Joey Logano doesn’t have much experience racing in the rain, nor does he have a background in road course racing. But the Team Penske driver found himself enjoying both Saturday morning during the first — and only — Cup Series practice at COTA
“It was a lot of fun out there,” Logano said. “I had a blast. I was having a great time trying to find lap time, trying to push yourself. The whole thing is a head game. It’s a mental strain out there of how hard you can push; how hard can you drive in the corner, and being able to see behind cars. That’s probably the hardest part, is visually down that long straightaway between (Turns) 11 and 12, the spray off the back of a car, you can’t see. You just straight-up can’t see, and you’re going really, really fast, and the car is hydroplaning through that section.
“I think it’s newer asphalt there or something. The water sits on top more and the cars are just jumping out of nowhere on you. The first time it scares you; the third and fourth time, it still scares you but you kind of catch yourself really quickly. It’s entertaining, believe me. I could have stayed out there making laps all day. I was having a good time.”
Cup Series teams only had 55 minutes of track time to figure out the new course, and the rain picked up as the session wore on. NASCAR chose to run the long 3.41-mile course with 20 turns for its inaugural race weekend, where all three national series are in action. Cup drivers will qualify and race on Sunday.
Logano finished the practice session second fastest behind William Byron. With the security of already having won this season, Logano said the best approach to a wet COTA is a fun attitude and enjoying the challenge. Doing so worked out well for Logano on the dirt at Bristol as he wound up in victory lane.
“We don’t know what the heck we’re doing, and it’s a very slick racetrack just like Bristol was very, very slick,” he said. “Maybe that’s my wheelhouse and I don’t even know it, but I do seem to enjoy the challenge of something different. Whether it’s changing the grip level, throwing some dirt on it, raining, whatever — something different, for me, I’m able to adapt fairly quickly and enjoy it a lot trying to figure out the new challenge.
“Any time there’s a big change like that, there’s so much low-hanging fruit. You can just make huge gains run after run, whether it’s in the car or yourself as a driver. You’re able to make gains where you can gain a second at a time. We’re past that on dry asphalt. We’re trying to find half-a-tenth, but in these conditions, it’s kind of a new game, and there’s a lot of easy finds that can pick you up a second.”
Still, Logano didn’t deny running in the rain is “sketchy” and feels “very uncomfortable.” If there was a positive, Logano felt 90% of the track wasn’t badly soaked. The faster sections of the course, with two long straightaways and a carousel, is where things get tricky. There is more rain in the forecast at COTA for Sunday, and after his practice fun, that doesn’t faze Logano.
“It’s the same for everyone,” Logano said. “If it dries up and we’re all trying to figure out how hard to drive when it’s dry, it’ll be the same for everyone. I just had a blast a second ago, so I’m OK with it raining at this point. Before practice the unknown and the uncertainty that you’re thinking about as a race car driver saying, ‘I don’t know how hard to go in. I don’t know what to do. Am I going to be awful at this? Am I going to be decent? I don’t know. How is our car going to be? Do we even know how to work on the car?’
“I don’t think we’ve answered all of those questions yet, but we have at least a general idea to where I feel more confident if we line up and race at this point, so, whatever. Like I said, it’s the same for everybody.”