By admin | February 6, 2013
By Richard Allen
Much was expected of Joey Logano as he approached the time he would enter the Sprint Cup ranks in NASCAR. After all, when a driver carries the handle “Sliced Bread” with him, mediocrity is not acceptable.
However, Logano’s performance at the top level of the sport so far has been less than spectacular. Granted, he has won two Sprint Cup events during his four full seasons behind the wheel of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota. But two is the same number of championships previous driver Tony Stewart won in that car. Also, the Middletown, Conn. native was never able to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff in that ride.
Furthermore, in the same time Logano was driving for JGR, teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch piled up a total of 30 wins and six Chase appearances. Based on those numbers, it seems safe to say that Logano’s driving did not match the abilities of his car and team.
However, a new season will provide a chance for a turnaround in this 22-year-old driver’s career. Logano was not re-signed by JGR after his contract expired at the end of 2012. Once available, Roger Penske and his Penske Racing organization made the move to secure the free agent driver’s talents for their No. 22 Ford.
It is the opinion of this writer that the move will serve to benefit Logano greatly. I have multiple reasons for making that claim.
First, it is my opinion that Stewart’s departure from JGR forced Logano into the driver’s seat of a Sprint Cup car too soon. After all, he was only 19-years-old when he took the wheel of the No. 20 on a full time basis in 2009. But even more than that, he was put into a difficult situation in terms of the teammates he would have to deal with.
While veteran drivers like Stewart or Logano’s replacement at JGR, Matt Kenseth, might be able to handle the demanding natures of Hamlin and Busch, a young rookie would almost certainly be overwhelmed and under-appreciated when thrust into that position. It would seem highly likely that Logano felt a bit intimidated as the least experienced driver in the fold.
When Logano was in the position of driving a Nationwide Series car for JGR, he fared much better absent of the full time pressures and demands of those teammates. He has won 17 of those races in that same time period, including nine last year.
So getting away from his old teammates will help, but gaining a new one is the second reason I believe Logano will benefit from his move to Penske Racing. Brad Keselowski seems to have an entirely different mindset in his approach to the team concept.
Since his arrival at Penske, Logano has been welcomed with open arms by the 2012 Sprint Cup champion. They have tested together and interacted in the various test track garage areas. And, they have been seen attending football games and other events as they work toward building a bond between teammates that it did not appear as though Logano had at his previous stop.
Keselowski seems more like a mentor to Logano than a competitor for attention.
There will, of course, be challenges for Logano in 2013. He will have to get used to a new crew chief and new cars with different set ups. And, Penske is switching from Dodge to Ford, which will require at least some degree of adjustment for the organization as a whole.
However, there may be a potential for improvement because of NASCAR’s Gen-6 car. According to Logano, the next generation machine has a very similar feel to the 2012 version of the Nationwide car. (From Jeff Gluck of USA Today - @Jeff_Gluck: Logano says the new cars remind him of “Nationwide cars on steroids.” Probably a good thing, since he won a bazillion Nwide races this yr.)
In my opinion, Joey Logano is in a much better situation than he was previously. As a result, I believe he will show marked improvement in 2013.
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