Joey Logano says that the disappointments of 2017 have lit a fire underneath him for the coming NASCAR season.
“We never want to have that feeling again,” Logano said Wednesday. “That sucks. Not being in the playoffs is no fun. I think after going through that and living that horror film, you don’t want to do that again.”
An encumbered win at Richmond Raceway in the spring wound up being the start of a downslide. Logano never won again, which played a part in his Team Penske group missing the playoffs. Even worse, Logano didn’t have the raw speed to seriously compete and often found himself struggling to finish in the top 10.
How trying was it? In the 27 races following Richmond, Logano earned just nine top 10s. A harsh reality for a team that a year earlier had competed for the championship.
“No, I didn’t see that coming at all,” Logano said about the trials. “After you almost win the championship and win a bunch of races the last four years before that, you think making the playoffs is kind of a given. That is kind of the way I thought. Sixteen drivers, I thought that was a given.
“I would say it blindsided every one of us. We didn’t think the penalty at Richmond was a big deal. We thought we would go win more races. No big deal. Then it was one thing after another and before we knew it our back was against the wall. We almost won the second Richmond [race], we came in second. Figures. It’s a feeling we never want to have again. We did not see that coming at all.”
Much was learned from it all. The biggest Logano said was to have an open mind, which they started to do toward the end of the season. Admittedly, that was waiting too long.
But when a team finds something that works, they evolve it and build onward. Eventually, though, it stops being good. At that point, Logano said, it’s very hard to knock down what you have and start over.
“As a driver, I have had to change,” Logano said. “Todd [Gordon, crew chief] has had to change. The way we set up our cars has had to change. But you have to be able to get back up front. I think that is what happens a lot of times in sports, you see some of these great teams go out there and win a championship and then next year you’re like, ‘what happened to these guys?’ The sport changes.”
The hope for 2018 comes from how ’17 ended. Ironically, Logano performed well in the playoff races picking up one pole, five top-10 finishes and leading 119 laps. Put together with the gains Logano said his team has made this offseason, he has the confidence that “we are going to be really good.”
“We know we are a championship team; nothing has changed from two years ago when we almost won the championship,” Logano said. “It’s the same group. Nothing has changed. We know we can still do that. Let’s go. Is Daytona here yet?”