Challenges Drive Logano
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on October 23, 2013 | 9:00 A.M. EST
Logano is 12th in the standings heading to Martinsville. (Photo: Getty Images)
For nearly 25 minutes, Logano entertained the crowd at the NASCAR Hall of Fame with stories and anecdotes. He joked about how he ranked at the top of his high school graduating class - he was home-schooled - and recalled the time a fan’s baby threw up on him.
Then came the question about incidents with other drivers and how and when they’re resolved. Silence.
In his fifth full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, he’s had his share of on- and off-track battles. While the tall, thin Logano might seem like a pushover, he has shown he won’t back down. That attitude helped him make the Chase this year but also has gotten him into disagreements with drivers in his career.
After an incident with Kevin Harvick at Pocono in 2010, Logano claimed Harvick was following wife DeLana’s orders, memorably saying: she “wears the firesuit in the family.’’
Logano also exchanged words with Ryan Newman after a race in Michigan in 2010 and most recently feuded with former teammate Denny Hamlin. Their duel ended with Hamlin crashing at Auto Club Speedway and suffering a vertebra injury that forced him to miss four races. After that race, Logano faced an angry Tony Stewart.
“It’s different for every situation,’’ Logano said of how, if at all, conflicts get resolved among drivers. “I know if I do something wrong, I’m going to be the first one to call. Or wait to see them face-to-fact at the track. I expect the same thing. If I don’t get that, I don’t really appreciate that and it’s game on.
“I told you have I had bad memory. Not about that stuff.’’
If talking doesn’t work then Logano says sometimes drivers will “talk with their racecars.’’
Logano knows that conflicts are inevitable with so many races each year. Still, he says he’s been more relaxed this season than previous years. The success - a win, a career-high 10 top-fives and 16 top-10 finishes - has been key.
“I’m not fighting for my job,’’ the 23-year-old Logano said. “Any time your job is on the line, you’re going to be stressed out about everything, about every situation.’’
Logano had faced questions the past couple of season at Joe Gibbs Racing when results didn’t match the potential many saw in him. When JGR signed Matt Kenseth last year and was unable to find sponsorship for a fourth car, Logano, was the choice to be sent packing on a team that also included Kyle Busch and Hamlin.
Teamed with defending series champion Brad Keselowski, Logano seems to have found a home at Penske Racing. He’s comfortable and confident. Now, he and his team need to be consistent.
Logano knows that’s the difference between his team and those contending for the title heading into this weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway. Points leader Jimmie Johnson’s worst finish in the Chase is 13th, which came last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. Logano has had only two finishes of 13th or better in the first six Chase races, thus he’s 12th in the standings.
“There’s been times this year we’ve been able to recover from really bad races and get a really good finish out of it, and there have been times we haven’t,’’ he said. “Those are the times we have to be able to figure out and run better than that. We’ve run six races really well but can’t put 10 of them together very well. That’s where we’ve got to take a step back and really diagnose each issue that happened. Just see what problem was and make sure it doesn’t happen again.’’
Although his title were all but dashed in the opening Chase race with a blown engine, Logano notes he’s 23 points behind sixth-place Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“I feel like we can get up to fifth or fourth by the end of this thing if we go four top-five finishes and be really solid and we’ve proven we can do that,’’ Logano said.
The chances of that happening aren’t likely since he would have to pass so many drivers, but it’s a challenge Logano won’t back away from just like he has in disagreements with other drivers.