Like The Who, Logano won’t get fooled again at Sonoma

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When it comes to contact during a Sprint Cup race at Sonoma Raceway, Joey Logano kind of subscribes to the theory of “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”

In other words, Logano will give opposing drivers a break when it comes to initial contact between his No. 22 Penske Ford and someone else.

After that, though, all bets are off.

“The first one is always an accident and then after that I don’t know how much is an accident,” Logano said with a big laugh Friday during his media session at Sonoma, the host for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350.

After regaining his composure, Logano drew a bit more serious in his thoughts about contact during Sunday’s race. And as he’s learned in five previous starts at Sonoma, the more that’s on the line for drivers, the more pressure there will be and – ergo – more contact, more beating and banging and more chance to have a good day go bad very quickly.

“Usually, we all try to start the race calm, cool and collected,” Logano said. “Everyone is kind of just running their deal and then one person gets hit and gets knocked out of the way and then he’s mad, and then he hits someone else and now the next guy is mad, so that just triggers it off and there you go.”

In other words, road rage at its finest, right, Joey?

“I think everyone starts with the right attitude and then at the end all manners are out the window and it’s all about just getting those positions,” Logano said. “Like I said, there are four or five people that are pretty calm that might not have a mark on their race car because everyone else is gonna get beat around and when you get beat around you get ticked off. It happens.”

With two wins thus far this season, Logano is comfortably locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. But even with that assurance, he still is seeking his first road course win in Sprint Cup.

He’s definitely been building towards that achievement, with finishes of sixth, 10th and 11th in his last three starts at Sonoma. That’s a far cry from his first two efforts of 19th (2009) and 33rd (2010), when he hadn’t quite developed the love affair he has for the track and the fans there as he has the last few years.

“I like coming here,” Logano said. “It’s such a fun race track for us and obviously a change-up for NASCAR to come to these road courses. Sonoma, I always felt is kind of like the short track of road course racing for me.”

But Sunday can be a dangerous race for someone like Logano. Even though he’s comfortably in the Chase, he can’t take it easy. Rather, he has to approach Sunday’s race as if he’s in the same boat as every other driver who is starting to fret about not making the Chase.

“Look at the guys that are good at these road courses and you look at the guys that haven’t won yet this season,” Logano said. “They’re starting to get desperate, I’m sure. They’re starting to get to that panic mode at this point in the season and if this is one of those race tracks where you feel you can capitalize on, and you’re close to it, they’re gonna be desperate and they’re gonna do some crazy things out there. So that’s why it’s so important to be on the aggressive side.

“I want to be the guy pushing. I don’t want to be the guy getting pushed around. You’ve got to make sure you’ve got a car you can do that with because it’s easier said than done. If you’re the guy running up front, and you look at the top three, four, five cars, they will be ones that won’t have many marks on it, so you’ve got to be consistently up there.

“You’ve got to be patient. You can’t get too fired up, but you’ve got to be the aggressive one and I think those guys that haven’t had the win are gonna get desperate and it’s gonna be either checkers or wreckers for them. Hopefully, I’m far enough ahead that it’s not a problem.”

When asked how much better he’s gotten at Sonoma particularly and as a road course driver overall during his first five-plus seasons as a Sprint Cup driver, Logano was quick to admit, “Quite a bit.”

“I didn’t do any road course racing growing up,” he added. “I was always a short track, asphalt racer. I did a few schools and worked with Boris (Said) some. I’ve worked with quite a few different drivers to try and figure this out and the first two times I think was really bad, and then I came here the third time and we put it on the pole and that was like the biggest surprise of my life. I was like, ‘How in the heck did we just get the pole in the Cup race at Sonoma? Go figure.’

“I was not expecting that and then we ran really well in that race and that was kind of like a light switch went off like, ‘OK, I think I get it now. I think I know what I’m supposed to do.’ If you don’t grow up doing it or haven’t raced a lot, it’s challenging, but any driver that gets to this level has a lot of talent and you’re able to figure it out.”

And figuring it out is the key to success at Sonoma. Strategies are plentiful: tire wear, fuel mileage, two or three pit stops in the race are just the high points.

“Strategy, passing each other, keeping the fenders on this thing, keeping it on the race track, it’s just such a challenging place and makes it a lot of fun,” Logano said. “Usually there’s about four or five guys that are smiling after the race and everyone else is really mad at each other, so I can’t wait.”

For the record, Logano made that last statement with yet another broad smile on his face and laugh in his voice.

Let’s see if he’ll still be laughing and smiling after Sunday’s race.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

IMSA: Sebring test notes

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Ahead of next month’s Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, teams from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship took to Sebring International Raceway to round out a week of IMSA testing at the 3.74-mile road course.

Below are news highlights from Friday and Saturday at Sebring.

Derani Aiming for a Repeat of 2016 Victory

Tequila Patrón ESM’s Pipo Derani burst onto the American racing scene in 2016 with standout performances at the Rolex 24 and 12 Hours of Sebring to lead the ESM team to victory at both races.

His Sebring triumph was particularly impressive as he charged from fourth to first in the final ten minutes to secure the victory in one of the most thrilling finishes the race has ever seen.

Now two years removed from those successes, Derani appreciates the impact those 2016 triumphs had on his career.

“If you’re talking about sports car racing, you’re talking about Daytona, Sebring, Le Mans, Petit and those races that are known worldwide,” said the now 24-year-old Derani. “After winning Daytona and immediately coming here at Sebring – which if I’m not wrong, I was the first guy winning both on debut and the first Brazilian, probably to win back-to-back on those two races. It definitely changed my career. It opened many doors for myself and I’m really glad that it happened. Nothing comes easy. I’m really glad that ESM gave me the chance in 2016 to be in those races. Two years later, I can’t wait to win again.”

With testing now in the rearview mirror, Derani hopes he and the ESM team have found the right setup package to give them another chance at a victory.

“(Thursday) was a day that we managed to get a lot of information,” he explained. Most importantly, we ran a lot. We were out on track, and that is really good for us. Hopefully, this work is going to pay off really, really soon.”

United Autosports Continues American Odyssey at Sebring

Although two-time FIA Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso won’t be in the mix, United Autosports will be continuing the American adventure they started at January’s Rolex 24 with entries at the three other Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup events in 2018, beginning with March’s 12 Hours of Sebring.

The No. 32 Ligier JS P217 Gibson will be the team’s entrant at the remaining NAEC events and they will look to build on a fourth-place finish at the Rolex. However, while fourth looks like a strong result, team co-owner Richard Dean felt a victory may have been within their reach.

“We were a little bit disappointed in the end, even though we finished fourth because I think with three hours to go we sat in third place and the two Cadillacs were looking like they were struggling, we felt like we had an opportunity that 24-hour races can give you,” said Dean. “But everybody’s got a story, so we came out of there with a fourth place.”

Drivers Phil Hanson and Paul Di Resta returned to the team to complete the Sebring test, while Alex Brundle filled in for an ill Bruno Senna, who is scheduled to race with the team at the 12-hour enduro.

Dean emphasized, though, that Senna’s previous experience around the track should make up for his absence.

“Bruno couldn’t travel, he wasn’t well enough, and there was just no point in him getting on a plane and being ill here,” Dean asserted. “He knows the track. Of the three drivers we’ve got, he’s the one who needed the least laps around here.

Dean added that the team is beginning to get a better foothold on American soil, citing help from Andretti Autosport, which should improve their prospects for the remaining NAEC rounds.

“We feel a little bit more organized, we’ve got our own truck now, and we’ve got a little base here, and (Andretti Autosport) have been helping us out an awful lot, so our little collaboration or alliance with Andretti has certainly steadied the ship a little bit for us and helped us,” Dean said. “We’re excited to do these remaining races, and now that we’ve got Daytona experience with us, it’s definitely going to help us do a much better job in the approach for Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit.”

Lally Samples New Continental Tire Design

Continental Tire, the current tire supplier for the Prototype and GT Daytona classes in the Weathertech Championship, rolled out a new tire design for the Sebring test, and Magnus Racing’s Andy Lally was the first to sample it on Thursday.

“Basically, we’re all going through sweeps right now and feeling things out. What does the tire feel like when you’re in qualifying mode versus full-fuel mode?” Lally said after the initial running. “There are all sorts of stuff when you get such a change like what we’ve got here. This is a relatively big change for the GT cars. Maybe for the Prototypes, it’s not as big a change, but for the GT3 cars, it’s quite a different feel on the platform. We’re just going through that.”
The new tire design comes after a Rolex 24 that was plagued with tire problems, as several teams suffered failures, especially on the left-rear, during the 24-hour race. Wayne Taylor Racing even elected to retire their No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R after suffering five tire failures.
Miller, Bechtolsheimer Sample New CJ Wilson Racing Acura NSX GT3
Marc Miller and Till Bechtolsheimer got to work quickly with new Weathertech entrant CJ Wilson Racing, with both drivers sampling their new Acura NSX GT3 on Thursday and Friday.
Miller is a veteran of GT3 machinery and has won big races before – he was a GTD class winner at the 2016 Motul Petit Le Mans. Bechtolsheimer, however, is all new to GT3 machinery, having primarily raced vintage cars along with forays into the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.
“I’ve not driven anything close to a GTD car before,” quipped Bechtolsheimer. “The first time driving it properly here at Sebring is kind of fitting because the first time I drove a car on slicks was at Sebring two years ago in moving to Continental Tire, which was at least as daunting at the time as moving into GTD now.
“The first time I turned a lap or two in the car, even though I was just trying to figure out where all the switches were and so on, I straight away felt that this is a car that’s going to be fun to drive. It’s going to take me time to build up to be on pace, but it’s a confidence-inspiring car and its yeah, it’s a lot nicer than perhaps I was expecting.”
The Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring rolls off on March 17.