At Bristol, Logano seeks to continue late charge

Leave a comment

After last week’s win at Michigan, Joey Logano is in the thick of the Wild Card battle going into tonight’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Logano is 17 points behind 10th-place Greg Biffle and just seven behind Martin Truex Jr., who currently holds the second and final Wild Card spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

With only three races left in the regular season, Logano is still walking on the proverbial tightrope as one bad race spells the end of his shot to make the Chase in his first season with Penske Racing. But he’s naturally bullish about Bristol following his critical victory one week ago.

“These are three very, very important races,” said Logano on Friday at BMS. “Our goal is to get in there by points right now, whether that’s by wins or whatever.

“I think if you have two wins, you’re pretty confident you’re gonna be in it, so if we can get that [second] win, it would be huge. If not, we’ll have some points we’ve got to make up, but this team can do it. I’m very confident coming into this weekend, for sure.”

But while Logano appears to be surging at the right time, one can’t help but figure that he, as well as teammate Brad Keselowski, would have less pressure to deal with this weekend if not for the penalties they suffered following the April race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Leading up to that event, the rear-end housings and other parts from both Logano and Keselowski’s cars were confiscated in pre-race inspections.

Both drivers wound up each taking a 25-point hit in the driver’s standings for those violations, and the lost points could really be used right about now; Keselowski, unlike Logano, is in the Top 10 of the Sprint Cup standings but has no wins and is only four points ahead of Biffle.

However, Logano knows what’s done is done and even though he admits that he and his team think about the Texas penalty, he knows he has to keep pushing.

“If we didn’t have a couple of tire failures, we wouldn’t be in this position we are right now, either,” he said. “We’d be in [the Top 10] pretty good, so, yes, it is part of our season, it is one of the things that makes it interesting…The only thing you can do about it is go out there and work hard and make it up, which I feel like we can do.”

Logano will roll off sixth tonight in “Thunder Valley.”

Cooper solidifies PWC GT presence with Callaway Corvette

Callaway, Cooper, Gill. Photo: PWC
Leave a comment

Pirelli World Challenge could use a “face” of the series from a driving standpoint, and American Michael Cooper is a good candidate to fill that role for 2018.

Cooper, 27, has won PWC Touring Car, GTS and, most recently the SprintX GT titles within the series and has quickly blossomed into one of the series’ top GT stars.

It’s been a rapid rise for the Syosset, N.Y. native, entering into a world filled with series stars and champions such as Johnny O’Connell, Patrick Long, Alvaro Parente and a host of others.

But under O’Connell’s tutelage, Cooper admirably filled the rather gaping shoes vacated by Andy Pilgrim at Cadillac Racing, steering the Cadillac ATS-V.R to multiple race wins in the last two years – including a sweep of this year’s season finale weekend at Sonoma.

Cooper and Jordan Taylor were the model of consistency in SprintX this year, winning once at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and surviving contact at Circuit of The Americas to take that title.

With Cadillac withdrawing its ATS-V.R program at the end of the year though, Cooper was left a free agent for 2018. Fortunately with one door closed another opened, in the form of the GM-blessed but full Callaway Competition USA effort with its Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R that will come Stateside next year. Cooper and Daniel Keilwitz will be in the team’s two cars for the full season; the car was fully unveiled last week at the PRI Show in Indianapolis.

The Callaway is a proven commodity in Europe but couldn’t run in the U.S. unless the path was cleared by one of GM’s factory programs to end a direct, potential head-to-head competition.

Moving from the Cadillac to the Callaway Corvette should be a natural transition, Cooper said last week.

“It worked out incredibly well that GM decided to allow Calloway to run the car in the United States and it created an opportunity for me that wouldn’t have been there otherwise,” he told NBC Sports. “I talked to a lot of other GT teams and at the end of the day, I felt like this was the best direction for me to be competitive next year and to also continue furthering my career with General Motors.”

Indeed Cooper has graduated from the Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R in GTS to the Cadillac and now to the Callaway Corvette. Cooper hailed the Cadillac team for what they did for his career growth.

“Working with Cadillac Racing has been instrumental in developing my abilities both on and off the track,” he said. “So I’m definitely a much more well-rounded driver now and have a lot of experience in the World Challenge GT field, so I kind of know what to expect going into that first race and going into that first corner in St. Pete.”

As noted, the car’s success in Europe means it’s a well-oiled machine by the time Reeves Callaway has worked with PWC to bring it Stateside next year. And as Cooper explained, discussions had been underway for a bit of time to ensure his presence in this car and team.

“I think the car is going to be extremely capable. It’s already won championships and races in Europe. I think, in bringing it over here, we’re going to hit the ground running straight away,” he said.

“Calloway had wanted me to come drive for them in July or August. We always kept in touch since then, and there was a lot of work trying to put together a program before they decided that they were going to do a fully fledged factory program. So once they made that decision, I think the pieces were kind of in place already, and the conversations had been had to be able to say ‘You’re going to be our guy.’”

December is late for IMSA programs to get finalized, but it’s relatively early for PWC, with the season not starting until mid-March in St. Petersburg. An extensive testing program should follow, as Callaway establishes its U.S. base and infrastructure.

“It’s definitely early for a Pirelli World Challenge program to be announced in December when we start racing in March. So that’s very good,” he said. “But, the team has a lot of work ahead of them in terms of getting infrastructure set up here in the United States, because a lot of their racing program has been in Europe. So, there will be a testing program, but they have to get the infrastructure in place first. But, we’ll be well prepared for St. Pete, I’m certain of it.

“Last year was the first year when I could sit back, kick my feet up, and know what I was doing next year. So, to be able to have everything done and be able to announce it this early on makes my life less stressful and now I can just focus on preparing myself and my team for next year.”