Apr 11, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT
Going into last year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, Joey Logano was the hottest driver in NASCAR. On the strength of six consecutive Top-10 finishes in the final seven regular season events – including a critical win at Michigan – he raced his way into the post-season.
But an engine failure in the Chase opener at Chicagoland crushed his championship hopes, and he eventually settled for eighth in points.
However, he figured he’d at least be higher up in the usual array of pre-season rankings going into 2014.
That didn’t happen though, from his perspective.
“This offseason, all the magazines come out and project where you are going to finish and they had us in 15th and I was like, ‘Why?’,” Logano explained Friday at Darlington Raceway. “I was reading NASCAR Illustrated and wondered what the heck that was all about.
“I have set my goal as proving them wrong and so far, so good.”
Logano became the seventh different driver to win in as many races this season and the latest addition to the Chase Grid after defeating Jeff Gordon in a green-white-checkered finish on Monday at Texas Motor Speedway.
He’s also maintained a good degree of consistency with four Top-5s and just one finish outside the Top 20 in the first seven events. Additionally, he’s taken to the new, knockout-style qualifying format well with one pole and six Top-10 starts – making for an average starting position of 8.9 so far.
“It is important to come out here and run strong because we ended the year with momentum and we know we need to keep that going,” Logano said.
“With all the rules changes and everything changing this year, it was going to be a challenge but also an opportunity to capitalize on that and I feel Team Penske has done a great job with that – qualifying, aero, ride heights – we have been able to capitalize on all of that. We have been able to take that momentum through the off-season and keep it there.”
Darlington has, by Logano’s own admission, been a hit-or-miss track for him in his Sprint Cup career. After finishing in the Top 10 in his first Cup start there in 2009, he’s posted results of 27th, 35th, 10th, and 22nd.
However, while still very much wanting to win at the track “Too Tough To Tame,” the pressure’s eased off of him now that he’s joined teammate Brad Keselowski on the Chase Grid.
Logano touched on that subject, too, saying that he believes having both Team Penske drivers in the Chase will especially benefit in regards to testing.
“We will focus our tests to races in the Chase,” he said. “That makes sense. Really, when you are at the race track here, we are always trying different things and always trying to see what that next little piece is.
“With this new rules package, with the ride height rule, there is some low hanging fruit still to grab. We need to figure out what works best with these cars and we will be trying different things like we already do, so that doesn’t change.”