Wiser Logano Leading Team to Top 10

Joey Logano

Crew chief Todd Gordon cites Joey Logano's leadership as helping the team climb into the top 10 in points. (Photo Getty Images)


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Call him a pessimist if you want. Or maybe Joey Logano is a realist. The truth, more likely, is that this is a sign of growth.

In the top 10 in points for the first time in three months, Logano notes not where he is but where he could be.

“We’re two points from being 12th,’’ Logano said Thursday at Daytona International Speedway.

Logano understands that while he’s climbed from 18th to 10th in the last month, nine races remain until the Chase field is set. There’s no time to relax because Logano thinks his team can climb into the top five in points by the time the series leaves Richmond in September.

This is a new side of Logano.

Although only 23 years old, Logano is in his fifth full season in Sprint Cup. That experience turned a teenage racer into a young leader.

That has been needed in this up-and-down season for the Penske Racing driver and his team. Logano nearly won at Auto Club Speedway before losing the lead on the last lap, his team was penalized 25 points after a violation found before the Texas race and he’s finished 11th or better in each of the last six races.

Through all of that there has been one consistent.

“It’s my team,’’ Logano said stressing the ownership in his voice, something he didn’t always do while at Joe Gibbs Racing. “These are my guys and we’ve got each other’s back.’’

It’s a role he struggled with at Joe Gibbs Racing because of his youth and inexperience.

“That leadership and that skill you have to learn, I don’t know how else I was supposed to learn it,’’ Logano said. “I’m 18 years old when I started and even when you’re 21 years old, it’s very difficult, especially when you didn’t have the results that you wanted and you’re working with guys that have been doing this for a long time.’’

The difference is that Logano is older and is on more even footing with crew chief Todd Gordon. That has helped the communication between the two.

“He never gets loose or sets off course,’’ Gordon said of Logano. “It’s always, “What do we need to do to get better?’ That’s been a definite benefit for our race team.’’

It could have been easy for Logano or the team to go off course with some of their struggles. Logano was running toward the front at Bristol until contact from Denny Hamlin’s car spun him and Logano finished 17th. There was the duel with Hamlin at Auto Club Speedway that ended with Hamlin crashing and Logano losing a chance to win. Then came the Texas race where pre-race inspection found a violation with the rear suspension of Logano’s car and teammate Brad Keselowski’s car.

“If you look at all the challenges of Bristol and California ... I think there’s more bonding and togetherness that happens out of those situations, so that’s really helped our team chemistry,’’ Gordon said.

While Logano excels, Keselowski has struggled. They’ve both had speed but the difference is that Logano’s team has executed and Keselowski’s teams hasn’t at times. Keselowski has fallen to 13th in the point standings, 14 points behind Logano.

“We’ve been consistent lately, and we’ve been finishing where we should be finishing,’’ Logano said. “That’s the most important thing.’’

It could be what gets Logano into the Chase for the first time.

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