By admin | September 27, 2008
By Richard Allen
Even though he is only 18 years old, words such as “phenomenal” and “sure thing” have been used to describe Joey Logano for years. He has been dubbed “Sliced Bread” because he is “the greatest thing since sliced bread”.
With all the labels aside, I have come to wonder over the last few weeks if Logano is really ready to take on the task he will be given next season. I have no doubt he is talented, but talented and ready are two different matters all together.
After Tony Stewart departs Joe Gibbs Racing to drive for a team that will at least in part be his own, Logano will get behind the wheel of one of the sport’s most successful rides, the #20 Home Depot Toyota.
I have my reasons for thinking Joe Gibbs Racing may be moving their young driver along to quickly.
First, he may well prove to be too young. It does not matter how much experience he may have in other divisions of racing, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is a whole new game. Just ask the list of championship caliber drivers who have come into the sport over the years just how difficult it can be when not properly prepared.
Dario Franchitti, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jacques Villeneuve and a myriad of Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series champions have come and gone in this form of racing, most with very little or no success to speak of.
Aside from the lack of experience, Logano will have to deal with the fact that he has virtually no working relationships with the drivers he will be sharing the track with next year. Many of these Sprint Cup veterans will not be looking to give the young rookie any breaks, especially considering that these proud drivers have had to hear so much about the young sensation as he made his way up through the ranks.
Add to the tough chore of driving the car, Sprint Cup drivers have numerous responsibilities away from the track. Appearances, interviews and charitable functions are just part of the norm for the Monday thru Friday workloads of NASCAR’s high profile stars.
Another thing that has made me stop to consider Logano’s readiness has been his driving record as he has moved up.
This young driver stepped right into what may well have been the most dominate car in recent Nationwide Series history. The #20 car has won eight of 18 races while being driven by Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.
Driving that same car, Logano has won one race and has had two 2nd place finishes. These, his best results, came in races in which very few Sprint Cup drivers competed. He has compiled four other finishes between 6th and 10th with the #20 car and one race with the #18 car. These two cars have proven to be more than just Top 10 cars over the course of the 2008 season.
That is an impressive record for any young driver who has only competed for such a short time in one of the toughest racing series’ in the world. Except, Logano can not be judged as just any young driver. He is one of the most heralded drivers to come into the sport in a long time and he is destined to take over what is championship proven car.
It may not seem fair to be putting the youngster’s record up against some of the sport’s top stars, but next year, his job will be to have his record compared to the sport’s top drivers on a week by week basis.
The last thing that causes me concern about Logano is the past history of other incoming “can’t miss” rookies. Casey Atwood is perhaps the most well known of these highly touted young drivers who never quite panned out.
I am in no way saying Joey Logano will not make it as a Sprint Cup Series driver. He is highly touted for a reason. I am simply questioning whether he could use a bit more seasoning. He has succeed in every series he has competed in up until now. However, I am not absolutely convinced he has guaranteed success ahead of him.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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