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Spotlight: Logano finds his comfort zone at Kentucky

July 06, 2011, Mark Aumann,

Sometimes the relationship between driver and track creates the perfect combination. That's certainly the case with Joey Logano and Kentucky Speedway. In three Nationwide Series visits since 2008, Logano's won the pole -- and the race -- every time out.

You can't do better than perfection, and yet Logano can look at each of those three races and see where things might have gone wrong.

In 2008, he and Kyle Busch were having a spirited battle at the front of the pack before Busch crashed with 35 laps to go, giving Logano his first Nationwide victory in just his third start in the series. The following year, Busch once again seemed to dominate the entire day, only to have Logano drive by with 10 laps remaining.

The only time Logano seemingly had the field covered was last season, when he led 106 of the 200 laps.

"It's not like we've been dominating," Logano said. "We've been fast, for sure. We've been fast at the right times. Two years ago with Carl, I think we had a good race going. My first time there with Kyle, we were going to have a good race. Last year was probably the most I've ever won there by. It's just something that clicks for me there, I guess."

When it comes to determining a secret to Logano's success, the 21-year-old Connecticut native admitted running a lot of test laps at Kentucky for Joe Gibbs Racing may have contributed to his comfort level, particularly on a track considered one of the bumpier on the circuit.

"This is a pretty bumpy track, but I think people have made it worse than it really is," Logano said. "The bumps in Turn 1 and 2 [at Las Vegas]? It's pretty equal to that. But everyone was making it out to be even worse than that, and it really wasn't."

The key to a fast lap at Kentucky, according to Logano, is finding a groove on the track where the car feels comfortable. That's important, particularly on the entrance to Turn 1, where running high is the longer way around, but it's smoother than running near the yellow line.

"On the bottom it's bumpy, on the top it's pretty smooth," Logano said. "So you can run about the same speed [in either lane]. You're hauling the mail into 1 pretty good.

"By the time you get to the wall, you're turning down in, so you've got that big dogleg in the center. It's one of those places where you barely get to the wall and you're turning down into the corner."

Logano making good transitions on and off the backstretch are paramount.

"Turn 2 is pretty flat but really, really wide," Logano said. "There's plenty of room to go out to the wall there. You'll use it up. Into Turn 3, it's flat and it seems like you're always loose getting into there. It's always really hard to carry a car into that turn. The cool thing is, I think we'll be moving up to the third and fourth lane during the race."

And carrying as much momentum from the final turn is critical, Logano said.

"Off of Turn 4, it banks up a lot and you've got plenty of runoff, plenty of room to run up to the wall," he said. "The really cool thing about that track is that it's really wide and there's plenty of racing room."

It seems like Logano would have every right to put a big red circle on the calendar next to the Kentucky date, but he said even though he's raced well there, it doesn't pay to be overconfident.

"I think you've got to focus in 100 percent on what's coming up next, prepare yourself the best way you can and not think about what's ahead," Logano said. "When you look at the schedule, you look at a few tracks coming up that you're more excited about than others. But I don't know what to expect about Kentucky.

"With this new Nationwide car, lord knows what we're going to have. I do know what I need. And I think that gives you confidence going in there. It's just a matter of us getting it."

And getting accustomed to the new chassis has been the biggest stumbling block for Logano in 2011. He's been good but not great, and perhaps the victory last weekend at Daytona is a sign of good things to come.

"We haven't been as strong with the new car since it was introduced," Logano said. "It's definitely a challenge, and something we've been trying to figure out. We're getting closer and closer.

"The bumps are a little worse with this car. You're hitting the splitter compared to hitting the valance. It changes everything."

The one thing Logano doesn't want to change is the choke hold he's had on Kentucky Speedway. Why would you want to mess with perfection?