2018 NASCAR Cup champion Joey Logano is excited for the series’ first dirt race since 1970 at Bristol, but is trying to keep his season preparation balanced.
Among the many changes to the Cup schedule for 2021 are the addition of several more road course events, along with the first dirt track race in more than 50 years as the Bristol Motor Speedway is converted into a dirt course.
The NASCAR Cup field last raced on dirt in the 1970 North Carolina State Fairgrounds circuit, and was won by Richard Petty, but since then only the third-tier Truck Series has done so on its annual visit to Eldora.
Logano, 30, is among several series drivers using the downtime prior to the start of the 2021 season to spend time on simulators since there is no off-season testing in NASCAR – and expressed his excitement at the prospect of being able to drive numerous different kinds of circuits.
“I was sitting here at the Ford R&D Center – I was just on the simulator and working on some things and I was driving and thinking, ‘how cool is this that I get to drive so many different things,'” Logano said.
“I always thought that Cup was one of the only series that goes to so many different tracks, the short tracks, the superspeedways, the mile-and-a-halves, the road courses.
“But now there are just more and more tracks, more road courses, tracks I’ve never been to, dirt racing.”
While the Team Penske driver has no personal experience at dirt racing, Logano still believes the addition of the race is a good test of the skill of drivers that are supposed to be the best in motorsports – but underlined the need to prepare properly for the full calendar.
“You want to be a well-rounded race car driver, somebody that can jump into anything and go fast. That’s something I would take a lot of pride in,” he said.
“I don’t have the opportunity typically to drive anything outside of a NASCAR Cup car, so this is a fun opportunity as a race car driver, and I think even as a team everyone working together to try to understand these new race tracks coming ahead of us.”
“Everyone is talking about the dirt race. Every time I get in my truck and turn on the radio all I hear is people talking about this dirt race.
“I’m like, ‘You know there are other races that are going to happen this year? It’s not just this dirt race.’
“So, trying to balance that and not put too much effort into one race and forgetting about all the other ones that also pay out.”
Logano said between now and the dirt race at Bristol at the end of March he plans to get out on a dirt track at least to try to understand how the track surfaces changes during a race.
“Obviously, the car is going to drive different and it being very slick and all that, but understanding how the dirt moves, whether there’s a cushion or when it dries out or when it rubbers up, there’s all this lingo that I don’t really know a whole bunch about and you have to see it and you have experience it to understand that,” he said.
“I’ve got some plans to try to get out on a track a little bit and play around in different types of cars just to understand dirt racing a little bit. We’ll see what happens. There are so many unknowns with Bristol.
“You throw dirt on that place we don’t know what’s going to happen and nobody does, but if I can be as somewhat educated on what the track looks like and where the grip is, maybe I can be close in the ballpark somewhere.”