For some veteran drivers, Road America can make them feel ‘like a rookie’

0 Comments

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — Joey Logano is the only Cup driver to score top-five finishes in the first three road course races this year.

But none of that will help him with Sunday’s Cup race at Road America (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

Logano is among the Cup drivers who have never competed in a NASCAR race at this 4.048-mile, 14-turn course. That list also includes Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin.

“I feel like a rookie,” Logano said.

“You have to figure out which way you are going, what you need in your race car, which way you think it is going to go in the race and then how to race others. Yeah, it is a lot to figure out in a short amount of time.”

Truex understands that feeling and the challenge drivers who have not competed at Road America feel.

“It’s a big challenge for sure,” Truex said. “I think it’s really about confidence and understanding how much you can get in that corner. Again, it’s very narrow and there’s not a lot of runoff, but there’s a lot of time to be gained there as well.

“You’re playing that balance act of trying to baby step it and go a little faster each time and hope you don’t try to get too much and overstep it. I was getting faster through there every single time all day, but then I came through there one time and saw (Kyle Busch) backwards crashed (in practice), and it’s like, ‘Alright, just baby steps, a little bit at a time.’

“I haven’t quite got to where I want to be yet, just needed a little more time out there.”

Ryan Newman also has never competed in a NASCAR race at Road America. To get extra track time this weekend, he competed in the Trans Am TA2 race, finishing 10th. 

Eighteen drivers who have run a NASCAR race at this course have no more than two appearances at this track, so those, like Truex, aren’t too far behind.

“I think it’s the big equalizer,” Truex said. “It just depends on who has the most laps here. I think right now it’s going to come down to experience.

“If you look at Chase (Elliott) and I, we’ve mostly traded off Watkins Glen. We kind of own Sonoma. He’s really good at the (Charlotte) Roval. We weren’t quite as good at the Roval. We were really good at Daytona (road course) and didn’t show it. (Circuit of the Americas), he was really good – we weren’t.

“That conversation has changed so much because of all of the tracks that we go to now and how different they are. A brand new place like this, you don’t know. … This stuff is challenging, and I look forward to learning this track more and hopefully have a good day (Sunday).”

Elliott, who finished fourth in both Xfinity starts he’s made at Road America, said he struggled in Saturday’s Cup practice.

I never felt like I got into a really good rhythm at all,” said Elliott, who has won five of the last seven Cup road course races. “Just trying to find that flow. The racetrack flows well, but that doesn’t mean you’re flowing good on a personal level. So, just trying to find that within myself and getting into a good rhythm. It’s a lot about rhythm and hitting your marks properly – that’s key.”