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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dawning of Logano era in Cup is nearing

It’s not officially announced, but it might as well be … the Joey Logano era in Cup is about to begin.

The kid who broke into NASCAR’s top ranks this season like no one else I can remember will likely make his Cup debut very soon, at Richmond, then run several more races this year in preparation for a full season in the #20 for 2009 for Joe Gibbs.

Logano, who just became a legal voter, has been more than impressive in Nationwide this season, and it will be interesting to see how he handles this next giant step. In Nationwide, he was driving the car widely viewed as the best on the track most weeks. In Cup, he’ll be just another strong car, in a field of at least a dozen that are equal or better. That’s where driver talent comes in, and I can’t wait to see if Logano has the usual learning curve for rookies.

No doubt, there will be struggles, and there will not be the instant winning he has seen in Nationwide, ARCA and every other series he has run in his lifetime. The kid’s a true talent, but Cup is a whole new ball of wax and the big guys aren’t going to let him blow by without a little bit of hazing.

But I see a future that is very bright for this young man. 99 percent of 18-year-olds aren’t ready for NASCAR‘s top level, but he’s clearly the exception. He will win Rookie of the Year, probably take a couple poles, he’ll contend for several wins, and may find Victory Lane before the 2009 season ends. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes the Chase.

I can already hear the doubters saying I’m contributing to the overhype of this kid, but I just look at every aspect of Logano’s situation as a recipe for success.
-- Talented driver (Logano), check
-- One of the strongest teams in the garage (JGR), check
-- Car with history of winning (#20), check
-- Great crew chief (Greg Zipadelli), check

I’ll stop short of saying he’s going to have a career with Jeff Gordon-like numbers. It’s way too early for anything like that, and championships are hard to come by even for the best drivers (just ask many-time bridesmaid Mark Martin). But anyone who says Logano is not capable of achieving such numbers is either in denial or hasn’t seen the kid race.

The fact that Logano will be out there racing in Cup for the next 20 years is good news for the sport, and good news for all the fans. Get used to his name, as you’ll be hearing it a lot over the years.

Remembering Richmond
Speaking of phenoms, this week marks the 19th anniversary of the death of Tim Richmond, a one-time NASCAR phenom who had his career cut short by AIDS.

His story is truly a tragic one on many levels, from his early death to the way NASCAR treated him toward the end of his racing career in an era when AIDS was not quite understood, and we don't have time to delve into all of that. One thing is pretty much agreed upon, though: If Richmond had continued for a long while in NASCAR, the record books would probably look a lot different.

A NASCAR outsider, his flamboyant lifestyle and attitude ruffled a lot of feathers in the sport, but no one could dispute his talent on the track. He had some fierce battles with Dale Earnhardt Sr. during the 1986 season, during which he won 7 races, and likely would have battled Dale for championships throughout the decade dominated by the #3. He could have been Rick Hendrick's first superstar to reach the type of success later seen by Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.

As good as much of the racing was during that era, it would have been even better with Richmond around to add to the excitement.


Anonymous ACEfromTN said...

If Logano continues to live up to his potential, Joe Gibbs Racing could dominate the cup for some time to come.

Kyle better get his championship now because his best competition may be his future teammate!

August 13, 2008 at 11:59 AM 

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