CONCORD, N.C. – He said he hears it often and it comes from his team owner, who happens to be Roger Penske, so you can bet Joey Logano takes the advice to heart.
Penske, 81, has a pair of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championships as a team owner. His open-wheel teams have won a stunning 17 Indianapolis 500 titles. Overall, his racing organizations have more than 500 victories. When he talks racing, it pays to listen.
“One of the things he says to me a lot and that I remember is not to trip on your press clippings,” Logano said Monday during a media outing at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “Meaning don’t be looking in your rear-view mirror too much about something good you did because your competition’s catching you.”
Logano, 28, has certainly piled up his share of noteworthy accomplishments since joining the Cup circuit in 2009 as a teenager. Winning the 2018 Cup Series title has only added to the stack.
Prior to last season, he was an 18-time winner at NASCAR’s top level and a championship finalist two of the previous four years. Last year, he added three more wins, another trip to the championship round and this time, a series title.
He became the 33rd driver to win NASCAR’s ultimate prize and one of the youngest. He seems appreciative yet unfazed by the accomplishment. Now that the calendar has turned to 2019, anyway.
This year won’t be about defending his championship, he said, but about trying to win another one. No driver has won back-to-back titles since Jimmie Johnson in ’09-10.
“We went to New York City to ring in the new year,” Logano said of he and wife Brittany, “… we were standing outside, the ball dropped, they were singing ‘New York, New York,’ I looked at her and said ‘Well, that was a great year. It’s over.’
“And it is. An amazing season, the birth of our child (son Hudson Joseph). It’s going to be tough to top it. But the facts are you have to keep looking out the windshield.”
Much will be different – there’s the new aerodynamic rules package for ’19 as well as a model change for Ford teams as the Mustang has replaced the workhorse Fusion. But a lot remains the same – his team, headed up by talented crew chief Todd Gordon, returns intact.
And the goal of winning the title? That’s also the same.
“The goal is the same; how you get there is different and will be every year as rules change or formats change … but the goal is the same,” he said. “Whether we had seven championships like Jimmie or one like we do now or none like last year.
“Like I said, I enjoyed it, it was great, but I feel like as soon as the season starts – maybe I’m wrong … I think of it as that’s over now. People say, ‘you’re the reigning champion through the whole year until there’s another champion.’ Maybe but I kind of look at it as it’s over as of Jan. 1 and it’s game on again. … I look at it that way and I think my race team does too.”
• The 2018 accomplishment hasn’t been forgotten, just put aside. Meanwhile, the large, unique trophy is a hard-to-miss reminder.
Logano said each member of the team is celebrating the title by keeping the trophy in his or her possession one week at a time. Logano refers to it as the trophy “tour.”
“They can do whatever they want with it; I said, ‘I don’t care, do whatever you want, take a cool picture, eat Cheerios out of it, I don’t care, whatever you want to do,’” he said. “Kind of like the Stanley Cup. It’s been fun to see some of those photos … definitely a fun experience for them because it was all our first championship. None of us had ever won a championship before on our race team. So that was a very special thing.”