Joey Logano described his Michigan performance as “close to perfect.”
The key to Logano’s success was simple—a combination of speed and execution.
But the No. 22 Team Penske team’s strategy to reach Victory Lane began long before race day.
“We sat down as a group, including Joey, the engineers, myself, everybody at the shop, and we figured out and kind of assessed what we needed this weekend, how we wanted to make the weekend roll,” said crew chief Todd Gordon.
“Winning a pole on Saturday was part of it. We've got to be fast enough to go do that because that will put us in position where we can take the speed forward.”
That speed enabled Logano to maintain the lead for 163 of 203 laps. That speed enabled Logano to move around on the track and find lanes to regain the point when competitors briefly passed the No. 22 Team Penske Ford. And that speed enabled Logano to shoot out to a comfortable lead on the final restart and hold the position to the finish and earn his second win of 2019.
“We had a lot of speed,” Gordon added. “The balance didn't change all day. Part of that is because you're in clean air. Even when we got behind, back to sixth, we were trying to side-draft the 9 (Chase Elliott), the 4 (Kevin Harvick) jumped beside us and pinned us in the middle.
“From that, he made pretty aggressive moves and got back to the lead pretty quickly…I thought I saw a lot of cars that could come and go. The place got racy, and you could draft up on somebody. It was just timing your runs so you could make the pass. If you couldn't complete the pass, you were done.”
One nuance about the new aero/engine package at the 550 horsepower tracks is that the configuration awards aggression. That’s one trait Logano doesn’t lack. He also benefited from a high degree of grip on a two-mile track that was repaved in 2012. All three of his Michigan wins came following the repave.
Couple Logano’s skill set for drafting at tracks such as Daytona and Talladega, where he has won four races, along with his prowess at MIS, and it’s a recipe for success.
“You run around here just about wide open all day long,” Gordon said. “That puts it where drafting makes a big difference.
“Michigan has almost become its own identity between Talladega and Daytona, the superspeedway package and intermediate package, morphed in between the two.”
Logano experienced a similar sensation. With only 550 horsepower at his disposal, compared to 850 in the past, Logano had the pedal matted. Track position and balance also came into play.
“When you go to this race track, more than anywhere else this year, there was more wide-open time than any other track we've gone to outside of superspeedways,” Logano said. “It acted more like a superspeedway. Speed in your car seemed to be pretty important, that compromise of how much handling you need to downforce on the car to drag.”
Certainly, the race fell in Logano’s direction. Harvick had a stout car on Monday but early problems and a late four-tire pit call (where others saved time with two-tire stops) took him out of contention. Had Erik Jones not triggered the final caution with five laps remaining, Kurt Busch might have given Logano a fight, but the No. 1 Chevy also had damage from an earlier encounter with the wall. Martin Truex Jr. was sporty in the closing laps, but his handling was nowhere close to as dialed in as the No. 22 Ford.
“There's a lot that goes into it,” Logano said. “If it was one thing, it would be pretty simple, right? But it's not. It takes the car, it takes the spotter and driver being on the same page. It takes everyone really understanding what's happening around you at that moment.
"There were times that certain cars just can't do what we did (on Monday), right? We had a great car that allowed me to execute moves and be successful with them. Sometimes you have a car where you can make these moves, but you can't successfully pull them off. That's when you never get there, right? That's when you run fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth. Can't just get there. We've all been there.
"I had a car that was able to do it. We took advantage of that.”