Joey Logano’s track record on new challenges ‘unparalleled’

AVONDALE, Ariz. – As NASCAR continues to leap forward in the second year of the Next Gen car and introduce new tracks to the Cup Series circuit, one driver has remained on top of his game.

Team Penske’s Joey Logano has developed a knack for being the top dog when faced with change.

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Two seasons ago, he scored the victory in the inaugural event on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway. More impressively, Logano was the Pied Piper of the Next Gen era, winning the first race with the car at the Busch Light Clash inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. That win at the Clash evolved into Logano grabbing the checkered flag in the first Cup race at World Wide Technology and closing out 2022 as the first Cup champion with the Next Gen vehicle.

Logano credits his No. 22 team for the ability to adapt so well.

“It’s a lot of the team if I’m being honest,” Logano, the two-time Cup Series champion, said. “As a team, I think we’re able to have a lot of different discussions around things and even during the race we can adapt as we see things. For whatever reason, change has been good for us.”

Sunday’s United Rentals Work United 500 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will see a change to how the cars race as the spoiler was reduced from 4 inches to 2 inches as well as updates underneath the car to reduce downforce by around 30%. With a new challenge for drivers, it’s no surprise that Logano is a co-favorite to win at Phoenix Raceway.

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Kyle Larson, the 2021 Cup Series champion, is no stranger to succeeding in new environments. He dominated in his first season with Hendrick Motorsports, winning 10 races en route to his first title including the inaugural Cup race at Nashville Superspeedway.

While not discussed formally among the team, Larson has kept his eye on Logano’s success with change.

“I’ve noticed that. I mean he wins the first race in the Next Gen car, he won the first race at Gateway. Like when there’s a new something, whether it be aero package or track, he’s usually winning or contending,” Larson said. “I think it shows … not just him … I think, yes, he beats his teammates so like he’s doing a better job but even the team [Penske] has done a good job in the past of pairing for something new. It takes a combination of things and Joey’s an extremely great race car driver and Penske’s an extremely team too across all forms of racing.”

Wood Brothers Racing driver Harrison Burton has been challenged at the beginning of his Cup Series career. Burton’s said he’s had to learn on the fly when his team deliberates entering weeks that are new to Cup drivers. He said it’s made him more comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and having a technical alliance with Penske, he’s been able to learn from Logano.

Joey Logano speaks to Ryan Blaney on pit road
Meg Oliphant | Getty Images

“I watch him pretty closely to see how he prepares for these things,” Burton said. “I think he treats it like any other weekend and he’s a really confident driver as he should be, he’s a two-time Cup champion. The biggest thing is I think he shows up and is prepared and is one of the hardest-working guys I’ve been around for sure. You add that with confidence and talent and good things happen.”

Logano’s teammate Austin Cindric won the Daytona 500 last year to open his rookie campaign in the Cup Series. He credited the prep work done by both Penske and Logano as to why they perform at their best with unknowns.

“Obviously Joey’s track record on new experiences and new challenges is pretty unparalleled,” Cindric, the second-year Cup driver, said. “You have to have the right homework on the car side just as much on the driver side. I think between Team Penske and the work that Joey does that’s a pretty hard combination to beat.

“More than anything else if you give Joey a chance to win the race, he’s probably gonna do it. When you look at the times we’ve been dominant as a company, coming to races last year, he was the guy to win the race because I feel like when he tastes blood he goes for it.”