Monday, March 25, 2013

Logano Standing His Ground, On And Off The Track

Five years into his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, Joey Logano is finally drawing his line in the sand.

Logano (22) and Hamlin crashed Sunday
Since joining NASCAR’s senior circuit with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2009, the Connecticut native has struggled to find his place in NASCAR’s competitive hierarchy, never quite living up to his “best thing since sliced bread” billing. Logano was thrust into Cup competition a year earlier than planned, after multi-time series champion Tony Stewart jumped JGR’s ship to accept a lucrative, owner-driver position with the team now known as Stewart Haas Racing.
Since then, Logano has struggled to emerge from Stewart’s long shadow. His race cars were Stewart’s cars. His crewchief, Greg Zipadelli, was Stewart’s crew chief. His team was Stewart’s team. All parties did their level best to make the arrangement work, but in the end, the message was always the same.
“Gee, Joey, that’s not the way we did things when Tony was here…”
During the off-season, Logano made a move of his own, joining the potent Penske Racing stable as a teammate to 2012 Sprint Cup Series champion, Brad Keselowski.
At Joe Gibbs Racing, Logano earned his chance simply by being next in line. At Penske, however, he was the team’s first choice. Team owner Roger Penske rebuilt the No. 22 Ford team around him, rather than simply hammering a square peg into a round hole. The on-track results were disappointing at first -- 21st at Daytona, 32nd at Phoenix and 21st in Las Vegas – but even while struggling, Logano showed a level of confidence unprecedented in his NASCAR career. He was a contender for the win at Bristol two weeks ago before a dump-and-run move by Danny Hamlin left him with a damaged race car and a disappointing, 17th-place finish.
Logano stood his ground against Stewart
At Auto Club Speedway Sunday, he was once again a major player. Logano raced near the front of the pack throughout the day, and when the chips were down, he made it clear that he is no longer the timid 18-year old known – sometimes derisively -- as “Sliced Bread.”
On the day’s final restart, he blocked a charging Stewart all the way to the infield grass in an effort to protect his lead. Moments later, he used Hamlin’s Toyota as a guardrail while racing for the Auto Club 400 win, displaying a level of aggression seldom – if ever – seen in his previous five years on the circuit. Both he and Hamlin crashed, but after limping his battered Ford home in third place, Logano said he is no longer going to be pushed around within sight of the checkered flag.
“After the way (Hamlin) raced me last week, that’s what he gets,” said Logano, without a hint of remorse. “It was the reverse of last week, the opposite of what he did.”
After the race, an angry Stewart came calling, fists raised and ready to rumble. Logano did not back down, throwing at least one punch in the resulting melee before rifling a water bottle in Stewart’s direction.
“I had to throw the block,” said Logano of the final restart. "I was racing hard, trying to make sure I protected my spot. I knew if he put me three-wide, that would be the end of my race. I wouldn’t win (and) I was smart enough to realize that. I had to do what I had to do to get to the front and try to win the race.”
“He has that right (to block),” said Stewart in response. “He has the choice to do that. He’s in control of his car. But if he ever turns down in front of me again, I don’t care what lap it is, he won’t make it through the other end of it.
“I’m tired of guys doing that stuff; especially out of a kid that’s been griping about everybody else,” Stewart said. “He’s sent Denny (Hamlin) to the hospital and screwed our day up. He’s talked the talk, but he hasn’t walked the walk yet. He’s always got his crew guys walking the walk for him. It's time he learns a lesson.”
While it’s a stretch to say Logano intentionally wrecked Hamlin on the final lap Sunday, he clearly drove his car past the edge of control, knowing that his rival was alongside and likely to pay the price for any mistake. Logano did the competitive math, then decided to race Hamlin as aggressively as Hamlin had raced him just seven days before. That’s a different, more aggressive Logano than we have seen in the past, and after the race, team owner Penske made it clear that he has his driver’s back, every step of the way.
"I'm 150% behind my driver,” said Penske to USA TODAY Sports Sunday evening. “I think he's a real star on the team.” He called Stewart's criticism "unwarranted,” adding, "I've watched him from the spotter's stand quite a bit, and I think Stewart is one of the best in the business at blocking. Anyone is going to protect the bottom."

In the last two weeks, Logano has stood his ground with a combative former teammate, proving that he’s willing to give, as good as he gets. He has stood up to a three-time Sprint Cup Series champion, trading haymakers both on and off the track.
If the last 14 days are any indication, it appears that Logano is finally coming of age in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.


  1. Anonymous11:48 AM

    Tony Stewart looked like a well tuned athlete. Is he on the see-food diet?

  2. Barry Westaway11:53 AM

    Hard racing is what I saw. Stewart is incredibly hypocritical to complain about Joey blocking. Didn't he take out the whole front half of the field doing that late last year? I saw very competitive, agressive, and entertaining racing. And I don't know that Denny didn't turn into Joey at the last second. Certainly sorry to see Denny hurt.. nobody wants anything like that.

  3. Anonymous11:53 AM

    Here is the way I saw it Moody, Joey ran into the side of Dennys car pretty much out of control but both drivers looked to be going straight and it would appear as though they would have both finished in the top three. Hamlin decided to hook Logano thus causing himself to crash and wind up the last car on the lead lap. Dont get me wrong, I understand Denny being upset in the heat of battle but he crashed himself. I think we all hope he will be ok after his overnight in the hospital.

    1. Anonymous9:38 AM

      You are so wrong. Joey came down on Denny and then said Denny got what he deserved. I agree that Tony blocks whenever he can but I hope Tony takes Joey out at the next race.

  4. Rich Johnson11:54 AM

    Sorry Denny got whacked bad enough to visit the hospital, but happy that Joey found payback. As for Stewart: Dave, you know better than most how many times he's thrown that same block.
    And, oh yeah. Kyle won the race.

    1. Anonymous9:38 AM

      Yeah for Kyle.

  5. Anonymous12:49 PM

    Good for Joey, we need these young guys to make a name in this sport just like his teammate. How can Tony of all people complain about blocking, especially this late in the race going for the win. I'm sure Tony won't admit it but he knows as a pass champ that he acted like the little punk kid he's accusing Joey of. That was the best race ever at this track and the rest of the year should be fun to watch if the Gen6 car gives everyone a chance to win with driving skill instead of the best engineers and deep pockets

  6. Anonymous12:49 PM

    I agree with you wholeheartedly Dave.

    Stewart was just "being Stewart". I guess Tony just can't deal with getting what he really deserves.

    Good for Joey for standing his ground.

  7. Anonymous1:15 PM

    So, I am a little confused... is it okay to block? Especially in the last 10 laps of the race? I understand that in F1 racing you can't block but if I understand it correctly, NASCAR has no rule of blocking.
    Guess I am just confused why Tony is P.O.d by the block...
    Sharain M

    1. No blocking in F1??? Michael Schumacher built a very successful career on it.

      Stewart just pissed because Logano successfully did what Smoke failed big time doing at Daytona and Talladega.

  8. Anonymous1:26 PM

    I never really cared for joey logano. Something about the way he acted i couldnt like him. But i think thats because he never showed who he was. These past two weeks i have gained much respect for him and will continue to support him. I feel hes done nothing wrong. He has made a new fan out of me

  9. A self professed Stewart fan here just adding my thoughts. Amazingly enough I don't really see anything wrong with what ANYBODY did. Basically Tony said you can block if you want just be prepared for the possibility of retaliation on or off the track. He retaliated and that will probably be the end of it. Logano impressed me by the way took care of Hamlin and with his explanation for blocking Tony. Too bad Denny was hurt though. I was cheering until I saw him on the ground. Besides that, everything was perfect. Best race of the season.

  10. Anonymous3:32 PM

    I am sick of people saying, you do whatever you have to to win! if that is true, let's just mount 50 cal machineguns on the hood and if someone is in front you just take um out!!! I dont understand why it's wrong to spin somebody out for the win, but it's ok to block someone? So if Danica stayed out on a last minute yellow goes to the front and then just blocks everybody from getting past her, nobody would have a problem with it? Yeah right!

  11. Anonymous3:41 PM

    Well said Moody, Well said.

  12. Hi Moody, My favorite drivers are Joey and Denny. I was so mad at Denny last week and knew Joey would recipricate soon. I do love your article today. Agree with you 100%. I have watched Joey be punted around on the track for 4 years and so happy to see him fight back. As for the big bully, Tony Stewart,the first thing I thought of was when he blocked Michael Waltrip last year at Taladega and wrecked many cars. What a hippocrite. The driver that wins this years Sprint Cup will be the one that can control his emotions and races "smart". Wouldn't it be ironic if that driver is Kyle Busch?

  13. Anonymous5:08 PM

    Hit it on the nail head Mr.Moody. Great race, by the way who won

  14. Bob in VT8:48 PM

    It's nice to see Joey driving up to the level of ride he's been in. It's about lets see if his ego is big enough that injuring Hamlin won't shake him up. Would think just about anyone with a heart would think twice about getting into someone after what happened (even though it looked to me like Denny initiated the final contact that caused the wreck)

  15. Anonymous10:46 PM

    NASCAR needs to slow these cars down because the tracks safety features were not built for 200 miles per hour. I know speed is a part of racing but I would rather see competition at slower speeds to make it safer for the fans, crew members and drivers. NASCAR is making themselves a moving target on safety. The safer barriers and the advance in safety has been amazing, but with the teams making these cars faster, the drivers are running 200 plus into the turns, WOW! Let's slow them down some how!

  16. Anonymous6:50 AM

    I listen to the XM show, and this blog. I must admit I'm done.
    Not once did I hear: "it's time for Joey to apologize for saying "that's what he gets". No, breaking someone's back for a race infraction the week before, is NOT "what he gets". And you otta be the first to call him out on it.
    Tony's right. Spoiled brat!

    1. As we mentioned NUMEROUS times Monday, Logano had no idea that Hamlin had been injured when making his "that's what he gets" comment. He has since apologized for it, stressing that he did not know Denny was injured.

      I always chuckle when someone posting as "Anonymous" says "I'm done" listening to the show, or reading this blog. Why is it that people who don't dare to attach their name to their opinion are also so intolerant of other people's views?

    2. How does the Census Bureau and Nielsen ratings track anonymous people anyway?

      I would think they live in homes and lead fairly normal lives too.

  17. Anonymous9:51 AM

    I thought Stewart's comments were way out of line. I was at Talladega last year when he pulled the exact same thing on Michael Waltrip and wrecked 21 cars in the process. No one jumped out and tried to punch him and he destroyed millions of dollars worth of equipment. I hope Denny recovers fully and is back as soon as possible. I think Stewart's comments were made more out of flustration for being off to such a bad start this year. Cool off a bit Tony, the kid didn't play it any different than anyone else would have, including you!

  18. Anonymous3:53 PM

    Is Joey also at fault because Tony faded all the way back to the 20-something spot after he was blocked too? I don't think so. If that's all Tony could manage after being in the top 5, then it's just as well he didn't get past Joey and get in the way of the faster cars. THEN Joey probably would have turned him! :)

    - Mike N, Bedford, NH