Joey Logano is still so damn young! But you know, that final maneuver on Mark Martin Sunday afternoon was no rookie deal. It takes a focused, hungry racer who will see a veteran stumble and chose that moment to push–push the one who slipped and push his car right on by and into Pocono’s victory lane. Logano made it all look real easy–like he’s been here before. But he hasn’t… not really.
It has been almost three years since Joey took the checkers in his Home Depot machine at Loudon, N.H. for his lone career win. And, well, when you stumble into a fuel mileage/rain shortened win as a rookie, there won’t be too many generous NASCAR fans out there who will say you earned that one. The stigma of a “gimme” remained firmly glued to the native Connecticut driver’s career ever since. Sliced Bread became moldy toast and with the fickle NASCAR fans’ usual disinterest in giving their adoration to a sainted son it soon became the favorite past time of the campgrounds to poke fun at the shooting star.
In the infield there was a different story. Everybody, it seemed, just couldn’t say enough good things about the Gibbs development driver, shooting him right to the top of the firmament before he could even order a beer. Yes, he could smile at the camera on cue and give a good interview – having practiced that talent well and hard in the now K&N Pro Series East – but what about the ability to win a race?
When he drove the best piece of machinery back in the development series garage, he had no trouble aiming the car in the right direction and taking home all the hardware. I sat in the stands and mumbled things about monkeys and bulletproof machinery.
But when Joey climbed behind the wheel of the Cup version of the No. 20, winning didn’t come so easily. Not at all. He didn’t own the vocabulary on how to fix a loose car – it simply hadn’t been a problem in the past. Wheeling next to drivers who were more confident with better machinery didn’t help the teen any, either. Nobody, it seemed, was on his side anymore. And so he slipped down and out – often lingering below the media radar. Wasn’t it just last year we all wondered if he would still have a ride at Gibbs in 2012? Things just didn’t look good as he failed to keep his Chevy in the top 20.
Then again, another young man had been busy tearing up every kind of pavement in any vehicle he could put his hands on. Joey’s teammate, Kyle Busch, had spent these same past four years building the kind of reputation a talk-show host drools to get his hands on. Nationwide, Cup, Trucks, meltdowns, so many wins it’s hard to count… it didn’t stop. No wonder Wonder Bread appeared such a bad investment as a Cup driver. Nobody save for Mr. Five-Time was collecting the sort of records that the younger Busch was racking up.
In any other decade, the now 22-year old Logano would have still looked like the next great up and comer. He knew how to make noise, be gracious and even pick a fight when push came to shove. He seemed to have everything the M&M’s boy had – just no wins.
And after all that time, we the fans just sort of got tired of waiting for the fireworks. Maybe they just weren’t going to come. This wouldn’t be the first time we got all excited about a promising youth only to be disappointed. I’ll admit I dismissed any rumblings about the continually underperforming Home Depot car this year. The deal was done. My head began to turn in another direction, except…
Joey’s name kept popping up in the Nationwide Series recently. He’s notched four victories this year and more than once used his chrome bumper to gain what has been so elusive in the Cup level. In the closing laps of the Darlington race, Elliott Sadler suffered from Logano’s impatience, altering the complexion of the series points race.
At Dover, Joey capitalized on Ryan Truex‘s inexperience and the intereference of lap traffic to steal that win in the closing laps. In Talladega, the No. 18 rode the high side around his Cup stablemate Kyle Busch to snap a photo finish.
When his four Nationwide victory lane appearances are strung together, there is a common thread that runs down the list – late-race pushes. Hungry moves. A little bit of big chips on shoulders and a big engine combining to land the pilot exactly where he loves to be.
Which if you compare those performances to Sunday’s, the similarities rise to the surface, yet again. Logano scored the pole, so you know he liked how the machine felt in the corners. He ran a strong race, leading 49 laps, and never lost sight of that clean air. There was only that last restart with Martin which captured our imagination and threatened to ruin the afternoon. But, it also lit the fire burning bright in Mr. Logano’s belly.
A little wiggle by the No. 55 resulted in a loss of momentum, and the No. 20 didn’t hesitate to make the most of the error by the revered veteran. Logano nudged Martin’s rear bumper, essentially moving the Aaron’s machine over, and drove off into the sunset.
And that, folks, is how you win in the Sprint Cup Series.
Joey Logano finally won one the way he has always meant. It looked an awful like many of his other victories in his relatively short but lucrative racing career. And considering how often he has achieved wins like this in recent weeks, I’m thinking it’s possible he may have finally figured out how that toaster works. Welcome back, Sliced Bread.
Sonya’s Weekly Danica Stat
The GoDaddy Merchandise hauler came in last as it commuted from Eldora Speedway to Pocono earlier this week. The tractor trailer was rear ended by another truck, which resulted in extensive damage to the GoDaddy trailer.
— Jason Stix Buckley | Stix | Stix Style (@StixStyle) June 8, 2012
Danica did not race this week.
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