All Eyes on the Championship at Homestead
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 12, 2008) -- Clinching NASCAR championships for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) is nothing new for 18-year-old driving sensation Joey Logano.
In September 2007, Logano became the first rookie and the youngest driver ever to win his first NASCAR Camping World Series East championship and the fourth overall title for JGR.
This weekend, behind the wheel of the No. 20 DLP® HDTV Toyota Camry, Logano can clinch JGR's first-ever NASCAR Nationwide Series championship during Saturday's season-ending Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The No. 20 team, behind nine Nationwide Series victories at the hands of Logano and JGR Sprint Cup Series regulars Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, currently sits atop the owner standings with a 28-point lead over the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet that will be driven this weekend by Clint Bowyer. Also within striking distance is the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Carl Edwards, which sits in third place in the owner standings, 84 points behind the No. 20 team.
With the series championship on the line, and a modest point lead in hand heading into the final race of the season on the 1.5-mile oval, it's safe to say Logano and the No. 20 team won't necessarily be playing it safe come Saturday afternoon.
For starters, there is plenty of motivation for the Middletown, Conn., native and his team to wage an all-out effort to close out 2008 just the way it began -- with Stewart's dominating victory just up the road at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February, which JGR's two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion followed up the very next weekend with another dominating victory at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
A victory Saturday would be the 10th of the season for the No. 20 DLP HDTV team and would not only clinch the 2008 owner championship in style, it would equal the Nationwide Series-high 10 wins already logged this season by JGR's No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota team. From a historical perspective, it would also conclude JGR's record-setting season with 20 wins overall -- more than any other organization has won in a single season in Nationwide Series competition.
For Logano, who also made history this past June when he became the youngest driver ever -- at 18 years, 21 days -- to win a Nationwide Series event by driving the No. 20 JGR Toyota to victory at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta in only his third career start, there's no better way to close the book on one of the most prolific seasons in racing history by delivering JGR its first Nationwide Series title.
Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 DLP® HDTV NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Homestead-Miami Speedway
You are still 28 points ahead of the No. 2 team for the Nationwide Series owner championship. What is the focus this weekend?
"One of goals of this team all year and since I've been in the car has been to win the owner championship for JGR. We've really figured out a lot over the last several weeks with our intermediate track cars and have them a little bit more to our liking. Really starting at Charlotte, I've been very happy with each car we've been able to bring to the race track. Even last week at Phoenix, we had a great car, but we were on old tires there at the end and turned out to be a sitting duck. You kind of have to look at the big picture and know that we've been running well, but maybe not getting exactly the results that we want. I haven't been racing in this series for very long, but one thing I've learned from other places I've been is that you can't worry about what the rest of the guys are doing. Otherwise, you aren't concentrating on getting your stuff better. We can't worry about what the (No.) 2 car is doing, but just focus on getting our car the best it can be to run up front and have a chance to win. The points will take care of themselves from there."
Homestead is yet again another place where you've never raced before. Much like other places you haven't seen before, are you playing video games to get familiar with Homestead?
"I always like to get on my simulation game or 'NASCAR 09' to take a good look at a new track. It's really more to get familiar with the track than anything. There's really no substitute for the real thing, but at least you can get down the basics so you aren't flying totally blind. We've been watching last year's race on tape, as well, to see what I can pick up from there -- where guys were running, stuff like that. I'm told Homestead is most like a smaller Michigan. There are multiple grooves and it sounds like a fun place. We've been able to gain on the mile-and-a-half tracks, recently, so even though I've never been there, I still feel good that the guys at the shop will have the setup close even before the car leaves the shop."
What would it mean to be able to help JGR and the No. 20 team secure the owner title?
"It would be a big deal for sure. Those guys in the JGR Nationwide shop work harder than any group that I've seen before. They've kind of proven that hard work pays off with what they've done this year -- both the 18 and the 20 guys. Even when we don't have our normal crew chiefs at the track we are still strong. Winning the owners title would be big for the 20 guys, but really everyone in that Nationwide Series shop feels a sense of pride in what they've been able to do this year. I'm just proud to be able to drive for those guys, and we'll try our best this weekend to run up front and hope things fall right for us. We're going to do our best to finish our season off right with DLP on the car this weekend."
Chassis No. 2089: This chassis will make its second NASCAR Nationwide Series appearance in Saturday's Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Its first start came last month at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., where Joey Logano qualified fourth and finished 14th after leading 32 of 200 laps. A mid-race brush with the outside SAFER barrier took Logano out of contention in that event.