Red-hot 'Sliced Bread' hungry for first Sprint Cup championship
Team Penske driver Joey Logano was victorious at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday night, giving him three wins in just 24 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races this season.
Joey Logano has a career-high three victories this season in the Sprint Cup Series.
Will Schneekloth / Getty Images
By Tom Jensen
Joey Logano is red hot right now.
The 24-year-old Team Penske driver was victorious at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday night, giving him three wins in just 24 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races this season. That's as many races as he won in his first 183 career Cup starts dating back nearly six years ago.
Clearly, Logano is more comfortable with Penske than he was in his four-year stint with Joe Gibbs Racing. And it's obvious his skill level has improved commensurately with his experience level, a key reason that Logano is enjoying a career year.
"I think what you see is another year of experience with the No. 22 team," Logano said during an exclusive interview with FOXSports.com. "I think the team is jelling better than ever. Todd (Gordon, crew chief) and myself have been working well together and kind of understanding what we need at each racetrack. Now that we're going to each track for the third or fourth time, we're really understanding what we need, and each time we make a mistake to get better."
Of course, in this day and age, any driver is only as good as the car underneath him and so far this season, Team Penske and Hendrick Motorsports have been the dominant forces. Logano and his teammate Brad Keselowski have three victories apiece this year, as do Hendrick Motorsports drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.
With Penske and Hendrick combining to win 15 of 24 races, it's clear right now they are the two best teams in the sport.
"We've had some fast race cars," said Logano. "I think Team Penske has done a really good job since the beginning of the year in developing this new package and developing it the whole time. I thought we were one of the first to have it somewhat developed in Phoenix and from there, just carrying on each week. We keep getting better."
Logano said the team is working hard to become more consistent and keep finishing up front. With the new elimination format in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, drivers can ill-afford any bad finishes in NASCAR's playoff round. Logano's four DNFs are the most for any driver in the top 15 in points right now.
This year, NASCAR has expanded the Chase field to 16 drivers. Four of those 16 will be eliminated after the third, sixth and ninth races of the Chase. The four surviving drivers will settle the championship among themselves in the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"When the Chase starts, we're going have to finish in the top five in about every event," said Logano. "Just like every other Chase, the guys that win it are up there every race. I can afford to have a bad one every now and then if we win one. But for the most part, consistency will get us to the next round. And when you get to the third segment, you're going to have to win."
As the Chase field narrows, the competition will intensify.
"The guys that are running well at that point, they're going to be fast," said Logano. "They're gong to keep getting better as you get closer to the end of this thing. Everyone's going to keep getting faster. The three or four drivers who end up racing for it at Homestead are going to be the ones winning races, or damned close to it. We have to make sure we're one of those."
Based on the way Logano is running right now, he has a great opportunity to do just that.
VIDEO: NASCAR Victory Lane -- Joey Logano wins at Bristol