Since entering the NASCAR world, Joey Logano has been a driver who many fans love to hate. The announcing of his name at driver introductions is nearly always met with boos, and that goes the same for some of his wins. On top of that, many of his fellow drivers have scoffed at some of Logano’s racing, with some even calling him as a dirty driver. But is Logano deserving of this reputation?
The Bread has Gone Bad
Joey Logano has been a lightning rod for the ire of fans and competitors alike for almost his entire NASCAR career. For that, he can only blame himself.
Somewhere in between the time that Mark Martin dubbed a then-13-year-old Logano the “best thing since sliced bread” and now, a large portion of the fanbase seems to find enjoyment in vilifying the Connecticut native.
There’s a perception that Logano was handed his NASCAR career on a silver platter. While not entirely true, the notion is hard to dispute and even harder to dispel. Logano hopped into a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota a few days after turning 18. Most people are starting their careers at the bottom of the ladder at that point, if they’re starting their careers at all. Who can blame them for finding it hard to relate to someone who jumped on the ladder one rung away from the top?
Granted, Logano was indeed very good. He won from the pole in only his third NASCAR XFINITY Series start. Additionally, Logano finished in the top 10 in 14 of his 19 races in the series that year. So when Tony Stewart departed from JGR to start his own team, Logano was the logical choice to take the seat at Gibbs.
However, this move made him even less endearing to fans. Suddenly, one of the strongest cars in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage was wheeled by an 18-year-old kid. His early years were a mixed bag of success, but he had no trouble finding other drivers during various incidents over the years. The racers that Logano has feuded with recently is an extensive list: Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth and others.
Another issue is that during his early years in NASCAR, Logano’s father, Tom, would often confront other competitors on his son’s behalf rather than Joey himself. Papa Logano had his credential pulled on more than one occasion for fighting his son’s battles. If a young racer wants to come off as an aloof, rich brat, that’s the perfect way to do it.
The numerous on-track incidents have also thinned out the number of people that like to see Logano do well. His early season spat with Hamlin in 2013 sent his former teammate to the hospital with a fractured vertebra after a crash sparked by contact with Logano. Logano also hurled a water bottle at Stewart when Stewart attempted to confront him regarding some late-race blocking.
Of course, nearly everyone can recall Logano getting on Matt Kenseth‘s bad side after costing Kenseth a win at Kansas Speedway. A few weekends later, Logano saw his own chance at victory ended when he was plowed by a vengeful Kenseth at Martinsville Speedway.
Now, both Martin Truex Jr and Aric Almirola are gunning for Logano’s Team Penske Ford. Both vowed not to sit idle and let Logano claim the title this year. Whether the moves he made over the past few weeks will hinder his efforts to win the championship remains to be seen.
Regardless of what you think of Logano or his driving style, one thing is certain: Joey Logano deserves of his reputation as the bad guy and he only needs to check the closest mirror for the reason why. -Frank Velat
A Man Amongst Whiny Babies
The only thing Joey Logano is guilty of is being a good race car driver who is highly entertaining. Can you imagine how boring NASCAR would’ve been in the late 2000s and 2010s without Logano stirring the pot?
Despite the baby face, Logano entails the same features that made fans love Richard Petty, David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott and Jeff Gordon. He’s aggressive and will do anything to win behind the wheel, but away from the track, he’s friendly and funny.
A friend of mine once didn’t like Logano for all of the reasons Frank mentioned above — and then some. But he changed his mind once he saw how much Logano helped out at the Victory Junction Gang and how great he was with the kids there.
Logano’s biggest problem is he came into the sport at the wrong time. He was really the pioneer of the “daddy’s money” generation of NASCAR where talent takes a back seat to sponsor dollars. Now, the sport is overrun with that type of driver, so those who come up quickly because of their dads aren’t criticized as much by fans.
Yes, Tom Logano’s wallet helped get his son through the ranks quicker than his peers, but isn’t the situation similar with Chase Elliott or William Byron? Yet neither of them have received the backlash Logano received for it almost a decade earlier. On the other side of the timeline, Richard and Kyle Petty both benefitted from their fathers to start their Cup careers when they were really young. Were they hated for it?
Also, Logano also came into the sport at a time where the racing was at its absolute lamest. All Logano had to do during that time was be slightly aggressive and he was automatically the dirtiest driver out there. After all, he was racing against a generation of drivers who showed little aggression or will to win while they were allowing Jimmie Johnson to win five straight championships.
Stewart got mad at Logano back in 2013 because he blocked him. Did Bill Elliott try to fight Earnhardt when he threw what seemed like a million late blocks on him in the 1987 All-Star Race?
And in 2015, Logano turned Kenseth because he blocked him up and down the track. Kenseth then overreacted to wreck Logano at Martinsville and got praise for it. Kenseth’s move was far dirtier than anything Logano has ever done.
Now, Martin Truex Jr is mad that Logano gave him the bump and run to win at Martinsville. Jeff Gordon did the exact same thing to Rusty Wallace to win two races at Bristol Motor Speedway. Was Gordon viewed as a dirty driver because of it?
All Logano did was move him. If that was Earnhardt behind Truex, then the No. 78 probably would’ve ended up in the fence like Terry Labonte’s car did off the nose of the Intimidator twice at Bristol.
And Aric Almirola’s anger toward Logano is a straight up joke. He whined because Logano held the outside line and made his car loose. He raced him, and if Almirola doesn’t believe in side by side racing then he will never be an elite driver in this sport.
The situations of the past two weeks haven’t proven Logano to be a dirty driver people should hate. Rather, it’s shown how wimpy and spoiled a lot of today’s drivers are. I doubt Truex and Almirola would’ve won a single race against Earnhardt, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Wallace or Gordon.
Yet, Logano still gets the hate because of the way fans and drivers perceived him when he came into the sport. If Chase Elliott or Dale Earnhardt Jr did the same things then everyone would praise them.
So, no, Logano doesn’t deserve the hate — he’s one of the good things NASCAR has going for it right now. It’s the other drivers and fans who need to change their perceptions. -Michael Massie