Logano looks for a happy homecoming
July 11, 2014, Pat DeCola, NASCAR.com
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LOUDON, N.H. -- NBA superstar LeBron James announced Friday that he was leaving the Miami Heat to return home to his Akron, Ohio, roots and rejoin the team that drafted him, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
As far as the NASCAR world is concerned, there was another homecoming that was also noteworthy.
With the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend, Joey Logano, a Middletown, Connecticut, native, returns to what he considers his home track. Logano picked up his first Cup win here in 2009 at the ripe young age of 19 years, 1 month and 4 days old -- which still stands as the record for youngest driver ever to win a Cup race -- making the Magic Mile a special, albeit a challenging, place for the Team Penske driver.
"I feel good about (this weekend)," said Logano, currently sixth in points. "This track is one of the tougher race tracks for me, but it is a special race track for me and I consider it my home track not growing up too far from here. I watched my first Cup race here and won my first Cup race here so it has always been special for me. We had a good test at Milwaukee (Mile) a couple weeks ago getting ready for this race and I think we are ready to go. We learned a couple things there that are a little different than we have normally done. We are going to get out of the box a little bit and try a few different things to try to wake up this AutoTrader.com Ford Fusion."
His No. 22 was forcibly awakened 30 minutes into opening practice when he had a left rear tire go down, sending the Ford Fusion careening into the outside wall. Logano was evaluated and released from the infield care center with no injuries, but his ride wasn't so fortunate. He will be in a backup car for Sunday's Camping World RV Sales 301 (1 p.m. ET, TNT).
"The same exact thing happened in this race last year. I wasn't even close to saving that. I needed about 500 more yards of straightaway to save that one," Logano said. "Unfortunately, we will have to get the second AutoTrader.com Fusion out here and try to get it tuned up for the race. It is a bummer. I felt like our car was pretty good. It wasn't great, but we were getting closer and I felt like we were a top-five car. Hopefully, the other one is just as good. Team Penske does a great job of making these cars consistent so I am not too worried about it."
Logano was able to get back out for the final few minutes of opening practice, placing 11th overall with a best speed of 134.648 mph. He ran a total of 16 laps, three of which came in the backup, so things aren't looking as bleak as they could be as he attempts to rebound from a 40th-place finish in this race last year.
Another thing he's not worried about: making his second consecutive Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Logano is one of five drivers who can officially clinch a top-30 position in the standings and qualify for the Chase with multiple wins, the others being Dale Earnhardt Jr. (two wins), Jimmie Johnson (three wins) Jeff Gordon (one win) and teammate Brad Keselowski (two wins.)
Given his multiple victories through the season's first 18 races, it wasn't much of a concern to begin with.
"We kind of figured we were in with the two wins anyway so it doesn't really change much for us. We have been racing hard and racing for wins," Logano said. "This 22 team has been fast at each and every race track we have been to so far. It is hard not to have confidence. I know we can win at every one of them. We have to keep the momentum going. We have to keep those good finishes coming along and keep the momentum going and keep our guys ready to go when it comes to Chase time. That is the big time. We have to go out and win races and be there for Homestead.
"This time, being in (the Chase) so early we can kind of make sure guys are prepared for when it comes Chase time that we are not running behind the eight ball anymore, that we are ahead of it and ready to go."