After nine years of racing the unmistakable yellow and red “scallops” No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang, Joey Logano kicked off this season by going back to the basics while celebrating a couple of milestones.
While the Middletown, Connecticut native is in the midst of his 15th NASCAR Cup Series season, it’s his 10th with Team Penske. With Brad Keselowski moving to a driver and part owner role with RFK Racing, Logano serves as one of the leaders of Roger Penske’s stock car program.
Prior to the start of the season, Logano considered his new role and hard work facing the organization alongside teammate Ryan Blaney.
“I’m excited about that and as a leader of Team Penske, I’m excited about what we’ve got coming our way,” Logano said. “The tests have gone pretty well. Our teammates are working well together.
“Blaney and I are probably closer than we’ve ever been and that’s a good thing. He’s seemed to step up as well, so I think the two of us can help guide the rookies into places to where all four of us can lead together in different departments and do different things, so I think we’re coming a long way.”
Naturally, Logano’s endured some pendulum swings after six races, with a fifth at Fontana and three top 10 results, good enough for third in the points standings. After a trying afternoon at Circuit of the Americas, resulting in a 31st place finish, Logano turns to Sunday’s 400 lap race at Richmond Raceway, a venue that’s been relatively kind to him and his No. 22 team.
Sure, his most recent victory at the 0.75-mile short track was the encumbered triumph on Apr. 30, 2017. However, he has a respectable average finish of 10.24 in his past 25 starts and three consecutive finishes of fifth or better.
As for the latest paint scheme adorning his car, it’s safe to say that it epitomizes how he and his team are turning a new leaf.
“Yellow, a lot of yellow,” Logano observed regarding his car’s new look. “We’re gonna see that car on the racetrack, for sure. I thought Shell and Pennzoil coming together doing that video on our social pages did a great job of kind of explaining the story of what Next Gen is for NASCAR and what Next Gen is for Joey Logano and what it is for Shell and Team Penske, and kind of going to the next level and unveiling a cool paint job while we’re at it.”
Moreover, Logano expressed excitement about his car’s simple paint scheme that accentuates the redefined Ford Mustang stock car.
“It’s obviously very clean,” he offered. “I’d call it basic, which I think a lot of times when you get a good-looking scheme you get too many lines and you miss some of the awesome body lines that are on this Next Gen car.
“So, it really kind of shows a lot of the cool curvature of the new design on the Next Gen car and, like I said, she’s clean, she looks good, she’s got some polished up wheels on it.”
Similarly, Logano, like his car’s appearance, has changed from his brash, outspoken days as a youngster in the NASCAR scene. While he maintains his aggressive approach on the track, it’s about maturing and keeping things simple on the track.
“I definitely feel like it’s changed drastically,” Logano realized. “It’s interesting. I’ve really adjusted some things in my life. I got this new motto in my mind, less is better. That’s what I want to do.
“I want to do less things and do it better, so I’m kind of cleaning up some of the stuff that isn’t as important and focusing on the things that are the most important.”
Presently, Logano seeks his first Cup win in over a year when he emerged victorious following the Bristol Dirt Race. The 2018 NASCAR Cup Series champion, along with crew chief, Paul Wolfe, have fast cars and an organization that’s synonymous with excellence in motorsports.
Perhaps the older, wiser Logano gained more than just the role as a leader for the Team Penske organization’s NASCAR program. He’s prepared to elevate his craft as a driver and raising the morale for the women and men working at the shop and track.
“I’m pretty excited about that because, obviously. (I am) one of the leaders in the organization (who) takes on a lot more responsibility and takes on a lot more work and a lot more ability direct, especially with this Next Gen car,” Logano said. “It’s bringing on a lot more work for everybody included, so a lot more to think about, do, more decisions to make and want to make sure that I’m ready for that. Less is better. That’s my thing and pushing that through this year.”
By all means, even a driver of Logano’s pedigree never stops progressing and learning. Instead, it’s about embracing how the new car and its intangibles raised the stakes for the 27-time Cup race winner.
At the end of the day, Logano is up to the task with his No. 22 team, ready to pounce and thrive in NASCAR’s premier division.
“There are gonna be some learning curves for everybody, myself included, and the guys that have been here 15-20 years are gonna have a learning curve as well, much as the rookies are gonna have learning curves this year. There’s lots of work to do.”