Joey Logano says that he is not feeling under pressure despite an off-key 2011 season. The 21-year-old has never made the Chase in his NASCAR career, and finished a lowly 24th in points last year, despite being part of the same Joe Gibbs Racing stable as Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, who have been Chase regulars in recent years. This led to rumours that he was to be replaced by Carl Edwards, but when these proved to be wide of the mark, Logano was allowed to keep his ride. He is determined that with new crew-chief Jason Ratcliff alongside him, he will make a strong challenge for a spot in the Chase this season.
“I'm very relaxed. I feel like my head is in the right spot. I feel like I'm very confident in myself, I'm very confident in Jason and my whole team and doing the right thing,” Logano said.
“I tell you, Jason – I've talked to him a ton. Everyday we're on the phone, I'm at the shop talking to him, doing something with him. I think that's gone along really well. Then, Jason is one of the hardest working guys I've ever seen in my life. He's there all the time. It's going to be unreal. I'm pretty pumped up about it. I think there are some really good changes at Joe Gibbs Racing that I think are going to help all three teams.”
Logano believes that there are several lessons that he can learn from the season past, and that this motivates him to go out and do a better job this time around.
“Obviously last year was a disappointment I think for all three teams. I can speak for myself – that was terrible last year. We did everything as a team completely wrong in a lot cases, whether it's driver mistakes, team mistakes — whatever it was, we weren't on it. With a year like that, talk about being humble, that will humble you in a hurry. That's when you have to dig down deep. You don't want to do that again. It was seriously no fun at all to do something like that.
“That motivates you a ton to go out there and do a lot better. I know I have the guys behind me now. I'm very confident going into this season, probably more confident than I've ever been going into a season.”
“You should treat every year like it's a make it or break it year. So, what's the difference? That's how I look at it. I should go out there and try to win every race, whether it's contract year or not. There's no difference there for me.”
Logano, who has not won a race in Cup since he broke the record for the youngest ever winner in Cup – at 19 years and 35 days – at New Hampshire in 2009, has attracted a new sponsor to the no.20 car in Dollar General, who have supported Sarah Fisher's Indycar team since 2008.
“It is pressure bringing them in, but it's confidence when you get them”, Logano said of his new sponsor. “Think about how hard it is to get a great company like Dollar General in our sport. It's very hard to do, there are a lot of other teams out there trying to get them. A lot of other teams with great drivers trying to get them. For us to be able to reel them in and get them, that puts a lot of confidence in our team and myself for sure.”
Logano also said that positive thinking was vital to making sure a repeat of 2011 is not forthcoming.
“Positive thinking is very important no matter what is going on. That's something I've learned more this last year than I've ever thought of,” Logano said.
“I went to a sports psychologist, you talk to those people and you find a new way of going to a race track and a new whole way of thinking about a lot of things. That's very, very important. I was able to see the gains you can make in that stuff. That's the stuff when you're down, you look at anything.”