Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Notes From Media Tour: Logano Faces Pivotal Year
When you dominate the NASCAR K&N Pro Series in your rookie season, winning five times in 13 starts en route to the series championship, expectations escalate.
When you finish ninth in your first career NASCAR Nationwide Series start, people notice.
When you win your next two Nationwide races against fields jam-packed with Sprint Cup Series talent, the spotlight shines even brighter.
When you’re promoted to the headline Sprint Cup Series, replacing a former series champion and are dubbed “Sliced Bread;” all before you’re old enough to shave, people expect a lot.
Unfortunately, for Joey Logano, the weight of expectation has become a heavy burden indeed. Now a NASCAR veteran at 21 years of age, the Middletown, Conn., driver faces what many see as a make-or-break season in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing/Home Depot Toyota. During his four-year tenure with JGR, Logano has managed just one win in his 111 Sprint Cup starts; a rain-shortened victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2009. His best points finish was a 16th in 2010, and he faded to 24th last year, with just six Top-10 finishes along the way. Teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch posted a combined 24 victories in that span, along with five Chase appearances and a near championship for Hamlin in 2010.
Logano’s crew chief, Greg Zipadelli, jumped ship during the off season to rejoin old friend Tony Stewart and fill the vacant Competition Director’s post at Stewart Haas Racing. Barring a breakthrough season in 2012, most believe Logano will be the next to go.
Yesterday, on Day One of the annual NASCAR Sprint Media Tour, Logano told reporters he feels the pressure to perform and understands that much is expected of him this season. He vowed to be a tougher, less easygoing driver in 2012, standing his ground and wrinking a competitor’s fender if necessary.
No more of the driver challenged by Zipadelli to “grow some balls and take care of it” by Zipadelli after being wrecked by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. last season at Martinsville.
No more smiling Joey. No more Mr. Nice Guy.
As the lights went out following JGR’s media reception, Logano tweeted, “Done with Media Day. It made me even more pumped about this year. #TakingNoPrisoners.”
Smoke Set For NatWide Run: Tony Stewart will look to extend his impressive NASCAR Nationwide Series win streak at Daytona International Speedway next month, driving a #33 Chevrolet fielded by Richard Childress Racing, with sponsorship from Oreos. Stewart has rolled to an Earnhardt-esque four consecutive Speedweeks Nationwide wins, and will rank as a heavy favorite for a fifth.
And Finally: The best quote of Media Tour to date came from always-colorful team owner Felix Sabates, who quipped, “I've had drivers who, with 40 laps to go, would get in the back (of the pack). One of them is doing TV now, with a wig." You figure it out!