NASCAR & Auto Racing

NASCAR: Stats say Joey Logano has seemingly beaten the ‘Talladega Curse.’ But how?

NASCAR driver Joey Logano has three wins in the last seven Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway. Can he add a fourth this weekend?
NASCAR driver Joey Logano has three wins in the last seven Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway. Can he add a fourth this weekend? AP

About that whole “quake in your boots” sort of fear Talladega Superspeedway can often elicit...

Yeah, doesn’t apply to Joey Logano.

“I don’t think it’s ever been that way for me here,” Logano told the Observer by phone Friday. “I’m the guy who’s just excited I get to go to the race track in general. I don’t care where we’re going.”

Now, any number of NASCAR drivers would tell you that — who really believes in the “Talladega Curse?” — but Logano has the numbers to back him up. In the last seven Cup Series race at Talladega, Logano has three wins and another two top-5 finishes.

Curse shmurse.

Logano is just one Ford driver to have success at the track in recent years, as the manufacturer has reeled off an impressive seven consecutive wins at Talladega. But more than one-off wonders like Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Aric Almirola, Logano has something at Talladega that few drivers ever harness: consistency.

So, what’s his secret?

“To win at a superspeedway, you need a lot of things to work out for you,” Logano said. “You need a fast car, obviously. That’s kind of a given.

“But then the teamwork side of it needs to go right, too.”

By that, Logano means — and take a deep breath — precise communication with his spotter, near-perfection from his pit crew, proper side-drafting with Penske teammates Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski, avoiding “The Big One,” and of course, a little luck.

This year brings another element, too, in deciphering how the new aerodynamic package impacts all that. Added horsepower especially means cars this year could be the fastest they’ve been in years, as was clear at qualifying Friday when Ryan Newman hit 204 mph.

Because of those extreme speeds and added grip, Logano said this year’s race will be as fast-paced as any he’s been part of.

“You’re going to have faster runs,” Logano said, “and (we’re) going to have to make quicker blocks.”

More than adding another Alabama accomplishment to his resume, a win at Talladega this weekend would go a long way for Logano in the points standings. It’s not like he really needs the boost — he’s currently second, behind three-time winner Kyle Busch — but as the reigning Cup Series champ, Logano is cognizant that he can’t let opportunities slip away.

“I feel like we’ve been in position to win probably four or five races and we have one win, so we need to do a better job of capitalizing,” he said. “The good thing is our cars are fast. We’ll be able to clean up mistakes as the season goes on, for sure.”

Maybe that starts this weekend, or maybe Logano gets his second win of 2019 in the coming weeks. He’d prefer it this weekend, obviously, but not just for the immediacy.

Logano is headed to the White House on Tuesday to celebrate his 2018 championship, the first of his career. It’s also his first time visiting the White House, so, you know, why not show up with a little extra oomph?

“That’s a good idea,” Logano said with a chuckle. “We’ll make that happen.”

Brendan Marks is a general assignment sports reporter for the Charlotte Observer covering the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, NASCAR and more. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has worked for the Observer since August 2017.
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