Joey Logano entered the NASCAR ranks with high expectations. Tabbed as one of the best young talents to ever compete in NASCAR, he was given the nickname “Sliced Bread” (as the greatest thing since).
In just his third career NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Kentucky Speedway he sat on the pole and led 76 laps en route to his first career NASCAR victory, becoming the youngest winner in series history at the tender age of 18 years, 21 days.
Logano’s career looked to continue to flourish as he later became the youngest winner in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history with his victory in the rain-shorted race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 28, 2009. However, the momentum was short lived. Finishes of 23rd and 21st in the final standings the previous two seasons, coupled with a switch in crew chiefs from Greg Zipadelli to Jason Ratcliff and an uncertain future with no contract with Joe Gibbs Racing beyond 2012, placed pressure squarely on Logano’s shoulders and he has responded in 2012.
A win at Pocono and five top-10 finishes on the season, nearly matching last year’s total of six, has brought new life to Logano and his Home Depot team as he looks to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the first time in his young career.
“I have a great support group behind me,” Logano said. “I’ve got a great team here that’s stuck behind me throughout this whole time. They’ve believed in me and know, ‘Hey, man, we figure it out, we’re going to be fine and win some races.’ They’ve been patient; they’ve been very supportive and believed in me.”
Logano has not shied away from the topic that has surrounded him all season. With no contract beyond this season, rumors have swirled about his future with the organization.
“My hope is to obviously stay with what I’ve got and keep working with Jason (Ratcliff),” Logano said. “But you never know. You know, those things go back and forth and switch around a lot, and all I can do is stay focused on my job, and that’s driving the race car. Whatever happens from there happens.”
He has put aside the rumors and his struggles from the previous years to have his most impressive NASCAR season to date. He has four victories in 10 races in the Nationwide Series and his second career Sprint Cup Series victory at Pocono may have been a signal that the 22-year-old driver has finally arrived.
Ratcliff has helped instill confidence in his young driver and finally has him believing in himself, something that has been lacking in previous years.
“I think the hard work up front at the first part of the year is paying off now, and I think it’s showed in the last three or four weeks,” Logano said. “Last year was obviously a tough year for us, not many Nationwide wins, been winless over here. It was a very hard year, and this year getting those four Nationwide wins under our belts already, as a driver, that puts a lot of confidence in yourself, saying, ‘Hey, I can do this.’
“As long as you believe in yourself and know that but at the same time be humble enough to learn things from other drivers and learn things from other people out there, I think that’s what makes a special athlete.”