JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — Joey Logano is making his 11th NASCAR Cup Series start at Chicagoland Speedway, and it’s just like his first race all over again.
Like so many other drivers, Logano is looking forward to seeing how the 2019 rules package affects Sunday’s stop at the well-worn, 1.5-mile oval.
“I mean it’ll change everything, just like it has everywhere else we’ve gone,” Logano said Friday as he relaxed in his trailer after spending some time on the track in preparation for the Xfinity Series race. “Whether it’s been a short track or a mile-and-a-half or a super speedway in this case, this rules (package), it’s changed the game.”
This year’s competition package reduced horsepower and increased downforce in an attempt to offer more passing opportunities. The engine has a tapered spacer, and this weekend’s cars will have aerodynamic ducts as well.
A modified version debuted at Atlanta’s challenging 1.5-mile speedway in February, and Brad Keselowski beat out Martin Truex Jr. for the win. The overhauled competition rules were fully implemented for the first time in Las Vegas in March, and Logano held off Penske teammate Keselowski for his 22nd victory.
Logano said the competition package has turned each track into a new experience.
“We’re all starting with a pretty new notebook,” he said. “There’s some things you can go back and look at, but for the most part, anytime I look back on what I wrote down last year, it’s not relevant anymore. It’s apples and oranges at this point.”
But it has been a full four months since Atlanta, and Cup drivers have much more to go on than they did in the beginning. Logano pointed to Auto Club Speedway in California when asked for a place that could shed some light on how the package might work at Chicagoland.
“I know it’s a half-mile longer, but I think that track probably is the closest to this track,” he said.
Logano finished second at Fontana in March, losing to Kyle Busch. Keselowski was third, followed by Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney.
The new rules package was put into place after Logano won the Cup Series title at Homestead in November. Busch, Harvick and Truex combined to win 20 of 36 races last season, prompting NASCAR to go in a different direction in an effort to make the racing more enjoyable for fans.
While there are some signs that the changes are having the desired effect, the names on top of the standings are the usual suspects.
Logano has two wins and leads Busch by one point heading into the Camping World 400. Busch and Truex have four wins apiece, and Keselowski has won three times.
The 29-year-old Logano had a more substantial advantage in the series standings before he had battery problems last weekend and finished 23rd on the road course at Sonoma Raceway. Truex and Busch finished 1-2, continuing a strong start to the season for Joe Gibbs Racing.
“If we just ran (23rd) … If that’s where we just ran without any issues, I’d pretty dejected after that. I’d be pretty mad,” Logano said. “But having something like that happen when you had a car that I look at as maybe the third- to fourth-best car on the racetrack, that doesn’t really knock your confidence down that much.”
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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