Michigan: Joey Logano preview

JOEY LOGANO A Whole New World HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (August 12, 2008) -- There are plenty of teams that might worry about putting a rookie in their race car for the first time at a race track where he's never competed. On the other hand, Joe...

A Whole New World

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (August 12, 2008) -- There are plenty of teams that might worry about putting a rookie in their race car for the first time at a race track where he's never competed. On the other hand, Joe Gibbs Racing's (JGR) Joey Logano isn't your typical rookie driver.

The 18-year-old driving phenom, who's already scored his first Nationwide Series win, a pair of runner-up finishes and six top-10s in just eight career Nationwide Series starts, makes his debut behind the wheel of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for JGR and heads to the Irish Hills of Michigan and the two-mile Michigan International Speedway (MIS) oval in Brooklyn for the first time for Saturday's Carfax 250 Nationwide Series race.

Time and again, Logano has shown the ability to adapt quickly since joining the Nationwide Series shortly after his 18th birthday. In his eight starts, the native of Middletown, Conn., competed at five tracks for the first time. In just his third Nationwide Series start, Logano brought home his first series victory at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, where he tested once but never raced. Even more extreme was the July event at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., a quirky, 1.25-mile oval he had never seen prior to his arrival but where he still managed to bring home a solid runner-up finish behind Sprint Cup veteran Carl Edwards.

As was the case in Kentucky, Logano has tested at Michigan, where he wheeled an ARCA RE/MAX Series car in a 2006 test.

And adding to his list of firsts this weekend at MIS, Logano will also have Z-Line Designs, the San Ramon, Calif.-based designer and import manufacturer of ready-to-assemble furniture -- on board for the first time. Logano will hope to join teammates Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch as drivers who have won in the black and red Z-Line Designs colors this season.

For the No. 18 Z-Line Designs team, the Carfax 250 will be the first event since the part-time team won back-to-back races with Busch at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., and O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis. Even better news for the No. 18 team, led by crew chief Jason Ratcliff, is that they'll compete in the remaining 11 races on the Nationwide Series schedule.

Will it be a case of new team, new track, new sponsor and a new trophy for Logano at MIS? He's done it before and certainly has the potential to do it again.

Joey Logano, driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Michigan

You will be competing in your first race on a two-mile oval at Michigan. What is your outlook for the upcoming weekend?

"I've actually been there before, when I tested an ARCA car there in 2006. I like Michigan a lot. It's a cool race track because you can move around a lot, even when I tested there. I'm really looking forward to racing there because there are a lot of different grooves, and it should be a lot of fun. We'll have to see how the horsepower rule change will affect us there. We just have no idea how that changes things for us, or if it does at all. So I'm really looking forward to Michigan for a lot of reasons."

You've had road course races the last two weeks. Are you excited to get back on ovals, where you are more comfortable?

"I'm definitely eager to get back on an oval. Road courses are a nice change of pace, but I just have fun racing on ovals. The road courses are fun because they are different and you get out of the normal everyday routine. But, I'm a circle track driver, I guess, and that's more like what I'm used to. Racing at Michigan will be fairly similar to Kentucky in that both tracks are fast, but Michigan has even more grooves. I've never really raced at Michigan, so there's some aspect that I'm not familiar with. But I do know that I'll need to keep some air under that nose to keep the car turning. Those kinds of tracks are fun to race for me."

You will be making your first and only start in the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota at Michigan. What are your expectations with crew chief Jason Ratcliff and everyone on the No. 18 team?

"It's going to be different, for sure. But I know all the guys on the 18 team really well. I get along really well with Jason Ratcliff, as well, so I'm really looking forward to getting in the Z-Line car for those guys. I'm sure we'll have a good car. It's not like that 18 team has been slacking, that's for sure. They've won their share of races and have won the last two they've run. As a driver, you are always excited to get in a car that you know has a great chance to go to victory lane. Whether that's the 20 car the rest of the year, or the Z-Line Designs car at Michigan, I know I'm going to have a great shot at winning, and that's all that matters to me."

Jason Ratcliff, crew chief of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Michigan

You have Joey Logano in the Z-Line Designs car this weekend. How does that change how you approach things at Michigan?

"Even though he's never been on a two-mile oval, he won a race at Kentucky earlier this year and that's almost as big and almost as fast as Michigan. With a driver who has a much talent as Joey, I don't think it will take him too long to adapt. I'm looking forward to working with Joey. There's going to be some things we are going to have to approach differently than we do with Kyle (Busch). The small changes we have to make to get him comfortable shouldn't be a problem. It's probably going to be the only race we run with Joey, so it would be that much more gratifying if we could go out there and win it with him. I think Joey and Kyle are probably closer in driving styles than any other two drivers we currently have at JGR. I thought I would have to set up a loose race car for Kyle, but Dave (Rogers, No. 20 crew chief) claims that Kyle would get in one of Joey's cars and say it was too loose for him. Joey likes a car to be free and he can drive it that way. So that's the approach we are taking."

A few weeks ago, prior to Indianapolis, NASCAR made a rule change that cut the horsepower on the Toyota engines. Now that you are going to a big horsepower track at Michigan, how do you think it will change your approach there?

"It's difficult to know how much it's going to change things. Until we get through Michigan, it's really hard to put a number on it. It could be much less than we think, or it could be even greater than we think. Sometimes when you are going faster, it's hard to get a car to turn. If you are going a bit slower, our car might turn even better and, lap-time wise, it might not be as big of a deal as we think it's going to be. Once you get all you can from the engine shop, it's tough to find more. Hopefully, we can go to Michigan and learn what we can do, other than under the hood, to try to get some of that speed back. We would love to go to Michigan and win, and that's what we are shooting for. The straightaways are long, and when they take away 15 horsepower, that's big. I think our chances are going to be as good as anybody's, but I think it's just the unknown of how much it changes things for us on these types of race tracks."

Chassis No. 1861: This car made its only start of the season earlier this year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with Kyle Busch at the controls. He led 18 laps before a cut right-front tire and subsequent accident ended his day and resulted in a 31st-place finish. Next, the car attempted to make the race at Darlington (S.C.) in May, but Denny Hamlin wrecked it during qualifying and the No. 18 team did not participate in the event. Since then, JGR has worked on rebuilding the car in preparation for this weekend's Carfax 250 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. Chassis No. 1861 also ran three times last season, with its first race coming at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta with former JGR driver Brad Coleman finishing a career-best second. The car returned to action in August at Michigan, where Coleman finished 15th. And finally, Tony Stewart drove this car to a seventh-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth last November after leading a race-high 114 laps. Despite Stewart's dominance that day, contact midway through the race with lapped traffic hurt the car's aerodynamics.

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Drivers Tony Stewart , Carl Edwards , Brad Coleman , Denny Hamlin , Joey Logano , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing