Is Joey Logano finally living up to that moniker of “Sliced Bread” that was put on him several years ago? It looks like that may be the case. He never seemed to struggle in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, or on any circuit he raced prior for that matter. But once he hit the Sprint Cup level, that was a different story.
That’s not to say that Logano didn’t have any success in the Sprint Cup Series while driving the No. 20 at Joe Gibbs Racing. He did win a race in 2009 and then another one three years later in 2012. Some drivers would be over-the-moon happy with what success Logano experienced at JGR, but for a driver who came into the sport with a nickname like “Sliced Bread,” as in the best thing since, his stats fell significantly short of the lofty expectations.
But Logano seems to have turned that around since joining Team Penske prior to the start of the 2013 season. For 2013, Logano joined then-reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski in the Penske driving stable, and he out-performed said reigning champion. Logano made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship post-season that year and wound up top-10 in points for the first time in his career on the strength of his third-career win, 11 top-fives and 19 top-10 finishes throughout the 36-race season. It was his first year of double-digit top-five finishes and only his second season of more than five top-fives.
The 2014 season is only three races old, but Logano is already looking like a success this year. He has qualified on the front row for two of those three races, one of them from the pole, and has finished in the top-five twice, already. Looks like 2014 is shaping up to be another solid year for “Sliced Bread.”
So, why didn’t it work out at Joe Gibbs Racing, Cup wise, while things seem to be going so well for him, so far, at Penske? There are probably multiple reasons. I guess chemistry plays into it. Some personnel just mesh better than others, and maybe there are more people at Team Penske than at Joe Gibbs Racing that mesh with Logano. But in this situation, I think it goes much deeper than that.
I still believe that the move of Tony Stewart from JGR to Stewart-Haas Racing prompted team owner Joe Gibbs to move Logano up to Sprint Cup maybe a littler quicker than he should have, and maybe that hurt Logano’s development a little bit. I think another year at the Nationwide level would have done him some good. Maybe it took Logano a few years to catch up to the early move and him finally catching up just happened to coincide with the move to Penske.
I also get the impression that Logano is on the receiving end of more respect within the Penske organization. When Roger Penske was looking for a driver for his No. 22 Sprint Cup car, Keselowski has publicly said that he recommended and requested Logano. So, there was a Sprint Cup team out there that actually wanted the young driver, while at JGR, once Logano reached Cup, he kind of seemed to me like a “red-headed step-child” so-to speak, with neither Denny Hamlin nor Kyle Busch seeming to want to be his teammate. Maybe it was just me, but he just seemed to be in a situation at Joe Gibbs Racing where he was with a team that didn’t even really want him.
Meanwhile, here’s a guy at Penske who wanted him as a teammate. In case you don’t know, it feels good to be wanted. And now, Logano’s with a team and has a teammate that actually seem to want him around. That can do a great deal for a guy’s confidnence, I’m sure.
Maybe Logano’s just now recovering from a too-quick move to Sprint Cup, and he’s now with a race team that at least acts like it’s happy to be working with him. Looks like Logano’s finally where he needs to be at the right time. Maybe the driver once called “Sliced Bread” is finally in a sliced bread-type of situation. Wonder if he’s saying to himself, “Eat your heart out, Joe Gibbs Racing,” right about now?
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But, before you go, check out this Joey Logano photo gallery (photos courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR):