DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Joey Logano isn’t just starting over with a new team this season, he admits he’s starting over in terms of what it means to be the leader of a team.
Thursday at the Daytona International Speedway Logano talked about his season, his run last weekend, as well as revealing it feels like he has a team that’s his and his alone, something that contributes to the success the 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford has had this season.
“I feel like it’s my team. These are my guys and we’ve got each other’s backs,” said Logano. “I’m for whatever they need, but that leadership and that skill you have to learn, I don’t know how else I was supposed to learn.
“I’m 18-years-old when I started and even when you’re 21-years-old it’s very difficult, especially when you didn’t have the results that you wanted and you’re working with guys that have been doing this for a long time is very hard.”
Debuting with Joe Gibbs Racing as a teenager, Logano was hailed as the next Jeff Gordon when he took over the championship seat left by Tony Stewart. That team was used to winning races and contending for titles, while Logano was just attempting to get seat time and log laps.
With a few years – and two career wins – under his belt now, Logano’s away from that instant championship pressure. New scenery at Penske Racing has been good for the youngster, who says that he and crew chief Todd Gordon are on the same page, the team is willing to put in the work, log miles to go test instead of being home during the middle of the week.
During the week at the shop, downtime at the track and after practice, Logano says he and Gordon are constantly talking. Building their chemistry and spending the extra time together in order to understand where the other is coming from, which helps make the car go faster.
“They’re out there working and if they’re working, I need to be working,” said Logano.
“There are a lot of different ways you can lead. You can lead by example, and I think that’s probably the best way, but you have to be somewhat of a motivator and somehow be the glue that holds everything together.”
He’s not there yet, but Logano feels he’s getting better at being the leader of the team. What he has done though, is help lead the team to a turnaround season. They haven’t won, yet, but the performance during the race is what has attention shifting toward the team.
Logano ran top five during a portion of last weekend’s race in Kentucky, chasing Jimmie Johnson. The performance is improving for the team, the finishes are have now begun to come together, too. Not since Darlington in May has Logano finished outside the top 11. He comes Daytona with six straight top 11 finishes.
“It’s hard to put a key to it, but I think it’s just the whole team,” said Logano, when asked about the team’s recent hot streak.
“I think we’re all just fighting together and that’s the biggest thing is that we’ve got each other’s backs. There are no fingers pointing at anybody and we’ve been consistent. If there’s been one key, we’ve been consistent lately and we’ve been finishing where we should be finishing.
“We’ve been maximizing our finishes to where we’ve been running lately and that’s the most important thing, but being able to do that takes a whole team and that’s the tough part.”
The consistency has paid dividends for Logano in the point standings. While others are fighting for the Wild Card spots, Logano has been focused on making the Chase through being one of the top 10 drivers. He’s moved from 19th to 10th in points in just the last seven weeks, there’s nine races to go before the Chase starts.
“We’re right on the edge. We’re two points from being 12th, so it is nice to say we’re in it right now, but getting through Daytona is a big obstacle,” Logano noted. “There is a lot of stuff we can’t control here, but if something does happen, we have to be strong and figure out how to get the best finish we can like we’ve been doing.
“That’s the biggest thing we’ve been doing is just making sure we have the best finish no matter what’s going on. We’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing and if the opportunity comes up to win a race, we have to take that and take a shot to win it.”