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Cody Kluge Cody Kluge BVM Sports Journalist/Editor

Joey Logano’s ‘goals are the same’ for 2023 NASCAR season

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (BVM) – Over a decade ago, Joey Logano was known as the kid replacing Tony Stewart in the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. At 19 years old, he became the youngest driver to start in the Daytona 500

Now 32, Logano has become a Daytona 500 winner, a two-time Cup Series champion, and is one of the most popular drivers in NASCAR.

Making the move to Team Penske to drive the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford in 2013, Logano has become a 31-time Cup Series race winner, and is coming off a special 2022 season in which he reached victory lane four times. That includes a win in the season’s final race at Phoenix which helped Logano bring home a Cup Series championship, a feat he also accomplished back in 2018.

Now a two-time champion who is at the top of the sport, there are high expectations in place for Logano as the 2023 season begins. However, despite the success he’s seen in the past few years, his goals remain unchanged.

“It’s no different than being a one-time champ or a no-time champ,” Logano said in an interview with Mike Massaro during BVM Sports’ weekly show “Cup Connection.” “If I’m being honest, it’s exactly the same.

“It doesn’t change the goals for the next season. The goal is as high as you can possibly set it all the time, that’s winning a championship. You can’t get any higher than that … Whether we won last year or not, the goal this year was going to be go win a championship.”

While Logano’s focus remains the same, he also wants to avoid a let down following last year’s success. A “championship hangover” is something that is seen across all sports, and the driver of the No. 22 is not letting that cross his team’s mind.

“You hear so much in sports about a post-championship slump,” Logano said. “Teams get a little content, a little happy, maybe they celebrate a little too long, and they don’t have the season to back up their championship. I don’t want that. Don’t want to have that in our mind at all.”

In NASCAR, a post-championship slump can be hard to mask with the length of the season and the multitude of factors that go into a driver’s success. However, Logano and his team have been through the grind and have still come out on top twice at the end. They seem to have the winning formula, and Logano believes that is maintaining a steady pace throughout most of the year before ramping up in the playoffs.

Joey Logano NASCAR Cup Series champion Team Penske
Joey Logano took home the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series championship with a victory in the season’s final race in Phoenix. (Credit: Alex Gould / USA TODAY NETWORK)

“There’s a little bit of pacing yourself,” Logano said. “But you come out of the gates swinging pretty hard. You get the Daytona 500 that’s coming up, that’s a big deal to win … Through the first West Coast swing, the first five or six races, it’s always a good benchmark of where your team is at.

“And then at that point you can kind of start working on things. But you gotta kind of pace yourself throughout the season; it’s so long. The main thing is being ready for the playoffs. Every point is going to matter throughout the regular season, that’s how we always race. But when you get to the playoffs, that’s when you need to find the next gear all the time, and trying to find that is not easy.”

The ultimate goal is the playoffs and a Cup Series championship, but unlike most sports, NASCAR begins the season with its biggest event. The green flag for the 2023 Daytona 500 will drop on Sunday in what’s often dubbed NASCAR’s version of the Super Bowl. 

As a result, drivers do whatever it takes to win the “Great American Race,” sometimes out of the norm of what they would usually do according to Logano.

“When it comes down to the end of the race here, no one’s happy about finishing second, and that means drivers are willing to do some really risky things that don’t always add up or make sense … Your finishes might not tell the whole story of how your superspeedway abilities really are. There’s gonna be a wreck at the end of this thing, there always is. You just don’t want to be part of that.”

Last year, Logano was able to avoid trouble for the most part, coming in with a 21st-place finish at Daytona. However, the race was a successful one for Team Penske overall, as Logano’s teammate, Austin Cindric, took home his first Daytona 500 victory.

Whether it is Logano, Cindric or their other teammate, Ryan Blaney, the driver of the No. 22 Ford thinks his team has a good chance this weekend with their history of success on superspeedways.

“I feel really good about it,” Logano said. “I honestly feel like as a race team, we’re one of the top two or three best on superspeedways. It shows that we’re up front because we have a lot of stage points.”

Logano and his team are keyed in on maintaining a strong focus throughout the season, and the 32-year-old is as good of a bet as any to take home another Cup Series title in 2023. One way to start working towards that goal would be earning a win at the Daytona 500, just as he did when he took the No. 22 to victory lane at Daytona back in 2015.

The weekend has already started well for Logano and his team, as the No. 22 took home a win at the first Daytona Duel qualifying race on Thursday night. 

Now, the two-time Cup Series champ will be hoping to produce the same result on Sunday starting the race in the second row.

“It’s nice to fire off with a good one,” Logano said. “If I’m being honest, I feel like the 500 has its own personality. You don’t remember who finishes second in the Daytona 500. It’s about winning. And then as you get into the other races, that’s when a top five at California or Phoenix, that’s decent, that’s pretty good. But a fifth-place at the 500 hurts a lot more … It means that much, it just has a different tone to it when you hear ‘Daytona 500 champion.’”