Only two active drivers have won more than two-time winner Joey Logano at this week’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stop, Kansas Speedway.
Yet for all his success at the track, Logano conceded Saturday night’s Digital Ally 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) remains a huge unknown throughout the garage. For starters, the Kansas City venue has been unusually chilly for this time of year – day time temperatures hovering in the 50s and 60s and cooling off significantly at night. And with a new and un-race tested competitive package at this particular track no one knows for sure what to expect on the 1.5-mile high banks.
Unlike some race weekends when drivers run a handful of laps on track and allow their teams to finetune in the garage, most every driver was turning scores of laps in Friday’s opening practice sessions.
Logano’s No. 22 Team Penske Ford was 12th in the first practice and 20th in the final practice. But the reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion looked fully at ease speaking with the gathered media on Friday afternoon. He conceded that expectations vary greatly for the race and was less surprised by the amount of drafting practice and total laps run in general.
“I think everyone just realizes that you are going to have a lot of wide-open time here and the more you have; the more the draft will come into play,’’ Logano said of Friday’s practice strategies. “You have to be around other cars for those reasons. The difference between clean air and dirty air, balance-wise, is quite a difference because the speed here is faster and you don’t have as much downforce.
“If you go out there and are easy, wide-open by yourself, what are you learning?”
There’s a decent argument that Logano would be a fine teacher. He’s had plenty of success at the track – eight top-10s and seven top-fives in his 19 Kansas starts. He finished third in this race last year, won the pole position and led 100 laps in the Fall playoff race but finished eighth.
He had a streak of five consecutive top-five finishes between 2013-15, winning the Fall races in 2014 and 2015.
Again, however, he reiterated the specific conditions this weekend – the new technical package and unusually cool weather - create a unique circumstance. And it just may present a great opportunity for Logano, who is ranked second in the championship, only five points behind three-time 2019 winner Kyle Busch.
Logano has been a perfect 3-for-3 in top-10s at the previous 1.5-mile venues – sixth at Atlanta, seventh at Las Vegas and sixth at Texas. And he’s had top-10s in the last four races coming to Kansas.
His mindset is adapt and go. And who could argue?
“Cooler temperatures will bring the pack closer,’’ Logano said. “The cars today in practice, it was surprising how much we were lifting actually in that draft. The cars were really sliding all over the place in dirty air and the temperature is a little warmer right now with the sun out.
“When you get to a night race it will bring the pack closer together. It used to be the other way around. When we were lifting a lot we wanted the track temperature to be hot and to rubber up a lot so that it would get really wide and we could move around and do all this stuff. Now, you want it cooler so that you are more wide-open and that is what brings the cars closer.”