News & Media

From the Notebook: Chase berth not out of reach for Logano

July 28, 2011, Dave Rodman,

From the Notebook: 48 crew change; Wise turns to Hmiel; Busch to miss LOR

Joey Logano, though mired in a Sprint Cup season that so far has delivered far less than what his 2010 closing promised, is still halfway to possibly snagging a berth in the Chase.

Logano scored eight top-11 finishes in the last 11 races last season, including five top-fives. And while he has just five top-10s in this season's first 19 races, three of them have come in his past four starts, and he's 18th in the standings.

On the uptick

Joey Logano has fared much better in the past nine races than he did in the first 10.

Las Vegas23Kansas23

If he were to win this weekend's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he'd be locked -- at least for the short term -- into the 12-man Chase field.

Logano credits his own personal growth and adjustments he made in that direction for his current success -- most recently marked by a fourth-place run at New Hampshire.

"Yeah, [this can be the start of a real effective run for us]," Logano said on pit road at New Hampshire. "I think the last four weeks we've done a really good job. At Kentucky [14th-place finish] we did a good job, but the cautions didn't fall our way."

Logano didn't mince words when he was asked what he might have done to affect the turnaround.

"You just keep working hard, and you look at every situation possible that can make yourself better and make your team better -- and that's looking way, way outside the box," Logano said. "I talked to a lot of people and struggled a lot. It ain't easy, it's been tough but it's good to come [to New Hampshire] and have a good finish. That puts a smile back on my face.

Logano hesitated a moment to accept congratulations and a handshake from his team owner, Joe Gibbs, before he continued.

"It's just normal stuff -- stuff that a typical athlete would do, as far as mentally being there, better; and learning how to deal with people better," Logano said. "It's kind of what I think has turned us around -- talking to people and telling them what you want ...and keeping a positive attitude on a bad day.

"There were times [at New Hampshire] that we could have thrown this day away. And I think that's the biggest difference now -- that we can turn a bad day around. And that's a big deal."

Logano's crew chief, Greg Zipadelli, concurred his driver's assessment.

""It was important that we kept our momentum going, because there's a bunch of them that are close to us in the points and that's what we're looking for, to keep moving up," Zipadelli, like Logano a New England native, said on pit road at NHMS, obviously enjoying his home-track success. "You have to put a lot of [bad experiences] that happened in the past behind you and I think [Logano] has been able to do that.

"We've done a little bit of testing last month and I think that helped us a little bit. We've had some good runs -- we went to Sonoma and sat on the pole, came back and had a good race and nobody gave him that and I think that was a big confidence booster to him, as it was to all of us.

"It picked us up a little bit and it picked him up a little bit. It's been a tough first third of the season. It's kind of been pretty crappy for us."

Logano's only previous Cup victory came on the flat, 1-mile oval at New Hampshire, so his prospects for the next two weeks, Indy and Pocono, are decent.

Knaus makes sixth pre-race crew change

Five-time defending Cup championship crew chief Chad Knaus appeared on SPEED's Race Hub earlier this week and spoke of the recent spate of crew chief changes around him in the Sprint Cup garage, as well as a possible change to his driver's over-the-wall crew for this weekend's Brickyard 400.

On Thursday, no less than the sixth pre-race crew roster change this season for Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was announced, the fifth involving the front-tire changer position where three men have worked. In addition, Knaus has made mid-race changes this season as he deemed necessary.

For Indianapolis, Dave Collins will work with front-tire carrier R.J. Barnett on that end of Johnson's car. Barnett was involved in the other change this season, as he replaced 2010 holdover carrier Art Simmons at Kansas. The other four positions have remained static all season.

At the front-tire changer position, Colin Fambrough started the season there, was replaced by Camron Waugh for Race 10, at Dover, before Fambrough stepped back in at Charlotte for one race. Waugh replaced him for Kansas and worked until Fambrough reclaimed the spot for New Hampshire.

Johnson questioned his pit stops after the New Hampshire race and Knaus this week plugged in Collins, his third pre-event front changer. Earlier, Knaus talked about Chase pressure dictating crew chief swaps -- six of which were made in recent weeks.

"I don't know that [crew chief changes] are the pressure of the Chase as much as it is, that teams that think they might not make the Chase are making changes now because they might not be able to capitalize on what it is they're trying to do, to win the championship," Knaus said. "They want to see how the crew chief works and gels with the driver, and try to get that rolling before the end of the season, so if it doesn't work out they have a chance to change again before the end of the season."

* Head2Head: Johnson's pit comments cause for concern?

Wise partners with, praises Hmiel

Nationwide Series newcomer Josh Wise has had some definite flashes of promise in his forays with JR Motorsports but his best shot for a good finish -- even a win -- comes Saturday night at Lucas Oil Raceway.

Wise, a former USAC open-wheel champion, has plenty of experience and some success at LOR. He'll warm up for his 65th Nationwide start in Thursday night's USAC Silver Crown main event.

And he's most thrilled to be trading on the expertise of his open-wheel car's former pilot, Shane Hmiel. Hmiel, who's confined to a wheelchair as he continues to recover from critical injuries suffered in a Silver Crown crash in the fall of 2010, will be at LOR to serve as Wise's crew chief, the Riverside, Calif., native said.

"Shane was so good at what he knew about these [USAC] cars and what he was able to do, not only driving them but also helping set them up," Wise said. "I'm really looking forward to having him there, working with him and taking advantage of that expertise."

* Wise making most of opportunities

* Story of Shane Hmiel: Part 1 | Part 2

Busch the racer will miss Lucas Oil Raceway

Asked if "Kyle Busch the racer" would miss the opportunity to race this weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway, Busch didn't hesitate.

"Oh sure, I wish I was going there and running, but unfortunately I let Josh Richards run my truck and Michael McDowell run my Nationwide car," Busch said. "But I'll be watching it on TV, and of course cheering our guys on.

"I'd wish to see the race track come back [on the schedule]. I know Lucas Oil just bought title sponsorship of the race track and they'd like to see those races come back, because that's a big part of their year -- the NASCAR races there."

* Caraviello: Fond goodbye to little track by the cornfield

* Inside NASCAR: Break from tradition to rebuild Brickyard