Cola's backyard, headquartered in Atlanta. A lot of really big things for winning here.
Great day, for sure.
Q. Were you anticipating every move he was making because you knew him so well?
JOEY LOGANO: I mean, I know Brad really well on and off the racetrack, right? I know he's going to do anything to win a race. And rightfully so. I wouldn't say our racing mentalities are very different. That's why I feel like we get along well. We also sometimes have clashed on a track every now and then. Not very often.
We both race really, really hard. So I felt like we were definitely going to duke it out. When I got to his outside, it was either he was going to wreck or we were going to just race and hopefully he was going to get the big push on the bottom. That was his only hope there. It just ultimately ended up working out fine.
Yeah, I mean, it's fun racing with him, to answer your question, I guess, because you kind of have an idea of what he's thinking a little bit. Also with T.J., right, he's his spotter, he was my spotter for years, so I kind of have an idea of what information T.J. is feeding him. It all worked out for us.
Q. You spoke about on the bottom trying to get your teammates clear. Coleman was giving you good information about Austin. Did you ever have thoughts of ditching the bottom?
JOEY LOGANO: Stayed committed to the bottom because my teammates were down there. Coleman did an amazing job kind of painting that picture of what that looked like for me. He's so good at what he does, it's ridiculous. It's so much fun to listen to him and talk to him before the race, the homework that he does, how well he understands the sport. Really helps me.
Yeah, when he was telling me all this stuff, I'm like, I know, I see it. He's telling me about it. I know, but I wonder if I should get up. I really wanted my teammates to work with me.
It's hard to have that conversation back and forth while we're racing. I really felt like the Team Penske cars were so fast. I thought, man, if we stay together, it would be good.
Towards the end of the run is when no one was able to stay close enough together any more. The 2 was falling off the 12. They couldn't stay close enough to keep the run going down the straightaways. That's when we started falling apart. Just probably too many laps on the tires, grinding the tires off of them. Not much tire wear, but there's some. Tires did mean a little bit.
Eventually when the tires were starting to wear, handling was coming in. I think that's where eventually we lost each other towards the end.
Q. You said after wrecking at Las Vegas, the Fords were behind. Fell behind early at Phoenix. Is today a step in the right direction or more an indication of the superspeedway speed you all have?
JOEY LOGANO: It's an indication of the direction we went. I think it's pretty obvious. I think the whole garage knows what direction we've gone at this point, where our strengths are going to be, where our weaknesses are going to be.
Our strengths definitely obviously when you see a top eight qualifying is Fords, you pretty much know what the strengths are at that point, right? It's pretty easy to see it.
Yeah, we knew we needed to come here and maximize our day. Stage win, a pole, leading a bunch of laps, almost had a second stage win if I didn't make a mistake there. Ultimately at least I didn't make a mistake on the last lap (smiling).
Q. After you got the push from Corey, you moved up to the top lane to get on the right side of Brad. It seems there was very little room. Take me through that, what you recall. Maybe that's a move you have to make. Why wasn't there a wreck at that point?
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, I mean, it just worked out. I don't know. My car was able to take a push really well. When Corey clobbered me at the start/finish line, that gave me such a big run. I thought it's going to be close to clearing the 20. I think I can. I committed to the move.
It was either he was going to have to release the wheel, lift. I was going to come up. When you get a run like that on the last lap, you can't lift. You just can't. Brad saw I was on the bottom, so he's going to block the bottom initially. So I have to go where he's not. Where he's not is going to be up the racetrack.
I had to get up there and try to slip to his outside. Ultimately, that's the move that was going to win the race, right? If I got to his inside, you have a chance, maybe a 20% chance of winning the race depending on what kind of push you get down the backstretch. Most likely we were not going to win the race.
When I had a big enough run, open the wheel, get to his outside here, that was kind of the difference maker. Once I broke the plane, pulled him back, it was pretty much game over for him.
Q. Corey said he certainly was happy for you. Career best fourth for him. To see somebody who has had to struggle to get these opportunities, what is it like to see somebody like Corey get a top five?
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, it's a great day for him. Shoot, he almost won the race here last time. I don't think any of us are surprised by it. When the race was coming towards the end, Oh, there he is. Where has he been all day? Corey just kind of popped up there.
Obviously they've given him a really good race car, good-handling race car, that can go fast and be able to allow him to make some moves on the racetrack.
He made some good moves there towards the end. Obviously he got himself a good spot. He had the run. If he went underneath me, he's probably not winning the race, right? His best chance was to give me the shot there.
It worked out well. Another kid that raced out there with me when we were kids, right, now we're working together out there on the racetrack. Pretty cool.
Q. Were you surprised there was no big wreck at the end of this race?
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah. I mean, it happens every time. If you watched the Truck and Xfinity race, you would probably bet on it there was going to be a caution at the end of the this thing. There were a few, but they never ended up being big crashes. Everybody did a good job at avoiding them.
I think one of the biggest things is everybody bolts a lot more grip into their car when they come here compared to Daytona or Talladega. They have their cars trimmed out more. The cars are able to take a push better, right? Think about how hard we were hitting each other. If you did that at Daytona, you wreck.
Seems to me the fix is a little bit more grip allowing everybody to be able to handle their race car. Honestly, Goodyear brought a better tire. The teams have learned a lot, too. A lot of the cautions before were from tires popping. We didn't have that today, right? To the point you had green flag pit stops.
We didn't really think that was going to happen, to be honest. We didn't think green flog stops was going to happen. It all went smooth, too, right? The new pit road, all that stuff, it worked out well.
Q. I would say your performance at the previous two races, Vegas, Phoenix, I don't know if you would characterize it as startling, but what was the attitude of this team? Were you deflated after last week at all? What was the atmosphere?
JOEY LOGANO: I wouldn't say 'deflated'. We know the situation we're in this year. We know we have to be perfect all the time. If there's a team that can do it, it's this team, that knows how to do that.
We were not perfect last week in Phoenix, right? I misguided the team with the setup after practice. We paid the penalty in the race. By the time we got it good, we got going pretty well, we had a rough day on pit road. We weren't perfect.
If we were perfect, we could have done exactly what the 12 did and had a chance to win the race, right? Too far back to put two tires on, didn't have a chance to win there.
We can win anywhere at any point because the team is strong. We just had an off day, right? That's all I can say. We know when we come to racetracks like this, we're going to be really, really good and have the dominant race cars. We need to maximize days like this, like we did.
Just a different situation than we had last year. We just have to learn to race a little bit differently.
Q. Apparently this is your first Cup Series win for Penske with a primary sponsor that's not Shell-Pennzoil.
JOEY LOGANO: That's true.
Q. You were aware of that?
JOEY LOGANO: Oh, yeah (smiling). I've been reminded.
Q. Can you talk about what a win for these sponsors means. We hear about what they mean for the race teams, drivers. Talk about how much a primary sponsor values finishing so well.
JOEY LOGANO: It means a lot. Autotrader has been a partner of Team Penske I think for eight years or so. They won here I believe with Brad in the past. I've been close a few times. I've wrecked this car plenty of times, so... It felt good to finally win with this thing.
Yeah, it feels kind of weird. AAA on the car as well. We've been close so many times for the last 10 years. Haven't been able to win with that one yet, either.
Yeah, finally won without the Shell on the car. Definitely a little different, for sure. Nice to get them a victory, as well, here. We'll try to click one off for AAA later this year, too.
Q. You talked earlier about the amount of knowledge you have about Brad Keselowski. Talk about the respect level that you showed each other. Seemed like there was a lot of respect shown in the last couple laps.
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, I mean, we both know we're good at this, right? I mean, I feel like Brad is one of the top five best speedway racers on the racetrack. I feel like I'm in there. A few others that are in there that you just know are really, really good at it.
We were kind of duking it out back and forth, side by side, side drafting each other. Okay, this is what you would expect. It's fun going up against the best like that.
He works really hard at it. He studies it. He's really smart at speedway racing, for sure. When you think of driver and spotter combinations, you're going against two of the best right there, right? Whether it's T.J. and Brad or myself and Coleman, if I'm picking a couple pairings of people that understand the draft, those two groups are the best at it. So it was fun to kind of go back and forth there at the end.
Q. When you've had so many things on track in the past like you have had, is there a nerve-wracking moment where you get into a crash, that he's going to be really mad at you?
JOEY LOGANO: No, no. I don't think that thought went through my mind at all. I knew we were going to race the heck out of each other. I think we both understand that we want to win. You kind of leave the feelings at the door.
Q. What were the emotions like when you turned around and the first person that greeted you was your father?
JOEY LOGANO: That was cool. Obviously I didn't see him coming. I think that was neat to see that. There's been plenty of times he's run out to the start/finish line to give me a hug here maybe 20-something years ago.
Like I said, this was kind of an emotional win when you think about what Atlanta Motor Speedway is all about to our family, the memories that are made here. This is one that we'll definitely remember forever.
It's cool to have my dad here to celebrate with.
Q. How mentally challenging is Atlanta now compared to Daytona or Talladega?
JOEY LOGANO: I mean, every Cup race is tough. Doesn't matter where it is, it's all tough in its own way.
Atlanta, the speedway racing that it is, handling comes into play a lot. You got to think of it in a different light than what you do at those type racetracks, Daytona or Talladega. It's kind of a mix in between it. Confused on what it wants to be.
I'd say it's going through puberty, it's in an awkward stage. It doesn't know what it wants to be. If it's a mile-and-a-half, superspeedway, at times in the race it feels like it's going back to a regular mile-and-a-half as tires wear out, but then you put tires on, it's easy wide open, changes the game. You just have to be evolving and changing a lot as you go along with it.
Yeah, mentally you're exhausted. Maybe not physically the most demanding racetrack, but mentally, yeah, I'm shot.
Q. There's not many drivers that are going to say they're comfortable with speedway racing. Over a third of your superspeedway finishes are inside of the top 10. Do you find a little bit of comfort racing this style?
JOEY LOGANO: No (laughter). I don't think anyone feels comfortable when you line up for a superspeedway 'cause honestly, I mean, I feel like half the races I finish is what it feels like. When you're strapped in, kind of feel like you got a 50/50 chance of seeing the checkered flag. It's not the most comforting feeling at all.
I'm not sure, typically there's not many drivers that really enjoy speedway racing, but I do get it from a fan's perspective. I sat up there in the FOX booth yesterday. Once everyone was done wrecking each other the first two stages, the last bit of that race was really entertaining. The Xfinity race I'm talking about.
This race there weren't very many wrecks at all. It was really solid racing. There were some interesting things going on. The stage going green, green flag cycles, interesting to see how that played out. The race in the final stage was super intense. Cars were in the fence. Cars were sliding up, making mistakes, all this stuff going on. We just didn't crash, which was amazing. Much better than what it was last time we were here.
Q. Given the start to the season, Chevrolet domination, but you talked earlier about the speed that the Fords have had. What does this mean to be able to put Ford in Victory Lane here at Atlanta?
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, I mean, it's great to get a win for Ford early in the season, get in the Playoffs. That's huge. You can go race aggressively. Like I said, we know what tracks we need to maximize. This is definitely one of them. We were able to do that.
Q. You referenced your memories here. Were there any races on that quarter mile that resembled anything like the last lap today?
JOEY LOGANO: No, 'cause the racing is so different. Can't draft a Bandolero very much. I think the coolest thing, you think about the garage today, how many of 'em started right here, right? Or raced here at some point, right? Coleman raced out here. I got videos of us racing each other out there. It's cool, right?
You think bout McReynolds. He's spotting. Started here. Austin Hill won yesterday, started here. David Ragan, Reed Sorenson. It's pretty neat to see the success of young racers that raced here, how they're still in the sport today, or made an impact in the sport at one point.
That says a lot about the program that Ken Ragan is running here. He does a tremendous job at really giving these kids a good opportunity, help guiding the parents.
It's not just the kids, right? I'm realizing this now as I get older, and my son has run one race. The amount of work it takes as a parent to get the car ready, get the car here, a hell of a commitment. I don't know if I'm quite ready for all this. It's a lot for the whole family (laughter).
It's a big deal. Like I said, to see those kids racing out here at the time for fun, and they made a career out of it, it's pretty cool.
Q. You referenced you stopped and talked to a couple of kids racing Legends here now. Any particular conversation that stuck out to you?
JOEY LOGANO: Honestly just brings back a lot of memories. I remember coming here for Cup weekend. I'd walk around hoping to meet drivers, an owner, maybe they know my name, someday they'll remember that they met me, maybe they'll help me get a chance to drive a Cup car someday, right? That was a thought.
That's why it was always such a big deal. We raced on Cup weekend out there. You hoped that the big guys were watching you. A lot of times they were. That was always a special thing. Obviously their race got rained out this weekend, unfortunately.
The memories of talking to the kids, Hero cards, I got three Hero cards this weekend, they signed it for me. Someday I may be racing against them, right? It doesn't take too long. It was 10 years before this I was trying to get Tony Stewart's autograph, 10 years before I took his ride. I didn't take his ride, but he left. I replaced him in his car. 10 years go by just like that. I'll be pretty old in 10 years, but at some point there's definitely a chance.
Q. You talked about Coleman earlier. You spotted for him at Hickory. Do you feel there's so much good communication because of his background as a driver and his family's background?
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, Coleman is my best friend. We grew up together. We were roommates when I moved out of my parents' place. We talk to each other every day. Probably no one besides my wife that knows me better than Coleman does.
We're able to prepare together and understand what each other's thinking before the race starts. I think that's what's made us a real threat on the racetrack, is that he knows me, right? He knows exactly what I'm thinking. He can guide me into the right scenario. Even if he knows I'm thinking a certain direction, if he sees it's wrong, before I even make the move, he knows to tell me not to do it, or give me enough information.
That's just a really valuable thing to have. Even during the race, he knows when I'm going to need some kind of information from Paul, be able to communicate that to me without me asking. The distraction of wondering inside the car is not good, right?
I think the relationship is the number one thing that makes us great, but I also think his racing knowledge is second to none up there. He really just truly understands speedway racing for one, but racing in general.
Coleman can call the race if he ever had to. He's just smart, gets it. I think those things together, him being able to communicate what he's seeing to me works out really well. When you get the three of us together - Coleman, Paul, myself - the communication is good. We're able to fill each other's gaps. We're three very different people. We're able to fill in each other's gaps which makes us a solid team.
Q. Coming into the race there was all this talk about turn three. It got tested under scheduled green flag stops. What was that like trying to take that long pit road under green and managing the lights? Did it make you nervous when you realized you were coming on lap 130?
JOEY LOGANO: I wasn't as nervous about myself doing it. I was more nervous about a caution coming out after we pitted. It hasn't cycled through, you're stuck down, I don't know if we were down one or two laps. That was more. I think we were down one, but the leader was right behind me, like right behind me. We still cycled out to the lead on that whole thing.
It was fine. Just you can't make a mistake 'cause rolling down in other times like the death penalty, that's a tough one to overcome in the race, which Blaney was able to overcome, which I didn't think was possible. It ended up working out for him. It ended up working out, right?
If we had green flag stops with the old pit road, I'm not sure we'd get through a cycle. Where everyone had to slow down was in the middle of the draft, it would have been a mess. Kudos to NASCAR for realizing there's an issue with the racetrack and we needed to come up with some kind of fix for that scenario, and it actually happened. I'm glad we did something and it ended up just working out fine.
Q. For kids that are wanting to be like you, how important is it to start off in the Bandos and Legends?
JOEY LOGANO: I mean, it probably depends on your age some. I think it's a good way to learn the basics of racing, right? I always say this is your college education in a way. When I have an RCD. What is that? Race car driver. I don't have a Ph.D., but I got an RCD. That comes from years of racing, actually going out there and doing it, learning about your race car, working on your race car, learning the craft out there. But most importantly having fun. That's the biggest thing. When you're racing out here at this level, don't make it too serious, right? You need to try hard, don't get me wrong, but you need to enjoy it and have fun.
You never know when that's going to end. Not everyone gets the opportunity to drive a race car, get to push a car as hard as you possibly can and race it. That's cool. You never know when that's going to end. You got to always enjoy what you're doing. If you don't enjoy it, stop, because that's the most fun you're ever going to have driving a race car is right here. It eventually turns into a job. Don't get me wrong, I love my job. There's a lot more that goes into this than going and having fun. It's not a hobby any more. At this level it should be a hobby, something you do with your family, to enjoy that, but also take the opportunity to learn as much as possible to work on your RCD, yep.
THE MODERATOR: Joey, congratulations on the victory. Good luck next week in Austin, Texas.
JOEY LOGANO: Thank you very much. See you there.