Marathon man: Logano says 600 miles not too long for a race

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In NASCAR, about the only thing that seemingly stays the same is that everything changes. And usually often.


From the style of the cars on the track to the points system and way a champion is crowned to how penalties are handed down, NASCAR has undergone a major evolution in the past couple decades — and even in the last few years.


In keeping with the trend toward change, multiple tracks — most notably Pocono Raceway and Dover International Speedway — have reduced the length of their respective races from 500 to 400 miles. The idea behind this, of course, is that less is really more in the mind’s eye of the fans who buy tickets or watch on television.


Yet through all the changes, including the trend toward shorter races, NASCAR’s longest race of all — the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway — has remained intact. And as far as Joey Logano is concerned, that’s the way it should stay.


While some drivers and fans might consider 600 miles (that’s 400 laps) on the 1.5-mile track too long, Logano doesn’t mind one bit. In fact, he wouldn’t change it if he could.


So needless to say, the 23-year-old Team Penske driver is looking forward to Sunday night’s 600-mile marathon that begins in the evening heat and typically ends under significantly reduced nighttime temperatures.


“I think what’€™s really cool about the Coke 600 is that it is 600 miles,” said Logano, speaking Tuesday on a national teleconference with reporters. “That’s the thing that makes it kind of our crown jewel event. That’s the longest race we have of the year, and it feels like it believe me, but it definitely makes it very rewarding.”


Logano, whose has yet to win the 600 in five tries but is enjoying a stellar second season with Team Penske, admits he wouldn’t be a fan of running 600 miles all the time. But NASCAR’s Memorial Day weekend classic warrants special treatment, in his view.


“If we had to run 600 miles every week, I may have a different answer for you, but the fact that it’s only once a year kind of makes it unique and makes it a fun race,” Logano said. “It’s one of the crown jewels to win, so a lot of people put a lot of effort into winning this race, just like they would at Daytona or Indy. I feel like this is next in line behind those two.”



While much has long been said and written about the physical demands of racing 600 miles, Logano says the mental requirements of such a lengthy endeavor are just as rigorous.


“The way our cars are set up inside you have your seat and headrest to help support you throughout these long races, so physically you don’t get very tired — hopefully,” Logano said. “Obviously, mentally it’s very straining because you’re in there for four-plus hours running 600 miles at 200 miles an hour. It’s mentally straining and it’s very hot in these cars, especially when you’re going into the summer. So the heat takes a toll and it eventually mentally gets you, so you have to physically prepare to be mentally prepared during the race.


“It’s not just the driver, it’s the car and the motor — putting that extra 100 miles on that you typically don’t in a normal race weekend makes it a lot tougher. I will enjoy an ice cold Coca-Cola after the Coke 600; that’s for sure.”


Michael Waltrip Racing’s Brian Vickers, who like Logano has never won a points-race at Charlotte, agrees with Logano’s assessment on the mental and physical components involved.


“The 600 is a long race for man and machine, for sure,” Vickers said. “The technology has come so far from what it used to be — I notice that a lot more people finish it. I think it certainly tests your physical ability, but also your mental ability just to stay focused and to not only be physically capable of running the full race, but to mentally stay with it, too. It’s a long race.”


And one that Logano, Vickers and everyone else desperately wants to win.


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