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Logano living up to promise

March 12th, 2014 6:50 pm by Jeff Birchfield

Logano living up to promise

Joey Logano believes he finally gets it.

The 23-year-old driver is coming off his best Sprint Cup season ever, making the Chase for the first time and finishing eighth in the point standings.

He has started off this season right where he left off, fourth in the points heading into Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Logano’s strong start includes a pole last week at Las Vegas and coming off back-to-back fourth-place finishes.

The current success has made the driver of the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford reflect on starting his Sprint Cup career as a teenager. 

“Coming into this sport, there is a lot to learn,” he said. “I came in as an 18-year-old.  I wasn’t mature enough for this world. I thought I was because every 18 year-old thinks they’re ready to take on the world. When I got here, I realized it was harder than I thought it was going to be. You go back to looking inside yourself, what you can do better.”

Although he wasn’t dominating, there were highlights over those first few seasons.

He won a rain-shortened race at New Hampshire his rookie season, although another win wouldn’t come until three seasons later. Logano added a third career victory last season in a dominating performance at Michigan.

Also, he was doing well in the Nationwide Series, piling up 21 career victories. However, Logano says there’s a big difference between winning in the Nationwide Series and winning in the Cup Series. 

“The competition level from Nationwide to Sprint Cup is very, very different,” he said. “For the teams and us as drivers, stepping up that one level ... I feel it’s the biggest step you can make in motorsports from Nationwide to Cup. It’s not late model to Pro Cup or to ASA. It’s the biggest one I’ve ever made, and I’m sure it’s the biggest one I ever will make.”

His career at Bristol Motor Speedway is a good example of Logano’s point. 

He has one Nationwide Series victory at the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” and on another occasion was a close runner-up to then teammate Kyle Busch. On the Sprint Cup side, his fifth-place finish last August in the IRWIN Tools Night was his first top-five finish in 10 races.

“It is hard competing against the best of the best every weekend,” Logano said. “It forces you to get better. I enjoy it, but you have hard times like you have good times. At this point last year, however, was the most fun I ever had racing.”

Those hard times included last year’s Food City 500 when Logano got into a late-race altercation with former teammate Denny Hamlin.

Harder times were the races when Logano wasn’t competitive at all. He was after all, a driver talented enough that as a 12-year-old,  Mark Martin proclaimed him a future star and former Nationwide Series champion Randy LaJoie nicknamed him “Sliced Bread” as in the saying, “The greatest thing since .......”

Adding to that, Logano enjoyed great success at every stop on his way to Cup. Once he got to Cup and wasn’t winning all the time, it was a mental challenge.

“It’s really tough,” he said. “Every one who gets to this level was the dominant driver in their series growing up. At one point, they are the guy. Now, you’re a small fish in a big pond all of a sudden. It’s a whole different world and it’s easy for that to get into your head. I’ve talked to sports psychologists about it. Like any sport, it’s a mental sport and you have to have your head in the right spot even before the race car.”

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