Chase Capsules: Joey Logano

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22 – Joey Logano
Team: Team Penske
Crew Chief: Todd Gordon
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Best Finish: 8th (2013)
Chase History: 2nd Chase Appearance, Best finish of 8th in 2013

Regular Season Recap: As part of Team Penske’s overall resurgence in 2014, Joey Logano has enjoyed his best season yet in the Sprint Cup. Logano has as many wins so far this season – three – as he’d had within the first five full-time seasons of his career. They’ve come on diverse circuits as well, tasting wins at Texas (1.5 miles), Richmond (0.75) and Bristol (0.533). His qualifying has also been excellent as well; he has one pole and only six starts outside the top-10 in the year’s first 25 races. Consistently sixth through ninth in points, Logano’s recent run of form has now brought him to fourth, a season-high.

Chris’ Take: It took some time, but Logano has proven that the hype on him was correct. Winning on very different tracks this season is definitely a good sign, and with Team Penske’s overall speed, he has the potential to at least get through the Challenger and Contender rounds.

And like I am with his teammate Brad Keselowski, I’m impressed with the amount of confidence he now possesses. Of course, the matter of driving for a top-flight operation like Penske and having “Kes” the former Sprint Cup champion as a teammate helps, but it seems that as Logano’s grown up in this series, he’s gotten wiser as well.

Jerry’s Take: For the first time in his career, Joey Logano is definitely become a bonafide championship contender. Of all the drivers in the Chase, next to Dale Earnhardt Jr., Logano has arguably had the most improvement of the 16 Chase contestants.

We think Logano has a good chance to win at either his home track in New Hampshire or the following week at Dover, which would advance him to the second round. Unfortunately, we see him eliminated before Homestead, most likely after the second round. One consolation for Logano fans: he’s only 24. If he doesn’t win the Sprint Cup championship this season, there’s lots more seasons to come for him.

Tony’s Take: Logano overachieved in 2013 in his first season with Team Penske, and has improved to the next level in 2014. He has the experience of going through the pressure cooker of a Chase once, which is good to have in play heading into the new format this year.

With no obvious, glaring issues, Logano’s best chance at advancing through the Chase will come if he and the No. 22 team continue their qualifying prowess. He hasn’t done much at the Chase tracks throughout his career, but he’s peaking at the right time. Perhaps not an outright title favorite but in theory, has enough to make it through at least one knockout phase.

Joey Logano’s Career Statistics at Chase Tracks
Chicagoland (1.5 mile) – No wins, no Top-5s, 1 Top-10 in 5 starts
New Hampshire (1 mile) – One win, 2 Top-5s, 4 Top-10s in 12 starts
Dover (1 mile) – No wins, 2 Top-5s, 7 Top-10s in 11 starts
Kansas (1.5 mile) – No wins, 2 Top-5s, 2 Top-10s in 10 starts
Charlotte (1.5 mile) – No wins, 3 Top-5s, 6 Top-10s in 11 starts
Talladega (2.66 mile) – No wins, 2 Top-5s, 4 Top-10s in 11 starts
Martinsville (half-mile) – No wins, 2 Top-5s, 3 Top-10s in 11 starts
Texas (1.5-mile) – One win, 4 Top-5s, 4 Top-10s in 12 starts
Phoenix (1 mile) – No wins, 2 Top-5s, 5 Top-10s in 11 starts
Homestead-Miami (1.5 mile) – No wins, no Top-5s, 1 Top-10s in 5 starts

Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato welcomes ‘Baby Borg’ to the family

Photos: Michael L. Leavitt
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Takuma Sato cast a big shadow on the world of IndyCar racing last May when he became the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

But there was another shadow of sorts cast along with Sato’s Indy 500 win: he and the prestigious Borg-Warner Trophy, given to each year’s winner of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, are virtually identical in size.

The Trophy is the same height as Sato, 5 feet, 5 ¾ inches tall. And the respective weight of both the Trophy and Sato are the same: approximately 113 pounds.

Try putting that on a mantle in your house.

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

That’s why Sato was so happy to receive the Baby Borg Trophy — a miniature version of the Borg-Warner Trophy — Wednesday night in Detroit. It’s much more manageable for the mantle in his house: 18 inches tall and five pounds.

“It’s such an honor to win the Baby Borg finally, eight months after the race, it’s been an unbelievable journey,” Sato told NBC Sports. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to win the 500 and it has just gone on and on. It’s just a significant moment in my life. It’s been fantastic.

“Right now, I haven’t really decided yet (where he’ll put the coveted Baby Borg). It’s going to my home in Indiana right now. But of course, everybody wants to see it. After that, I haven’t decided, but I’m sure it’ll get a special place.”

Even though the Baby Borg is a pint-sized version of the real trophy that was presented to Sato in victory lane in Indianapolis last May, it also has the same meaning as the big trophy and served to get Sato’s excitement pumping to where he’s already counting down the days to the 2018 Indy 500.

And even more important, it will be the first time he returns to Indianapolis as the defending champion.

“(Winning the 500) has changed my life,” Sato told NBC Sports. “But what I do is exactly the same, to try and be as fast as possible when racing.

“But all the environment, the people, all the cheering and being called an Indy 500 champion, I never imagined how deep and how far it goes, just the power and energy that the Indy 500 had.

“I just never realized how much the tradition and the prestigiousness of it. It’s been fantastic and I’m sure when I go back there to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in four months as the defending champion, it’ll be a whole other dimension. I’m sure it’s going to be a whole lot of pressure, but I’m sure to enjoy the moment.”

Sato, who turns 41 on January 28, will return to the 500 this year, but with a new team. He left Andretti Autosport after last season and returned to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, for whom he previously raced for in 2012.

Now that he’s won one Indy 500, Sato wants to make it two in a row.

“It’s a huge, another task and a new dream,” he said. “I’m excited for the new season and to go for another 500 (win), it’s another completely new dimension. Like Michael (Andretti, who he drove for last season) said, obviously, we’ll be competing against each other in the new season, but tonight we celebrated together. I think it’s going to be a real good season for me. I’d love to get another win there, of course.”

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Michael Andretti celebrates his 5 Indy 500 wins as a team owner, and Takuma Sato celebrates his first Indy 500 win
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

But not if Andretti has anything to say about it.

“He’s not allowed to win again,” Andretti laughed while also speaking to NBC Sports.

Sato enjoyed a victory lap of another sort last month when he accompanied the Borg-Warner Trophy to his native Japan for a two-plus week tour of the nation.

It marked the first time in the Trophy’s 82-year existence that it has ever been outside the U.S.

Everywhere Sato and the Trophy went drew large crowds, from Honda Racing “Thanks Day” at the Twin Rings track at Motegi to a visit to Mount Fuji, a meeting with 850 members of Sato’s fan club, and also included a two-day run in the atrium of Honda’s World Headquarters in Tokyo that had fans lined up for hours to see the Trophy and take photos of it and Sato.

“The reaction was just massive,” Sato said. “For myself, it was a dream come true, but at the same time, for a country with that history, it was an unbelievable moment, particularly the first time when Hiro Matsushita did it (drove in the Indy 500 in the 1990s) so many years ago.

“So many Japanese drivers have tried to win such a historic race, I was just so proud to be part of it. The people were really excited. The passion, I’m really particularly happy to bring it to Japan.

“To go to Japan was a massive commitment by from Borg Warner and Honda. So many Japanese fans were able to see it physically and now they’re really looking forward to this year’s Indy 500 again. It was a great moment to us.”