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Nashville Superspeedway put on an entertaining race last year in the Cup Series‘ inaugural event, Joey Logano believes. The 2018 Cup champion’s weekend forecast calls for more of the same in Sunday’s Ally 400 (5 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Entering last year‘s race at Nashville, many drivers were concerned it would be hard to pass. However, with resin added to the racing surface for the first time, it widened the track out to allow for multiple grooves to exist.
“I remember it being a really good race,” Logano told NASCAR.com last week. “The track was really wide, there were places to go, ways to pass cars with a decent amount of tire fall off at times.”
Logano was one of just 13 drivers in last year‘s field to have had prior experience at the 1.333-mile track. He remembers testing at the track when he was a hot prospect for Joe Gibbs Racing, while a tornado ripped through the city.
The No. 22 team, which has proved over the last several years to be stellar at inaugural events, started third and finished 10th on the concrete oval. But Logano has a hard time putting his finger on what Nashville is comparable to.
“I joke about this, but that track has an identity crisis,” he said. “It doesn‘t know what it wants to be. It‘s too big to be a short track, but too small to be a speedway. I think when you‘re setting up your car you’re thinking the same thing: ‘How much brake are we going to use?‘”
Logano said teams ended up using a fair amount of brakes in last year‘s race. He compared it to a short track, but the only problem is the cars are going “really fast” and that burns up the brakes quickly. But the Next Gen car has bigger brakes compared to the Gen 6 car.
Entering the weekend, Logano doesn‘t believe he can compare Nashville to any track the Next Gen car has visited yet either, which makes it that much more of a question mark.
“I have a hard time saying what race it‘s going to be like,” he said. “That‘s why you‘ve got to watch; we don‘t even know. I think the unknown is what drives a lot of hype and a lot of questions. People want to watch things that are unpredictable.”
Through the opening 16 races of the season, Logano is one of four drivers to have multiple wins. The No. 22 team ranks fifth in the championship standings, just 30 points outside the lead.
Words that come to mind when describing his season are “up and down” or “roller coaster,” which make sense given the No. 22 team has two wins and five finishes of 17th or worse in the last seven races. Despite the inconsistency, Logano gained 10 points on regular season championship leader Chase Elliott at Sonoma by electing to stay out and score stage points.
“You see it every week; there‘s teams that you think have it figured out and the next week, they‘re in the way and have an issue,” he said. “It’s like, ‘What the heck is going on?‘ It‘s up and down and crazy. It’s because of the new car and nobody has it figured out, so you have a lot of inconsistencies for that reason.”
Unlike some other drivers, Logano says he pays attention to where he ranks in the standings because it affects his strategy. And right now, he‘s got his eyes set on chasing the regular-season title.
“There‘s 15 playoff points if you win that thing,” he stated. “I think there‘s a check that comes along with it, too. I don‘t know what it is, but playoff points are very important.”