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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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”