Logano concedes it will be a ‘slow climb’ back to the top

Joey Logano isn’t going to deny it’s been a rough start to the NASCAR Cup Series season for his Team Penske group, and part of the problem is accepting some of the results.

Logano had speed at the two superspeedway races to start the season, Daytona and Atlanta, before a mediocre run (his words) at Las Vegas. But that mediocre run netted Logano’s only top-10 finish thus far. Bristol Motor Speedway was a day of tire attrition and in hindsight, Logano should have pitted when he ran his tires down to the cords instead of waiting for a caution that never came.

“I rode around over three seconds off a lap — that clicks off pretty quick in 15-second laps — and I lost two laps doing that,” Logano said Thursday during his one-hour appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “So that stunk. And then last week at (Circuit of The Americas) we were OK. Nothing special. We had a horrible qualifying run that was on me and then we scratched and clawed from 35th to 11th, so not too bad.


“That’s kind of the problem, if I’m being honest with you right now. We looked at 11th and said, ‘That’s not too bad.’ That’s a problem. We want to be pissed off about 11th. That’s where we want to get to.”

Las Vegas and COTA are Logano’s only top-20 finishes. Logano failed to finish the Daytona 500 and at Phoenix Raceway and is 22nd in the championship standings.

“It’s a slow climb back to the top — it always is,” Logano continued. “But you have to start slowly, grabbing the little victories here and there. Little things that we’re doing well on and off the track. And there is, and we’re slowing grabbing some points back up through the ranks a little bit.

“We’re going to Richmond this weekend (and) that is one of my favorite racetracks, one of our best racetracks — maybe our best racetrack as the 22 team. So I look forward to having a solid run there, scoring some stage points, putting ourselves in position to win. That’ll be key. I feel more confident at Richmond than I have at really any other track this year, so hopefully we can have a solid run.”

Given how close the competition is, Logano believes it won’t take much to turn things around. But it’s not just one hurdle Logano’s No. 22 team is fighting because he said it’s been something different every weekend.

“The speed knob is one of them that we have to tune up the most right now because that’s the one that puts you in position the most,” Logano said. “I’m not in panic mode. I’m concerned, obviously, by where we’re at but I’m not in panic mode. Everything usually averages out.

“We’re still 20 races or so from the playoffs starting. We have time to get ourselves back up there. … We’re scratching and clawing back up there and we’ll get there.”

Logano feels there are “definitely some gains” from the new-for-2024 Mustang bodywork, but “I don’t think we’re maximizing the potential out of the car yet.” Rusty Jarrett/Motorsport Images

In his 12th year driving for Roger Penske, Logano said this is the worst start his team has ever had to a season. Another variable is the new Ford Mustang Dark Horse, which Logano said teams don’t completely understand yet. Since the offseason, Logano has preached that while things looked good on paper, it will be different when on the racetrack.

“We need to understand what those differences are,” Logano said. “I think in some ways there’s definitely some gains (with the new body), and in other ways, I don’t think we’re maximizing the potential out of the car yet because I don’t think we completely understand everything about it.

“Engine-wise, we need help there, for sure. We need to try to move forward in that department as much as we can to stay competitive.”

Six other Ford drivers are sitting higher in the Cup Series point standings than Logano. However, only one — reigning champion, Ryan Blaney — is inside the top 10. Of the three manufacturers, Ford is the only one that has not won a race.

“I’m not telling any secrets here, we’re definitely off right now,” Logano said. “We don’t have a Ford up there winning races consistently at all. Or even in the threat of doing that right now outside of superspeedways. That’s our strength for sure — we’re great at those. We’re the best cars at superspeedways, no doubt in my mind.

“That’s not enough races. We need to be good at some other ones, too. We’re working at it. It’s never a quick turnaround, but the first thing we have to do is pinpoint exactly where we are off (and) in what areas. Not (just) saying engine or downforce — what areas and be very specific in what areas we need to work on so we can focus on those things, and it then takes time to develop and apply those developments to the race car.”

Logano has three straight top-10 finishes in the last three Richmond races. In 29 starts, Logano has an average finish of 10th at Richmond with two victories.

Story originally appeared on Racer