JOEY LOGANO Heard it Through the Grapevine HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 28, 2008) -- Deep in the heart of Texas, smack in the fictional land of TV's Friday Night Lights, in the spirit of college football's currently top-ranked Texas ...
Heard it Through the Grapevine
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 28, 2008) -- Deep in the heart of Texas, smack in the fictional land of TV's Friday Night Lights, in the spirit of college football's currently top-ranked Texas Longhorns, Saturday's O'Reilly Challenge NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth will be a homecoming, of sorts, for Joey Logano and the No. 20 GameStop Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR).
First off, the 18-year-old Logano, who hails from Middletown, Conn., will make his 17th Nationwide Series start in search of his second career victory when he tackles the high-banked, 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval for the first time. He'll do it a mere 20 minutes out Highway 114 from the worldwide headquarters of sponsor GameStop, located in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Grapevine.
Like the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, stands behind its beloved Panthers each Friday night of the high school season, the real-life employees of GameStop from over in Grapevine will be heard loud and clear come Saturday afternoon in hopes of seeing their teen driving sensation drive the GameStop Toyota to victory lane in-person.
And, like the powerhouse Longhorns from down the road in Austin currently sit atop the college football rankings for the third consecutive week, Logano's No. 20 JGR Toyota team last weekend regained the top spot in the Nationwide Series owner point standings with three races to go.
Logano rallied for a top-five finish in the final laps at Memphis Motorsports Park in Millington, Tenn., last Saturday to put the No. 20 team back in the owner championship lead, 39 points ahead of the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. He and his teammates are in playoff form as they look to secure JGR's first Nationwide Series crown throughout the season's final three events.
That all begins this weekend at the very track where in the sprint Logano's JGR teammate, Kyle Busch, gave the No. 18 Toyota its first-ever Nationwide Series win and the first for another Dallas-Fort Worth area based sponsor, Texas Instruments' DLP HDTV brand. Logano turned 18 seven weeks later, making him eligible to compete in NASCAR's top-three series, and it wasn't long before he became a fixture in JGR's Nationwide Series victory march of 2008 -- currently at 18 wins and counting between its Nos. 18 and 20 Toyotas combined.
Logano scored his milestone first career Nationwide Series win in only his third career start June 14 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, one week after he qualified on the pole for the very first time in his second start at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway. The victory at Kentucky made him the youngest winner -- at 18 years, 21 days -- in Nationwide Series history, and he joined JGR teammates Tony Stewart (five), Denny Hamlin (two) and Kyle Busch (one) as winners in the No. 20 Toyota this season. Last Saturday's top-five finish at Memphis was Logano's fourth top-five in his 16 starts, and his 11th top-10. He's led six of those 16 races for a total of 256 laps.
With the hometown GameStop contingent rooting them on this Saturday at Texas, Logano and the No. 20 team are hoping to continue exhibiting the championship form that's kept them at or near the top of the standings. Thirty-two races down, just three to go.
Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 GameStop NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Texas Motor Speedway
GameStop, who has sponsored you for almost all of your Nationwide Series races this season, is located about 20 miles down the road from Texas Motor Speedway in Grapevine. What would it mean to have a good show for them in their backyard?
"It would be cool to get to victory lane at Texas, in GameStop's hometown race. We've got a pretty cool "Call of Duty 4" paint scheme on the car this weekend, much like the one we had at Bristol. We have a couple of appearances with GameStop, so it will be nice to see them and do well in their hometown. We really have our mile-and-a-half program back to where I'm driving the kind of race cars that I like. We had a really good car at Charlotte, so we hit on something there, so why mess it up? If we can run like we did in Charlotte, we'll have a good day. We've got the Kentucky-winning car back this weekend, and it's a car that I've been comfortable in from the start and got my first Nationwide Series win in."
You are heading into your 17th Nationwide Series race with 11 top-10 finishes and a win. What's the biggest thing you've learned so far in the Nationwide Series this season?
"I've learned a bunch of little things. The biggest has been when to race and when not to race. There's no one thing, other than that. I've learned a lot about the cars and the different race tracks. Mark Martin told me about when you can race and when you take it easy, but you really don't learn that until you get to do it and get a feel for the right time to run hard and the right time to take it easy on your equipment. There are a lot of little things, but you can't really point to one big thing either."
You had never seen the Memphis race track before last weekend before your qualifying lap, but you moved up in the race rather quickly. How much confidence did you pick up by improving positions like you did and running up front, there?
"It was a lot of fun. I'd never seen the track before qualifying, so I went out there and looked a bit lost for two laps. But we picked up some spots right at the start of the race and made an early pit stop and that helped us pick up even more spots on fresh tires. We had a long green-flag run and it trapped a lot of cars down a lap, so we were able to run well and not go a lap down. I learned a lot about the race track once we got going. I had to learn what I needed from my race car and Doug (Hewitt) and all the GameStop guys gave me what I needed. Toward the end, we weren't going to catch Carl (Edwards), so we came in and put on tires and it didn't work out. Still, we ended up with a top-five and if we can run like we did last week at a track I've never been at, I'm hoping we can translate that to Texas this weekend and have another good run."
With the strong finish at Memphis last week you took back over the owner points lead from the No. 2 car. Is the focus over the last three races to secure the owner title?
"One of our big goals is to win the owner championship for JGR. But to get a few more wins would be really cool, too. We just have to keep doing the same thing that we've been doing. The 20 team got the big points lead this year by winning a bunch of races, so we just need to keep doing that and the owner title will take care of itself. You can't worry about what the 2 car is doing, but just focus on what we need to do to run up front and win races."
What would it mean to you personally to be able to help JGR and the No. 20 team secure the owner's title?
"That would be awesome. They just work so hard. Our guys in the Nationwide Series shop at JGR are one of the hardest working groups out there. It just shows in everything they do. Even when we don't have our crew chief at the track we are still running well and working hard. If we could win that championship, that would be awesome."