For the second time in three races, Joey Logano saw Kevin Harvick in his rear-view mirror as he took the checkered flag.
Logano thought the first time, his first Sprint Cup road-course win at Watkins Glen International, was “really, really cool” to have on his resume. But Saturday’s win under the lights at Bristol Motor Speedway is difficult for Logano to rank among his 11 Sprint Cup wins.
It wasn’t the Daytona 500 and didn’t involve taking advantage of fuel strategy. But he fended off constant attacks from Harvick, the defending series champion, while leading the final 64 laps around the half-mile track.
“It’s cool to be racing one of the best out there and being able to hold him off and race each other hard and obviously not make mistakes,” Logano said. “He didn’t make mistakes and I didn’t make a mistake today, either. It was fun to race like that. Where it ranks, I don’t know.”
Bristol is now the second track the 25-year-old driver has won multiple Sprint Cup races at after winning the night race in 2014.
“It’s just such a driver’s racetrack,” said Logano, who also led all 300 laps of the spring Xfinity Series race there. “You never get a break. So Bristol you start the race and say, ‘this is going to be a long one.’ You know it’s going to be a tough, grueling race, but it puts on a great race, and I enjoy coming here. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. But I don’t know where it stacks up. But it went well. I guess it stacks up there somewhere.”
The other track Logano has multiple wins at is New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where he won his first-career race in 2009. He didn’t win there again until 2014, a season in which he won five times.
Before he joined Team Penske in 2013, Logano had two wins in his five seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing. He had three before 2014. Twenty-four races into the 2015 season, Logano has 11-career wins and is the only driver not named Harvick that kept pace with Joe Gibbs Racing as it reeled off six wins over the last two months.
“Obviously JGR is a great team,” Logano said. “They’re kicking butt out there right now. I’ve been fortunate to drive for two great race teams. The difference now is that I’m ready to go racing and race for championships. Back then I wasn’t. You know, but I definitely learned a lot. I wouldn’t trade those years for a million bucks.”
Lognao also wouldn’t trade the direction he’s received from team owner Roger Penske since he hired him at 23, a driver who hadn’t fulfilled expectations since he arrived in the Cup series at 18.
“I think my dad always told me you are who you hang out with, and if you’re hanging out with people like Roger Penske and Team Penske, that’s a lot of poise,” Logano said. “I try not to get fired up inside the racecar. A lot of times I don’t because I see the bigger picture. I just want to get through it, we’ll be fine.”
Logano would be fine after an early miscue on pit road, eventually leading a season-high 176 laps at a track known for drivers losing their poise and tossing helmets.
“As a driver you’re one of the leaders, and you have the power to destroy a race team or build a race team, you know, and I think I understand that, and I think that’s something that’s helped us a lot.”
It’s continued to give him poise as he prepares for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. But Chase or not, Logano doesn’t care if he’s looking at Harvick or his former team in his rear-view mirror.
“I don’t care who the heck I’m racing, I’ll tell you that right now. There’s 42 other drivers out there that are really, really good, and a lot of them are capable of winning a race,” Logano said. “It’s all about the win, and I don’t care if I had to beat my sister to win the race.”