Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – WATKINS GLEN, NY – Joey Logano can see what Kevin Harvick is doing.
He just can’t duplicate it, and that’s a major source of frustration as Logano and Team Penske try to match the speed of the six-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winner.
“We have all the data these days,” Logano said. “We have all the SMT stuff (comparative SportsMEDIA Technology data) to look over. ‘Oh, he’s doing this different as a driver. He’s doing that different.’ His car is allowing him to do that, where I try to do that, and I can’t. My car is not allowing me to do that.
“So it’s a little frustrating sometimes, because you can see it and you’re like, ‘Oh, I just have to do that,’ but you can’t do it. So you know what you’ve got to get to. I guess it gives you a good goal and a good baseline to try to get off of. He’s driving a Ford as well, so we know it’s possible. We just have to get to that point.”
Logano has a victory at Talladega this season and an accompanying guaranteed berth in the Playoffs, but the No. 22 Ford team hasn’t been able to run with NASCAR’s triumvirate of Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., who collectively have won 16 of the 21 events so far this season.
“We all talk about the big three and how fast they are,” Logano said. “Well, we’re not going to catch them if we don’t try something different. A majority of the time, when you try something, it doesn’t work, but maybe one out of 10 things you try does work, and you’re able to make some gains.
“I think just the mentality and the thought process has changed a little bit on how can we get faster for when we get to the Playoffs, because the speed that we have right now is not enough to win the championship. We have to get better, no doubt.
“The only way I know how to get better is you have to try new things. You have to be willing to change as a driver, as a team with the setups, the way we build cars and the thought process. Things have to change to be able to keep up with the top three cars right now that we constantly talk about, and we constantly see winning.”
QUEST FOR FOUR STRAIGHT WINS PRESENTS MAJOR CHALLENGE FOR CHRISTOPHER BELL
Christopher Bell can reach rarefied air in Saturday’s Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International (2 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
But it won’t be easy.
Last Saturday at Iowa Speedway, Bell won his third straight NASCAR Xfinity Series race, becoming the first driver to win three in a row since Dale Earnhardt Jr. accomplished the feat in 1999.
Sam Ard holds the series record of four straight, winning at South Boston, Martinsville, Rougemont and Charlotte in 1983 over a star-studded cast of runners-up—Jack Ingram, Morgan Shepherd, Dale Jarrett and Dale Earnhardt, respectively.
But Ard never had to deal with the vagaries of a road course. If Bell is to tie the series record, he’ll have to do it not only on a road course, but on a road course he had never seen before Friday’s abbreviated practice in the rain at 2.45-mile Watkins Glen.
As a WGI rookie, Bell had to run one lap in the wet, per NASCAR, and that was all he ran, posting an average speed of 82.282 mph, fourth fastest among six drivers who participated in the opening practice session.
Even though a fourth straight victory represents an uphill climb for Bell—and not just through the high-speed esses at WGI—don’t discount his chances.
“I still have the chance to do it,” Bell said on Friday at Watkins Glen. “My car and crew chief (Jason Ratcliff) are great. If anyone else was driving this thing, they would probably be the favorite. But with me and my lack of road course experience, I’m definitely not a favorite heading into this weekend.
“I’ve got the equipment. I’ve got all of the pieces to do it. It’s going to be a matter of me getting familiar with the race track and seeing where we stack up. I’ve never been here before, and I’m going to try to not overstep my boundaries and make sure we race our primary car and not the backup.”
WATKINS GLEN GARNERS THIRD STRAIGHT “TOP NASCAR TRACK” HONOR
Watkins Glen International president Michael Printup credits a strong social media effort for success at the ballot box.
For the third straight time, WGI was voted the top NASCAR track in USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice poll.
“I’ll tell you how we did it,” Printup said. “It was our social. Our guy was on it every day, all the time—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… I’m really proud of our team. I wanted to make that announcement today, as we were notified by USA Today a couple of days ago.
“We did it hard, and we did it proud, and I’m really proud of our fans for jumping on social networking. This little old track is the little red train that can.”
Doubtless Printup hopes success in the USA Today vote is a harbinger for success in his own quest for office. Printup announced his candidacy for the Chemung County Legislature in May.