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Defending champ Logano again starting ‘from zero’

Jeff Birchfield • Jan 29, 2019 at 8:02 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With his first NASCAR championship and a new baby, 2018 was a dream season for Joey Logano.

However, he was celebrating the new year in New York with his wife, Brittany, when the calendar turned both physically and in his mind.

“When I went to New York City with my wife to ring in the year with Planet Fitness, we were standing outside when the ball dropped and they were singing ‘New York, New York.’ I was like, ‘That was a great year,’ ” Logano said. “It was amazing with the birth of our child and the championship and it’s going to be tough to top that.

“But you’ve got to keep looking out the windshield. One of the things that (team owner) Roger (Penske) says is to not step on your press clippings. You can’t look behind you or your competition is catching you. We took time to enjoy the championship, but it’s over and we’ve got to try to win the championship again and start from zero like everyone else.”

The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford will have a new car this season as the team transitions from the Fusion to the Mustang model. The 28-year-old Connecticut native, who moved to Georgia as a teenager, is glad to have the muscle cars with Ford’s Mustang and Chevrolet’s Camaro represented in the garage. He also feels confident with the change.

“Ford has done a great job learning from the other two manufacturers that have recently made changes,” Logano said. “There will be a learning curve with it. But the Fusion, we had refined it to where the gains we were making were small. With the Mustang, you can see larger changes. That being said, it’s a clean slate for everybody.”

Logano had just one victory during the regular season, at Talladega’s restrictor-plate track. He made it to the final round by bumping past Martin Truex Jr. on the final lap at Martinsville.

He set sail in the final race at Homestead, beating favorites Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Truex, who combined for 20 wins over the first 35 races. Still, he feels some of the toughest competition in the new season will come from teammates Brad Keselowski, the 2012 NASCAR champion, and Ryan Blaney.

“We’re so competitive all the way through Team Penske,” Logano said. “All the drivers on the NASCAR side of it are so smart and know we need to work together. I remember the first day Brad and I worked together he told me that he would rather finish second to me than him win and me finish 20th. That’s same mindset, that teamwork is all the way through Team Penske.”

It’s easy to see the joy Logano still gets from racing. He admitted to being like a kid again when four-time NASCAR champion-turned-Fox television analyst Jeff Gordon contacted him during a test session at Las Vegas to check about the changes with the new car.

“He has been texting me a lot, which I find cool because I was such a Jeff Gordon fan growing up,” Logano said. “I’m like, ‘Wow, Jeff Gordon has my phone number.’ That was really cool.”

While the aerodynamic changes with the 2019 cars should show up more on the larger tracks, Logano also sees a potential impact on the short tracks. In particular, he sees a big change for the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 7.

“It’s going to be a fast track and I think we will be physically exhausted after that race,” Logano said. “It’s going to be a grueling 500 laps. The track changes there and it makes it fun. You can set up your car for when you want to run up against the wall or if you want to run the bottom when the track bite is activated. You have to have a car you can adjust quickly.”

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