Joey Logano doesn’t typically have many nerves before a race. It’s his job. Racing cars is his livelihood. But, the nerves in his brain were on overload into Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400.
See, it’s a wildcard race. A cut off race at that. One that would take place in the rain. Following how Saturdays Xfinity Series race went in Charlotte, Logano wasn’t very calm ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff race.
“I typically don’t get nervous before races, but this one had me pretty nervous because, I said earlier before the race, I’ve never felt less prepared for the battle ahead,” Logano said.
“Typically a guy over-prepares, tries to make sure he see everything coming at me before it happens. But this one I couldn’t do it. I just didn’t know what it was going to be. I asked as many questions to Austin Cindric, watched the Xfinity race yesterday from a suite. I did everything I felt like I could do and I still didn’t feel comfortable, especially being on the cut line of what was going to happen.”
Logano, said the conditions on Sunday were the big reason to why things went better than Saturday. But, there’s still one thing to fix if we’re to race in the rain again.
“Yeah, I thought it went way better than I thought it would. I think yesterday for the Xfinity guys, that was an extreme case. That was probably too much rain.
“But today the only negative I saw of anything today is that they got to fix the running water. It never stopped running across the racetrack. If they can figure out a way to drain that better through three and four and a little bit down the backstretch into the rear chicane, you can fix that and we’re good. I don’t know how easy that is to fix. I’m not a construction guy. If they can fix that, good to go.”
Logano though, settled for second in his No. 22 Ford. He crossed the finish line 3.895 seconds behind race winner Chase Elliott.
“Just a great day,” Logano continued. “Executed the race as good as we could, with getting stage points, a few good restarts, really good pit stops kept us in the game, got us to second.
“I hate to say we’ll take second and be happy with second, but no one was going to beat that 9 car today, I can tell you that much. Geez, he’s smoking around here. Their road course stuff with Chase and Alan and those guys are light-years ahead of us. Not even close. They’re definitely booking. We got to figure out what that is. Probably their teammates are wondering the same thing.
“We just got to keep our heads down, focus on ourselves and keep making gains. We made some gains from Daytona, so we have to keep working at it. Hard to do without practice, but we’re making progress.”
But, it didn’t come without some tense moments. In the final stage, Kyle Busch was looking like he could win. That meant it could come down to Logano vs. Alex Bowman for the final spot. At the time, only one point separated them.
“I was obviously a little concerned as the 18 was pretty quick,” said Logano. “But obviously they went for it with the strategy call of leaving old tires on there. They had all their teammates to try to do the same thing to build a cushion. Smart move, I can’t blame them for that.
“We were able to get by him and put a little bit more distance between us and the 88. Felt more comfortable obviously. The worst-case scenario is the 18 won and we’d be racing the 88. It was kind of in that position for a minute, a little nerve-wracking, but cautions fell right and other things went the right way. Obviously a great strategy and great execution from Paul’s side as well.”
Logano now heads to the Round of 8 eyeing a second career championship. He’s in the midst of a strong run of momentum which has him confident.
“Right where I want to be,” said Logano.
“I feel great. We’ve had good speed. I look at Vegas, if we didn’t get the damage, get trapped down a lap there for a minute, we were really good there, capable of winning.
“I look at Martinsville as one of our best races. Texas wasn’t bad for us either. I feel great about where we’re at. I told my wife before we left, I just got to get through today. I feel like we got a good shot at getting to the Championship 4.
“This is such an unknown. This is what had my stomach in knots. Like I said, I’m glad to get through it. I feel really good about our chances.”
Logano said that he expects to be strong on all three tracks next round and expects to get to the final round by virtue of that. The thing is, it’s just hard to improve now without practice. It’s a guessing game.
“Without practice it’s hard to improve a whole bunch on your car,” said Logano. “But you have something to go back on to the last time we were at Kansas and Texas and Martinsville.
“I kind of look at those and say, We’re going to tune from where we were. I thought Kansas we were pretty good. We had a flat tire, ended up destroying our car there. But we were close.
“I feel pretty good about our 550 stuff now. If you asked me that 10 or 12 weeks ago, I’d say we were way off on 550s. Now I feel like we’re in the ballpark and competitive. It just took a little bit for Paul and I to understand what makes the car tick, right? What makes it tick with me? Without practice, that’s really hard to do.
“It’s something I’m proud of, coming here to the Roval for the first time together and having a solid run. I feel like every time we come back for the second time, we should get better. We have been getting better. That gives me confidence for the next few weeks.”