Fontana II: Joey Logano preview

JOEY LOGANO Draft Day HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 26, 2008) -- With the first pick in the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series draft, Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) has selected Joey Logano to drive the No. 20 Sprint Cup Toyota Camry starting next season. Well,...

Draft Day

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 26, 2008) -- With the first pick in the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series draft, Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) has selected Joey Logano to drive the No. 20 Sprint Cup Toyota Camry starting next season.

Well, it was like a draft, sort of. While it wasn't exactly the kind of draft he's accustomed to in the NFL, it doesn't mean that JGR team owner Joe Gibbs was any less pleased with his selection.

The three-time Super Bowl-winning former head coach of the NFL's Washington Redskins and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced on Monday that the talented 18-year old would be moving up into NASCAR's top series full-time in 2009. But unlike many of his draft days in the NFL, Gibbs has actually had Logano in the fold for quite some time, signing him to a development deal more than three years ago when he was just 15 years old.

While Gibbs couldn't be happier with the future now laid out for his young driver, he knows that his latest draft pick needs to focus on the task at hand starting with Saturday night's Camping World RV Service 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., where Logano will pilot the No. 20 GameStop Toyota.

As the Middletown, Conn., native heads west to Auto Club Speedway, he knows that a much different kind of draft will take place at the Southern California track. Just two weeks ago, Logano competed in his first race on a 2-mile oval and was able to bring home an impressive seventh-place finish at Auto Club Speedway's sister track, Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

Much like his ability to adapt to the draft despite having no racing experience at Michigan, Logano has proven that he can adapt to just about any track layout. He's already notched seven top-10 finishes in just 10 Nationwide Series starts this season. Of those 10 starts, he had only raced at four of those venues prior to this season, including the site of his first career Nationwide Series win, Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, where in just his third series start he became the youngest race winner in Nationwide Series history at the age of 18 years, 21 days.

So as Logano and Co. head to Auto Club Speedway for the first time this weekend, JGR's newest "draftee" will hope to use the draft on the high-speed track to his advantage en route to his second career Nationwide Series win.

Joey Logano -- No. 20 GameStop NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

While NASCAR doesn't exactly have a draft, what do you remember about first talking with Joe Gibbs and J.D. Gibbs before signing with them three years ago?

"I met J.D. (Gibbs) first at one of the conference rooms at JGR. We started talking and we had this little video that we showed J.D. about everything I had done before that. He said, 'I have to go get my dad,' and then Joe (Gibbs) came walking in and I thought, 'Wow, that's Joe Gibbs, right there.' He's a cool guy and he's just a normal guy and that's what's pretty neat about him. I have no problem going up to him and seeking advice since he has so much experience with people from coaching football. It's a big family at JGR, and that's what really attracted me to the organization and why I'm excited to be a part of JGR for years to come."

You ran your first race on a 2-mile oval two weeks ago at Michigan. What did you learn about the draft there that you can apply to a similar 2-mile oval this weekend?

"I learned a lot about aero-stuff at Michigan. I had been there before for an ARCA test, but you really can't simulate what it feels like to be racing with 42 other cars and how much the air really affects the handling of your car. I learned a lot at Michigan about what to do and where to run. The draft is really big at places like Michigan and California. You haul the mail and then you get right next to another car and it's like hitting the brakes."

There's been a lot of attention and pressure put on you in just a short time this year. Have those expectations almost become normal for you?

"I think I'd feel weird without the pressure because I've kind of gotten used to it. And if I didn't have the pressure, I'd think something would be wrong. I'm 100 percent cool with it. I go out there expecting to win. I go out there expecting my team to expect to win. I think that's what everyone is here for and that is what I want my team to be here for."

The trend over the last few years has seen drivers getting younger and younger. You've been one of those young guys from the time you started racing up until now. How have you handled that?

"A lot of the guys start so young, now. I started when I was five or six years old. Back then, people didn't start racing until they were 16. I'm 18 and I've been racing for 12 years, now. I feel that's where it's different. But if you look at all sports, they're getting younger and younger. I don't want to say that it probably wouldn't hurt, but I feel I'm ready and I think when the team feels you're ready, they're not going to put you out there not ready because that's not helping me and it's not helping the team, and it's just not the right thing to do. I've got a lot of confidence in everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing since there are so many good people who have won races and championships there. But at least for the rest of this season, I'm obviously focused on running well and winning races with my GameStop car here in the Nationwide Series."

The Car

Chassis No. 2081: This chassis was built during the off-season and will make its sixth start of the season in the Camping World RV Service 300 at Auto Club Speedway. Its first start came at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March, where Kyle Busch led five times for a race-high 153 laps before a broken right-front shock mount sent his car into the turn one retaining wall as Busch was leading handily. The impact knocked Busch out of contention for the win, but it did not inflict any permanent damage to Chassis No. 2081. After repairs were made, the No. 20 team brought the car back two weeks later to Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway where, again, Busch led four times for race high 125 laps before a spin with 62 laps remaining knocked him out of contention for the win and forced him to settle for a 16th-place result. Joe Gibbs Racing hung a new body on Chassis No. 2081 prior to its next outing in May at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, where Denny Hamlin started ninth and finished second. At Nashville in June, Chassis No. 2081 carried Joey Logano to his first career Nationwide Series pole. Logano then wheeled Chassis No. 2081 to lead twice for 64 laps before a tap from another car sent Logano spinning into the frontstretch wall and a 31st-place finish. From there, its next start came at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., with Tony Stewart at the wheel. There, it qualified second and finished ninth. In its most recent start, Chassis No. 2081 had another solid outing two weeks ago at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, where Stewart started seventh and finished third.

-credit: jgr

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Drivers Denny Hamlin , Joey Logano , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing