Opinion: The Kid's All Right


Early-season misfortune and a pit road miscue in Las Vegas has Joey Logano looking ahead to better things as the first month of the 2013 Sprint Cup Series nears an end. (Photo: Getty Images)


Defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Brad Keselowski has come out of the gate hot in 2013, with three top-five finishes in the first three races.

The success of his "Blue Deuce" has made some ask the question, "What's wrong with Joey Logano?"  To that question, I shall address the jury.

The Case of the New Team:

Logano was one of two big-name drivers to switch teams for 2013, the other being Matt Kenseth.  In both cases, the driver was not only switching teams but manufacturers.  While Kenseth got a win last Sunday in Las Vegas, he's also had his share of misfortune including a couple blown engines which Kenseth admits were 100 percent his fault.  The 2003 series champ also admitted to being very nervous at his new location and wanted to prove that he was a good pickup for Joe Gibbs Racing.  If the 41-year old, two-time Daytona 500 winner is nervous, then where would you put 23-year old Logano's emotions?  Most still consider him to be just a "kid."  Yet from everything I've witnessed so far this season, Logano has been cool, calm and collected.  His crew chief, Todd Gordon, told me that Joey has spent more time at the shop getting to know the guys and be part of the team than any driver he's ever been around.  The bottom line is with any change of teams, there needs to be an adjustment time for all involved.  Kenseth's win was considered a surprise, as some JGR sources told me they felt it would be May before they had things put in place.  Logano should be given the same amount of time.

The Case of the Daytona Draft:

There's one thing Penske Racing has delivered every week so far: fast racecars.  Logano had one of the only cars that could pass in the middle at Daytona.  He got stuck in the bottom lane late in the race trying to make something happen and without any drafting help, got shuffled back to 19th at the finish.  He was criticized by other drivers who said late in the "500," Logano was too unpredictable and making "crazy" moves to get up front.  Um ... excuse my ignorance here, but it was the Daytona 500!  Maybe Greg Biffle should have made a crazy move and tried to win the race.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. made a wild move to get into position to slingshot past Biffle and try to win the race.  Nobody criticized that.  Fact is, Logano had a car that was fast and with help, could have finished in the top 10.  In my mind, there's the Daytona 500 and then there's the rest of the NASCAR schedule.  If it's me, I do everything I can to win that race.  Forget the points!

The Case of the "Funky" Fuel:

During the first two races of the season, Logano's No. 22 Ford was plagued by fuel system issues.  They started at Daytona and continued through the weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.  In fact, Logano apparently ran out of fuel on the last lap at PIR, only to discover that there were two gallons left in the tank when he got back to the garage.  Was it a faulty fuel pump or a pickup problem?  Neither.  It turned out that the fuel lines had been placed in a different location inside the car than in the past.  The lines were getting too hot, causing the fuel to percolate which - in turn - would cause air to accumulate in the lines and "vapor-lock" the system.  It wasn't until they examined the lines with Ford Racing that they diagnosed the problem and fixed it.  Still, it was too little, too late for Logano.  He had a certain top-10 day go by the wayside, finishing 26th.

... And the Speeding Fusion:

With the fuel system fixed, Logano headed to Las Vegas in search of better luck.  The team unloaded a fast, balanced Ford and all signs pointed to a successful weekend.  However, Logano made a mistake on pit road - guilty of speeding and tagged with a drive-through penalty that buried their car deep in the field.  Logano drove his way back to the front but couldn't quite snag a top 10, finishing 12th.  He admitted after the race that his mistake cost the team a potential top-five finish.  It may be easy to point at Logano for the penalty and say, "See, he's not that good."  But Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and several others also received speeding tickets in Vegas.  In fact, it was a common occurrence.  By the way, Harvick finshed just three spots ahead of Logano and Stewart one.

In Conclusion:

It's easy to question Joey Logano's start to the 2013 season comapred to teammate Keselowski.  But when you dig deeper, you see the speed in that Shell-Penzoil Ford.  And while maybe the team hasn't fully executed a complete race yet, Logano sits 15th in points.  If we mark the Charlotte race in May as our "getting-to-know-you" deadline, then as far as I'm concerned the "Kid" is all right.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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