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2009 Season Review: Joey Logano

2009 Ride: No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
2009 Primary Sponsor: Home Depot
2009 Owner: Joe Gibbs
2009 Crew Chief: Greg Zipadelli

Stats: 36 starts, 1 win, 3 top fives, 7 top 10s, 0 poles, 20th in points
Best Finish: 1st (Loudon – June)
Average Finish: 20.0

High Point: Joey Logano was able to break into the win column during his freshman season in Cup with a victory in the spring race at Loudon. One of the bigger upsets all year, Logano went from a lap down after a lap 184 spin to the lead on lap 268 when fuel mileage left him out front as the race’s final caution came out. Once Mother Nature let loose a raging downpour, the race was rain-shortened – but a win still counts as a win, validating Joe Gibbs’s faith in putting the youngster into the seat of the No. 20 Toyota after Tony Stewart departed to start his own team. The fact the win happened at the Connecticut native’s “hometown” Cup track made the victory that much sweeter.

Low Point: Some might call it a high point rather than a low point, but Logano ran only 30 laps at Dover in the fall and crashed out of the race in a wildly flipping wreck that made highlight reels on every news show in the country. He actually flipped more times (seven) than Ryan Newman or Mark Martin at Talladega in the fall before coming to rest towards the inside of the Monster Mile. Luckily, while roughed up mentally after the incident Logano emerged physically unhurt.

Summary: The man nicknamed “Sliced Bread” by former NASCAR star Randy Lajoie has been under the pressure of toasty warm expectations ever since Martin labeled him racing’s next big superstar. After half-a-season of Nationwide success, those goals ramped up late in 2008 as Stewart announced he was leaving Joe Gibbs Racing. Just 18, Logano was suddenly tabbed to take over the famous No. 20 Home Depot Toyota responsible for much of the organization’s recent success. Gibbs himself acknowledged that it was earlier than the team wanted to move him to Cup, but circumstances conspired to put him in the seat, and he did an admirable job in garnering the Rookie of the Year title in the Cup series.

In doing so, Logano survived a rough start in which he finished last in the Daytona 500, nearly fell out of the Top 35 in March and didn’t collect his first top 10 until Talladega in April. Looking back, the rookie acknowledged that his team started the year trying to utilize Stewart’s notes and conform his style too much to what the veteran preferred. But by the time Charlotte rolled around, the team began using their own notes on what Logano liked and configured the cars to his preferences. As Zipadelli and Logano became familiar with each other, the team began running up front much more frequently and started to have some finishes to match.

Logano finished the year with modest numbers, leading 36 laps in six races while recording 13 top-15 finishes. He ended 22 races on the lead lap, only carding three DNFs during a fairly incident-free rookie season. As a result, Logano wound up running three laps short of 10,000, earning $5,231,334 for his troubles.

Team Ranking: As you might expect, the rookie status combined with the star power of teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin leaves Logano number three on the depth chart. But JGR had a decent 2009, putting Hamlin in the Chase while capturing the Rookie of the Year with Logano and the Nationwide Series championship with Busch. The organization won nine races during the season, scoring 27 top fives and 40 top 10s.

2010 Outlook: Logano started off the 2009 season looking much like a fish out of water. By the end of it, he was simply becoming a “big fish” himself, routinely running in the top 10 and garnering the respect of his fellow competitors. Heading into 2010, it is not a stretch to expect Logano to win more than one race during the season and be in the mix to make the Chase at the end of it. While he may not have the raw talent of his teammate Kyle Busch, he is a very good driver and shows a maturity far beyond his years. With Joe Gibbs guiding his career, Logano has the potential to be a star for years to come.

2008 Frontstretch Grade: D
2009 Grade: C

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