Originally posted on Captain Thunder Racing | Last updated 6/11/12
credit: getty images
Yeah, it was just an amazing weekend. Right off the truck, our Home Depot car had a lot of speed, and Jason and all the boys did a really good job with the test, trying to learn things, not getting off track of what we knew worked for us but still try things and not forget about it.
It really has to be -- putting the thing on the pole yesterday was a big moment, and then leading a lot of laps and coming down there in those late race restarts, Mark was getting better, every restart he was getting a little better, and he got me the last one. I said, I'm giving one away here. I thought about taking the outside, and I thought, the bottom has worked every restart before that.
When he got in front of me, I was trying to get right to him, and made a couple mistakes, and he was driving away a little bit and then he made a mistake off of 3, and I was able to have a big run coming to him there. Went into 1 and tried to out-brake him, and he was protecting the bottom, I was trying to stick my nose in there, and we got really close, and I'm not even sure if we touched each other or not, but I know I got him air loose at least and able to slide up underneath him and clear him by the time he got off of 1.
Making sure I cleared him was a very important moment. You start side drafting down those straightaways and the 14 car is going to be there ready to pounce before you knew it. To clear him, get through 2 and get a little distance on him was very important.
And then from there you're just waiting on that white flag and hoping that thing comes out before the next caution comes out.
It's just a surreal feeling to get Jason his first Sprint Cup win. Any time you can get someone their first win is a remarkable feeling. Actually kind of feels like my first win here, too. This is just a surreal moment. It's awesome for Home Depot and Dollar General and Rick and all those guys up there, to get them a win after they stuck with me for so long, it's pretty surreal right now.
THE MODERATOR: Jason Ratcliff, some interesting calls there down the stretch for your driver. Now the 20 car joins the other cars in victory lane this year for Joe Gibbs Racing. Congratulations on that, your first win.
JASON RATCLIFF: We were saving the best Gibbs car for last. We wanted to give those guys a head start.
No, great teammates, obviously. Quick story: As Joey mentioned, our car has been quick all week, but in the final practice, we were pretty good. We made a long run. I felt pretty good about it, and I thought the speed was good. But the 18 car was a little bit quicker, and I said, we've got one more hour of practice, we're going to put their setup in this thing and see how good it is. We put their setup in it, and Joey was really happy with it, felt like it was something we could work with, so we worked off that for today, and it paid off. So I thank our teammates obviously.
And great cars. I mean, the guys at the shop have been building great cars. This was a new car, a new generation car for us at Joe Gibbs Racing, and it -- I mean, it dominated. To sit on the pole, win the race, lead the most laps, that's a big deal. To get my first win at Pocono is obviously a great experience, and to get it with Joey is a lot of fun.
But back to the race. We've been here for, what, a month (laughing), and I think I'm just going to move up here with this kind of success. But obviously a great weekend for us. We lost track position there, some guys were pitting off sequence and we lost track position. It was really tough to make that up. So we knew coming down to the end there we were going to have to be creative, and thankfully the first pit box paid off for us, to get on pit road. A lot of guys took right-side tires at that time, we were able to come off pit road in the lead, but we were about six laps short on fuel at that point, and just, praise the Lord, we got the caution laps we needed.
When we got to -- I think one short, and we ran a couple laps and the caution came out again. I'm sure we didn't have much fuel left there. I was concerned about fuel. And then for this guy to go down into Turn 1 and have an incredible move like that, it just shows how talented he is, and it shows how motivated he is to be one of the top drivers in this sport.
Q. How much did the tire test help you to have that information in your back pocket, so to speak, and then come back and just be incredibly fast all three days before getting the pole?
JOEY LOGANO: It was definitely very important to do that tire test. As much as they changed it by repaving it, it's still good ol' Pocono, and it's really tough to get around this joint. I've been able to use a lot of things that I used before on the old track to make our race cars go fast. It still takes the same things, but it's different, and it was definitely a big deal for our whole Joe Gibbs Racing team today, to come out here and do that tire test, and obviously tire tests are -- we only run a couple of them a year and everyone only runs a couple of them a year, so we really take advantage of that and learn a lot from that. And coming back here and knowing what I've got to do as a driver, Jason knowing what he wants to work on and what we thought we needed to get better at the end of the test and helping out our teammates as much as we can to make our whole Joe Gibbs Racing team strong.
Obviously we helped them before they got here, and then the 18 car helped us. So that back and forth motion within the team is very important to have.
Q. How did you guys feel when you crossed the finish line and then when he crossed the finish line? What were your thoughts?
JASON RATCLIFF: I was very excited, to be honest. You know, once Joey, as I mentioned before, made a spectacular move in 1, then I was just like, man, don't let this thing run out of gas. So I was looking down the front stretch there, and when I saw that orange car come off of Turn 3, it was pretty exciting. I knew from that point he could coast across the line. So it was a big deal.
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, the moment is pretty surreal. Not just crossing the line, obviously that's an amazing moment, and I didn't stop screaming until I got to about -- well, victory lane, I guess. You work so hard to do this, and them teaming me up with Jason has been an awesome experience. We've been growing together a lot lately and able to make our cars better. To get a victory, it meant so much, and pulling the Home Depot car into victory lane at a Sprint Cup race and winning it the right way was just an amazing, amazing feeling that you can't replicate and you can't explain what it means.
Q. Joey, we all know your history with Mark and how he's been talking you up since eight years old or whatever it was. When you're racing him for the win, is that something you'd ever thought you'd have a chance to do given the disparity in your ages, and did you ever think about the connection you two have when you tried to beat him out there?
JOEY LOGANO: We've been racing against each other here for the last three or four years now, and I thought it was pretty amazing just to line up next to him if we were running 15th. He's a great racer, and he makes very minimal mistakes out there. He's really good. Every restart he was getting better and better, and I was like, oh, man, this is getting tight.
I couldn't have picked someone cooler to line up against on a late restart like that to try to win a race against him, and having Tony right behind me and also a race car driver that's helped me out a lot in my career, too, having those guys around you, your teammates being in the top 5, too, with Denny out there, it's a pretty cool lineup when you think about the guys you're racing against there at the end.
I was telling myself under caution, we were pretty quiet - well, at least I was - I wasn't saying anything. I just kept telling myself, I can do this, I can do this. And I knew I can. You've got to have that confidence in there that you can do it. I was focused in and made sure I did all the right things.
Q. After you made the pass in 1, knowing how close you guys were with the caution, do you pick up at all at that point?
JOEY LOGANO: No, I didn't even think about it. That was the last thing on my mind. It was Jason's job to remind me about it. Once I passed him, it was wide open until the end. I was driving in there hard and just trying to make as much speed as I can without making a mistake.
He added up the numbers and calculated it right for us, and saved enough under the cautions. Toyotas are getting some good mileage right now. Our engineers have turned in a good track map for us to make sure we get good fuel mileage, the most horsepower we can, and it's paying off.
Q. You've been pretty open about the fact that the heat is on you a little bit more this year; it's a contract year for you. What does this win do for you in terms of making you feel like you're shoring up your future a little bit, and have you been told anything further from Joe or J.D. about what's up?
JOEY LOGANO: No, I haven't been informed on where I stand for next year yet, so it's all up in the air. Obviously winning a race means a lot and it helps that out a ton. For sure right now my future is not set with anybody. You need to go out there and win races, not like we always do, but to get this win means a lot. It's at a perfect time, and I think us teaming up with Jason this year has been a really big help for me, and able to make our whole team really work together really well, and it's paying off.
My hope is to obviously stay with what I've got and keep working with Jason. But you never know. You know, those things go back and forth and switch around a lot, and all I can do is stay focused on my job, and that's driving the race car. Whatever happens from there happens. I did my job today with winning the race, and my team did a great job, too, and all that stuff will fall in -- the puzzle pieces will fall together eventually.
Q. You guys are coming back here in less than two months, and after all the time that you've spent here with that tire test and all the practice and everything that's gone on in the last several days, are there some great conclusions you can make about maybe the differences that we have here now, or is it just going to be a feeling out process when you come back in August?
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, I thought the racing was pretty good, considering it was a fresh repave and really going into the race not knowing what we were going to have. I will say the first couple of runs of the race after it rained last night and having that Hoosier rubber down there from those ARCA cars, we were sliding around a lot until it rubbered up with our rubber in there. You could see the groove widening up as we kept going more and more. The third -- second lane was pretty decent, and the third turn, and then Turn 1 was widening out, too.
You know, you can feel like it's going to start getting to the old Pocono in a little bit, but I think it still put on some great racing. I know restarts are always chaotic here, and they were again, and it's always a strategy race, too. I thought the racing was good. I thought especially for a fresh repave, they've done a good job at this racetrack, keeping some old characteristics of old Pocono in it, and we had a lot of fun with it.
Q. You've made a couple of references now to winning the right way. Even though the record book shows that you've got two Sprint Cup victories, does this really feel like the first one?
JOEY LOGANO: To me it does. You know, to me it's -- the first win came -- it came soon, it came under rain delay, so this is a different feel. But when you cross the line and you've won the race, it's -- like I said earlier, it's an amazing feeling. It's amazing how much more it means than a Nationwide win. Not to take anything away from that, those Nationwide wins are a lot of fun, but I think Jason knows when you're racing against the best race car drivers with the best race teams out there, and to be able to beat them is -- it's the best of the best out here.
Q. Jason, can you tell me what was going through your head when all the speeding penalties were breaking out early in the race?
JASON RATCLIFF: Well, one of my engineers thankfully looked into it and determined that it was the last section on pit road where guys were getting caught, which is common. I mean, guys get all the way to the end and they can see that yellow line and they're like, I can pick it up a little early. So I think it was in section 10 where most of the penalties were coming from, which was just outside of pit box 1. So thankfully I knew that wasn't a section we could get busted in, but we did, obviously myself and the spotter, remind Joey every time down pit road -- oh, that's so frustrating, to have that happen to you because you tried to pick up half a mile an hour or whatever and it just cost you and it ruins your day.
Like you mentioned, it happened a lot today, so it makes you wonder why that many -- I don't know, we'll go back and we can go back and look at NASCAR's sheet and see what the mileage was, were guys three miles an hour over, were they a half a mile an hour over.
But when we come back here in a few weeks, that will definitely be something on our notes, if we don't get pit box 1, which we expect to get pit box 1. But if we don't, watch out for section No. 10.
Q. Obviously you know who's passing you on that last lap. He's a guy who knows all the tricks, a veteran guy. Is there any room for nerves there? Do you have to overcome that a little bit when you see Martin pass you?
JOEY LOGANO: You need to overcome it. I've never really been nervous in a race car before, but a lot of things go through your mind in those late race restarts. There are moments that are very intense. I think that's the word I'm looking for. You're so focused on. You're in your little zone, and I get quiet because I don't really want to talk to anyone at the time. I've kind of got my game plan, I know what I've got to do, and I've got to work my game plan. I was quiet on the radio, and Jason was feeding me the information I needed to help me win it, and I was just doing what I had to do.
Yeah, I mean, it's -- I don't think you're nervous, I just think it's just everything that can possibly go through your mind at one time.
Q. Considering the last year or so when Zippy was there, it was obvious he was going somewhere, those rumors started pretty early. To have somebody like Jason, he's really proven himself in Nationwide Series, you guys had a lot of success there, he really wants to be here. Does that give you the feeling, I've got a guy who's got my back and is really supporting me? Has that helped you kind of come into your own this year?
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, I mean, obviously Zippy and I -- I'll touch on that for a minute. He's helped me out a lot in my career, and he's done a great job with me, and he's a heck of a crew chief. But we were just different, you know, and it makes it very hard to work together sometimes like that.
But I mean, I look up to him to this day and respect everything he's done. I'm very thankful for everything he's done for me to get me in this position.
Working with Jason has been something different, and we've been working really tight together, able to communicate very well, we're on the same level together. We're both learning together, going through a lot of things. Obviously it's a little bit of a learning curve for Jason getting into the Sprint Cup Series and how they do things here, whether that's race strategy or just the cars themselves, and then there's another learning curve of driver and crew chief relationship that we've got to go through. We only ran a couple of races together before this, so there's definitely a lot we didn't know about each other, and he's been putting in the hard work, a lot of hard work, and he's been giving me some really good race cars, and our race cars are getting better and better every week.
Like Jason said, too, our new generation car has been helping us, and we've been learning about that, and I think we take a lot of things away from every race, whether we run good or not. Charlotte for us was a disappointment and a little frustrating, but I felt like we learned a lot and what we needed to do, and we were able to put that into the next race. We ran well at Dover, arguably a top 5 car, and then coming out here and winning the race.
Having that test and all that obviously helps us, too, but I think right now we're gelling well, and we've just got to make sure we keep that going as we go here and get this Home Depot car in the Chase.
Q. Jason, did Kyle's engine problems give you any concern?
JASON RATCLIFF: They did. We ran a little hotter today than we have. Of course the outdoor temp was quite a lot hotter, so you try to anticipate how much tape you need to pull off the grille for 10 or 12 degrees outdoor temp. But I think in traffic we underestimated how hot the engines would get. My first thought was somebody go down there and see if they ran hot, see if that was the problem, because I know that had been a problem for us. So I don't really know what happened, but I know on the next pit stop we pulled tape on our grille.
And our TRD engine ran great all day, very competitive. To come out here and sit on the pole with that kind of lap time and then run up front all day, and a lot of Toyotas, I think, in the top 5 or 6 there. Really proud of those guys and what they're doing, and we'll see what happened on the 18 there.
Q. You and Dave spent a lot of time working together in Nationwide. While this was also your first Cup experience, how much of a bonus has it been or how has it helped you working with him again while doing this on the Cup side?
JASON RATCLIFF: Oh, it's huge. I think when Dave and I first started working back in 2007, I think, at the Nationwide shop, we worked together for a couple years and were able to build a program there that I'm pretty proud of. So Dave is a big reason that I'll in the Cup Series, and he is -- I mean, he and Darian both, are so open, so great to work with. I mean, any questions I have -- today I went and sat with both of them before the race, kind of played my pit strategy out for them, said, hey, shoot some holes in that, what do you think. I know I'm going to get an honest opinion from those guys.
I think it's been a huge part of the relationship with Dave and getting to victory lane this early with great race cars, and to have some early success in this series, I owe a lot to Dave Rogers and Darian.
Q. Jason, Joey alluded to it a little bit about the learning curve. You got three top 10s in the last four races. Has that been a big part of it, and how does this win give you a little momentum as you guys make a little push towards the Chase here?
JASON RATCLIFF: Early on in the year, we did a lot of experimenting. We were trying to build race cars for Joey Logano. We weren't taking cars that Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin ran and trying to say, okay, this is what Joey is going to drive. We were trying to customize a 20 car for Joey Logano. And we made some mistakes along the way, but as Joey mentioned, we learned a lot of things, as well, and we just kept building our notebook thicker and thicker. And I think over the last few weeks, we've been able to go back and look at those past notes and say, okay, what do we need to do to have a better race car, what do we need to do on out pit strategy to give Joey what he needs to be successful.
I think the hard work up front at the first part of the year is paying off now, and I think it's showed in the last three or four weeks.
Q. Jason, I just want to clarify, were you told as crew chiefs in advance that the loops were different because of the repave and the sections were different lengths? Were you aware of all that going in?
JASON RATCLIFF: Oh, yeah, absolutely. We get that information, and of course you use it however you want to use it. So yes, we get all that information. I think the problems we had today were guys just being a little too aggressive on pit road with a lot of green flag stops and knowing how critical the track position was. I would say it was that, that was the problem.
Q. When Kasey won Charlotte a couple weeks ago, he talked about different people that had helped him through his slump earlier this season and different people he leaned on for support. I just wonder who that's been for you during some of the low points the last year or two, and also, during some of the low points, especially in the last year towards the end of last year when silly season heated up, was there a point where you were worried if you didn't come home with a victory by the end of the season or by a certain point this season, you weren't going to have a job?
JOEY LOGANO: Obviously you want to go out there and win every race you can, and when you don't, it's very frustrating. You know, obviously those thoughts go through your mind. I have a great support group behind me, and I have some great friends, I have a great family that's very supportive, and I've got a great team here that's stuck behind me throughout this whole time. They've believed in me and know, hey, man, we figure it out, we're going to be good, we're going to be fine and win some races. They've been patient, they've been very supportive and believed in me.
You know, I've got a list about three pages long if you want me to start reading them all off, but there's definitely a lot of really good guys that have helped me out through the tough times that keep me mentally in the right state and physically doing the right things out on the racetrack.
Q. Knowing you the way I do, you're a pretty confident guy. Has your confidence ever wavered during this period, and what does this win do for your confidence going forward?
JOEY LOGANO: You know, last year was obviously a tough year for us, not many Nationwide wins, been winless over here. It was a very hard year, and this year getting those four Nationwide wins under our belts already, as a driver, that puts a lot of confidence in yourself, saying, hey, I can do this.
And I expect to be running out front. It wasn't a surprise today to me today that we were out front winning this race. I expected that, and I think you've got to have that confidence, you've got to have that little arrogance or cockiness as an athlete to have that. That's really important. You don't have to be a jerk about it, you can still be a nice guy and smile every once in a while, but at the same time you have to believe in yourself a lot and know that you're the best race car driver out there.
As long as you believe in yourself and know that but at the same time be humble enough to learn things from other drivers and learn things from other people out there, I think that's what makes a special athlete.
THE MODERATOR: Joey, Jason, congratulations.
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