Kentucky: Joey Logano preview

JOEY LOGANO Hitting the Pavement -- Finally HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 10, 2008) -- With all due respect to the concept of the concrete racing oval, recently turned 18-year-old Joey Logano is ready to hit the pavement -- literally -- when he...

Hitting the Pavement -- Finally

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 10, 2008) -- With all due respect to the concept of the concrete racing oval, recently turned 18-year-old Joey Logano is ready to hit the pavement -- literally -- when he takes the No. 20 GameStop Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) to Kentucky Speedway in Sparta for Saturday night's Meijer 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

It will be Logano's third career Nationwide Series start in as many weeks and his first on asphalt after back-to-back weekends making headlines on concrete layouts -- the infamous Monster Mile in Dover, Del., on May 31 and the ever-tricky Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Tenn., last Saturday.

Logano's highly anticipated series debut at Dover came just a week after his 18th birthday and resulted in a sixth-place finish that, while disappointing to the young driver from Middletown, Conn., drew the praises of fellow competitors and NASCAR pundits alike. He followed that up in head-turning fashion last Saturday by qualifying the No. 20 GameStop Toyota on the pole at Nashville. Logano led twice during the opening stages of that race for 64 laps before a tap from another car sent him spinning along the frontstretch and into the wall, leaving him with a 31st-place finish and a not-so-satisfying feeling.

This Saturday night's 300-mile race on Kentucky Speedway's 1.5-mile asphalt tri-oval not only puts Logano on a much more familiar surface, it also takes him to another track where he's tested the current-generation NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car over the past year for JGR.

Despite the testing experience at Kentucky, the Meijer 300 marks Logano's first time on the track in a Nationwide Series car. It raises the question of whether his lessons learned in the Sprint Cup car will apply to his GameStop Toyota, or if he'll have to wipe the slate clean after all.

Such were the circumstances last weekend at Nashville, as Logano had logged hundreds of testing laps on that concrete tri-oval before making his first appearance there in a Nationwide Series car. The results, particularly in qualifying, were not too shabby.

If nothing else, Logano has quickly shown the racing world he's nothing if not a tremendously quick study. And all who know the young driving phenom know he not only hopes to pass his next test at Kentucky Speedway with flying colors, he's counting on it.

Joey Logano -- Driver, No. 20 GameStop NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Kentucky

You've had your first two Nationwide Series starts on concrete, and now you finally get to run on asphalt at Kentucky this weekend. Does that put you on a more favorable surface for the first time in a Nationwide Series car, or are you looking forward to just getting on a 1.5-mile oval in competition for the first time?

"I've been to Kentucky only a couple of times in the Sprint Cup car. I've learned quickly that the Nationwide Series car is so much different that there isn't much that applies to each other. Kentucky is a really wide race track and a fast one. I think it's going to be a lot of fun and I'm really looking forward to seeing how it races, since I've only just tested there before. The intermediate tracks are fun to race on. At those kinds of tracks, you can get a run down the whole straightaway and there's room throughout the corner to pass, if you get a good run. The only difference is that you can get an aero-tight or aero-loose feeling, so those are some of the different things that go through your head when you get to those fast intermediate tracks."

Kentucky, much like Nashville, is a track where you've tested in a Sprint Cup car. When you arrived at Nashville, you said that the cars were so much different that not much of what you learned there applied. Will you head into Kentucky with a different attitude because of your success in qualifying at Nashville and what you learned there?

"Yes, definitely. When I showed up at Nashville, I was expecting to run the same line I did in the Cup car and it wasn't even close. One of the biggest things at Nashville was getting used to the track again. I tested there who knows how many times in a Cup car, but compared to a Nationwide car, it is a huge difference. The line was completely different and you don't use nearly as much brake and a lot more throttle. Once I got used to that, we got working on the car and got it close to where I wanted it. I'm expecting to have to relearn Kentucky this weekend, as well. Those Cup cars have so much horsepower to pull you out of the hole you create when you go into the corner and hit the brakes to turn. In the Nationwide Series car, you don't have that because you need to do whatever you can to keep your momentum going."

How much have you learned in terms of communication with crew chief Dave Rogers over the first few weeks? Has the communication improved?

"I think we made a huge improvement this past week. Compared to Dover, we got the car so much better. We finally got the car during practice to where I said it was really good. We talk about things a lot. On Monday after Nashville, we talked for over two hours about things. We already have a great relationship and I've learned so much from him in a short time. He's such a smart guy with so much experience. He's really the perfect guy to have going to these race tracks I've never been to before in the Nationwide Series. It seems like we are really starting to mesh now."

Dave Rogers -- Crew Chief, No. 20 GameStop NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing

Now that you've had two races under your belt with Logano, what did you learn at Dover and Nashville about each other in terms of communication that will help you at Kentucky?

"I'm looking forward to going to Kentucky. Despite the end result, we are coming off a solid week at Nashville. We had a fast race car. We won Joey's first Nationwide Series pole and we led a number of laps. Joey and I continued to improve our communication and I feel that we proved that we could take off from where we ended with the veterans in our race car. Kentucky will mark Joey's first race at a 1.5-mile track. He and I understand that there may be some type of learning curve, but we both feel comfortable going into this weekend. The setup in our Dover car was not that good off the truck and we were able to work through that for a very respectable finish. Joey thought he knew what he was getting into at Nashville because of the number of laps he turned there testing our JGR Sprint Cup car there. But he quickly learned that he needed to relearn Nashville because of the differences between the current Nationwide car and the new Sprint Cup car. Together, I think we've learned some valuable lessons over the past two weeks that will pay dividends this weekend at Kentucky. We're looking forward to getting to the track."

-credit: jgr

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Drivers Joey Logano
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing