Joey Logano: ‘We’re ready’ to win Sprint Cup championship

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JOLIET, Ill. – Can’t miss. A future champion. Even a multiple champion down the road.

Joey Logano heard all those predictions and compliments and more during the first few seasons in the Sprint Cup Series, with some of the biggest names in the sport touting his ability and future, including former boss Joe Gibbs, mentor Mark Martin and current boss Roger Penske.

“It adds a lot of pressure, but I’ve kind of gotten used to that pressure,” said Logano, who is a legitimate contender to win the Cup championship this season. “It’s pretty neat to have that stature of people (talk about him) like Roger Penske, Joe Gibbs, Mark Martin.

“For them to say something like that, it’s awesome. And then you try to live up to it. It was hard before, but I’ve been able to hit my stride here lately and been able to figure it out.

“But it’s really cool to hear people like that say something about you. To me, a champion is not just winning this thing, it’s being a champion in life, that you take on that responsibility when you do that this year, and I feel I’m ready for it.”

So that means the guy that has carried the nickname “Sliced Bread” is now ready to go for the whole loaf and win the 2014 Sprint Cup championship.

“I feel like, hey, I’ve got a shot at this, people are talking and we’re one of the top contenders at this thing,” Logano said. “I believe that and my whole team believes that and we’re going to fight to the end to make this a dream season the best we can.

“It’s been a dream come true. If you told me that three years ago, I’d have said ‘cool,’ but I’d also probably have said you were crazy, too. But that’s what makes this moment special: we have a real shot at winning the championship this year.”

A number of elements have brought Logano to the position he’s in heading into Sunday’s Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway.

He’s matured as a driver, learned from past mistakes, has become more comfortable with teammate Brad Keselowski and has strengthened the second-year relationship with crew chief Todd Gordon.

“I could never say I had that before, ever,” Logano said. “Having a second year with Todd and working with this 22 team, they’re ready, they’re pumped up about it. I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else right now, to do it right now, and I feel like we can.

“We want to hit Chicago and hit it hard. We sat on the pole last year, led a lot of laps until our motor blew up, but we were fast.

“This year, we’ve learned a lot from our mistakes, not only from what we did (in last year’s Chase) but what was done at all these other tracks and how we had to get better at them. That chemistry between Todd and myself, building that notebook, we understand each other a lot better now.

“My team’s awesome. I’ve never been with a group of guys like this before. They’ve done great and I feel great about it. I feel very confident we can do it this year.

“We’re ready for it, man. We’re ready.”

We’ll find out if that’s true starting Sunday.

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Roger Penske vows new downtown Detroit GP will be bigger than the Super Bowl for city


DETROIT – He helped spearhead bringing the town a Super Bowl 17 years ago, but Roger Penske believes the reimagined Chevrolet Detroit GP is his greatest gift to the Motor City.

“It’s bigger than the Super Bowl from an impact within the city,” Penske told NBC Sports. “Maybe not with the sponsors and TV, but for the city of Detroit, it’s bigger than the Super Bowl.

“We’ve got to give back individually and collectively, and I think we as a company in Michigan and in Detroit, it’s something we know how to do. It shows we’re committed. Someone needs to take that flag and run it down through town. And that’s what we’re trying to do as a company. We’re trying to give back to the city.”

After 30 years of being run on Belle Isle, the race course has been moved to a new nine-turn, 1.7-mile downtown layout that will be the centerpiece of an event weekend that is designed to promote a festival and community atmosphere.

There will be concerts in the adjacent Hart Plaza. Local businesses from Detroit’s seven districts have been invited to hawk their wares to new clientele. Boys and Girls Clubs from the city have designed murals that will line the track’s walls with images of diversity, inclusion and what Detroit means through the eyes of youth.

And in the biggest show of altruism, more than half the circuit will be open for free admission. The track is building 4-foot viewing platforms that can hold 150 people for watching the long Jefferson Avenue straightaway and other sections of the track.

Detroit GP chairman Bud Denker, a longtime key lieutenant across Penske’s various companies, has overseen more than $20 million invested in infrastructure.

The race is essentially Penske’s love letter to the city where he made much of his fame as one of Detroit’s most famous automotive icons, both as a captain of industry with a global dealership network and as a racing magnate (who just won his record 19th Indy 500 with Josef Newgarden breaking through for his first victory on the Brickyard oval).

During six decades in racing, Penske, 86, also has run many racetracks (most notably Indianapolis Motor Speedway but also speedways in Michigan, California and Pennsylvania), and much of that expertise has been applied in Detroit.

“And then the ability for us to reach out to our sponsor base, and then the business community, which Bud is tied in with the key executives in the city of Detroit, bringing them all together,” Penske said. “It makes a big difference.

“The Super Bowl is really about the people that fly in for the Super Bowl. It’s a big corporate event, and the tickets are expensive. And the TV is obviously the best in the world. What we’ve done is taken that same playbook but made it important to everyone in Detroit. Anyone that wants to can come to the race for free, can stand on a platform or they can buy a ticket and sit in the grandstands or be in a suite. It’s really multiple choice, but it is giving it to the city of Detroit. I think it’s important when you think of these big cities across the country today that are having a lot of these issues.”

Denker said the Detroit Grand Prix is hoping for “an amazingly attended event” but is unsure of crowd estimates with much of the track offering free viewing. The race easily could handle a crowd of at least 50,000 daily (which is what the Movement Music Festival draws in Hart Plaza) and probably tens of thousands more in a sprawling track footprint along the city’s riverwalk.

Penske is hoping for a larger crowd than Belle Isle, which was limited to about 30,000 fans daily because of off-site parking and restricted fan access at a track that was located in a public park.

The downtown course will have some unique features, including a “split” pit lane on an all-new concrete (part of $15 million spent on resurfaced roads, new barriers and catchfencing … as well as 252 manhole covers that were welded down).

A $5 million, 80,000-square-foot hospitality chalet will be located adjacent to the paddock and pit area. The two-story structure, which was imported from the 16th hole of the Waste Management Open in Phoenix, will offer 70 chalets (up from 23 suites at Belle Isle last year). It was built by InProduction, the same company that installed the popular HyVee-branded grandstands and suites at Iowa Speedway last year.

Penske said the state, city, county and General Motors each owned parts of the track, and their cooperation was needed to move streetlights and in changing apexes of corners. Denker has spent the past 18 months meeting with city council members who represent Detroit’s seven districts, along with Mayor Mike Duggan. Penske said the local support could include an appearance by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Witmer.

Denker and Detroit GP  president Michael Montri were inspired to move the Detroit course downtown after attending the inaugural Music City Grand Prix in Nashville, Tennessee.

“We saw what an impact it made on that city in August of 2021 and we came back from there and said boy could it ever work to bring it downtown in Detroit again,” Denker said. “We’ve really involved the whole community of Detroit, and the idea of bringing our city together is what the mayor and city council and our governor are so excited about. The dream we have is now coming to fruition.

“When you see the infrastructure downtown and the bridges over the roads we’ve built and the graphics, and everything is centered around the Renaissance Center as your backdrop, it’s just amazing.”