By David Morgan, Associate Editor
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – After winning his first Cup Series championship last season, Joey Logano is counting his blessings heading into Sunday’s season opener at Daytona as he looks to not only win his second Daytona 500, but also get his title defense off on the right foot.
“I tell everyone every day that I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” Logano said Wednesday morning at Daytona 500 Media Day as he recounted the path his career has taken.
“I started too young. I made a lot of mistakes. I didn’t succeed. I lost my job and God willing, gave me an amazing shot to race for Roger Penske. I mean, how does that happen?! I remind myself of that every day that I’ve been put in an amazing spot and I better take advantage of it.”
While Logano is thankful for his accomplishments from the past season, he noted that as soon as the calendar shifted to 2019, his focus turned toward the task at hand at Daytona and the weeks and months ahead.
“What I told my team and I told my wife and everyone, I said ‘You know, that was last year.’ One of my favorite Roger Penske quotes is ‘Don’t trip on your press clippings’ and that’s one of my favorite ones because that’s last year and we need to keep looking forward, because right now, we’re past champions in my eyes.
“As soon as we unloaded down here, the championship fun is over and it’s back to trying to win another one. We’re back at zero with everybody else.”
The Middletown, CT native has evolved into one of the top restrictor plate drivers in the series, with finishes of sixth or higher in the last four Daytona 500s, including his 2015 win in the Great American Race. He also has three wins at Talladega Superspeedway, all coming under the Team Penske banner with Ford horsepower under the hood.
Logano noted that despite all of his restrictor plate success, the Daytona 500 is still one of the toughest races to win, due to the current aero package employed on these tracks and the prestige that comes with winning the season opening spectacle.
“Everybody wants to win,” Logano said with a laugh. “There’s a lot of cars, a lot of good cars, and just like any superspeedway race, anything can happen at any moment.
“We saw the last lap of the (2018) Daytona 500, the last lap of the Clash. There is something that’s going to happen on the last lap most of the time. There’s going to be a run. You’re going to have to defend it. There might be a crash you’re going to have to get through.
“Everybody kind of looks at the Daytona 500 as, yeah, points are great, but it’s not about the points for this race. It’s about winning the Great American Race. The biggest race of the year. That’s what it’s all about. No one really cares about getting second and third place points in this race. As much as they would maybe in Atlanta and saying, OK, we start our championship run.
“Yes, it starts here at Daytona, but this race means more and it stings to finish second.”