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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

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Carlos Munoz

Carlos Munoz
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver roster in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series. Next up in 13th is Carlos Munoz, who fell back to earth a bit after winning Indianapolis 500, then series rookie-of-the-year honors in consecutive years.

Carlos Munoz, No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2014: 8th Place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 3rd, 3 Podiums, 5 Top-5, 8 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 10.5 Avg. Start, 12.6 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 13th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 4th, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 25 Laps Led, 14.0 Avg. Start, 12.1 Avg. Finish

Munoz fell down to earth a little bit in his second full season in IndyCar, albeit not as badly as fellow 2014 rookie Jack Hawksworth, who’d switched teams and had a myriad of issues throughout the season. He won his first race in the rain at Detroit race one, which was well judged, but there were precious other highlights from the driver who has showcased “wow” potential in the past.

His qualifying fell off year-to-year and that was probably the single thing to pinpoint as to why the decline occurred, falling from eighth to 13th in points. What had been a 10.5 average in 2014 fell to 14th this year, and behind teammates Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Ovals seemed his strongest type of circuit this year on the whole. Like teammate Justin Wilson, he’d been in position to score what would have been his third straight Indianapolis 500 top-five finish if a late splash of fuel wasn’t needed. Sixth at Texas from fourth on the grid marked his best overall weekend of the year, and fifth at Iowa and Pocono were also fairly good results.

But whereas Munoz picked his spots well last year and delivered a handful of podiums, his Detroit win marked his only podium visit this year. He didn’t really make much of an impression and was more anonymous than not over the course of the year. His future with Andretti is uncertain for 2016.

Williams maximizes wet setup work despite limited running in Sochi

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With action pretty much limited in both practice sessions due to the diesel spillage in free practice one and rain in free practice two for the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, teams could only do limited wet-weather runs.

Williams Martini Racing tried to make the best of the circumstances, as one of only five teams that completed laps in FP2 (McLaren, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Ferrari) with eight cars.

Felipe Massa led second practice but it was an essentially meaningless session.

“It was quite a stunted session today which stopped us from completing all of the work we wanted to,” said Rob Smedley, Williams’ head of vehicle performance. “We had planned to run in the wet but we had a strange situation this afternoon in that half of the circuit was much wetter than the other half which made most of the tests null and void.

“We have been working on the wet set-up of the car and so wanted to get out at the end of FP2 to see the progress we have made. In a similar vein to our low speed corner work in Singapore, we seem to be making progress. We got through all of the bits and pieces we wanted to get through in terms of control systems and power unit set-up, and we have to go into tomorrow with a good plan for FP3 to get the car set-up for qualifying and the race.”

Valtteri Bottas finished third in Sochi a year ago, while Massa seeks a rebound after a fuel flow issue in qualifying resigned him to a Q1 elimination and an 11th place finish.