Logano’s career will go the route of Jeff Gordon, not Casey Atwood
The meteoric rise of Joey Logano to the Cup series, delayed one week by the weather, should get under way at New Hampshire on Sunday.
Logano will be driving the #96 car, so don’t expect him to finish in the top 10 like he did in his Nationwide debut. That car, even with a great driver, isn’t going to do much better than a top-20, barring a fuel mileage finish.
But as the Chase begins, many eyes will be on young Joey. There are fans out there (mostly Gibbs and Toyota haters) who are already anti-Logano, already all over the Internet calling him spoiled and undeserving of the ride, and predicting his failure as a Cup driver. They recall the story of Casey Atwood, the last young up-and-coming driver who was supposed to become the next Jeff Gordon, but instead got dropped by Ray Evernham (unfairly, I must say) and never got another chance in Cup.
These people must be living in some alternate universe, where he hasn’t been tearing up tracks around the country in his Nationwide car, and where he hasn’t dominated in every series he’s joined up to this point.
The seven races Joey takes part in this year will not be a true test, as he won’t be in his official ride for most of them, and the #96 is hardly spectacular machinery. But what great drivers do is take bad equipment and do better than they should in that equipment. (For F1 fans, think of how drivers like Fernando Alonso have became noticed by performing well with backmarker teams like Minardi). Don’t expect miracles, but I can bet the average finish for the 96 car over the races where Joey is driving will be at least 10 spots higher than its season average to this point.
Next year, when he jumps in the Home Depot car for Gibbs, look for a season reminiscent of Tony Stewart’s rookie year, with strong runs most of the year and probably a couple wins.
When history looks back on the career of Joey Logano, it will be more like Jeff Gordon’s that Casey Atwood’s, and you can take that to the bank. I’m not saying he’s going to win four championships, but years from now Joey will be running up front every week in Cup, not struggling to find a Nationwide ride.
Stewart: Media overplayed spat
Tony Stewart said this week that he’s not sure why the media, including myself, put so much stock in his heated exchange with crew chief Greg Zipadelli after last week’s race. “That’s two guys that were talking on the radio that are competitive,” Stewart said. I understand that. It’s a free country, and I would never go so far as to try to tell any driver what they can and can’t say. But I stand by my belief that throwing the blame on your team in such a public manner is very unprofessional and behavior like that should be criticized by the media and fans.
Hard work pays off for Ragan, as he gets UPS deal
Remember that kid who crashed in almost every race in 2007 and nobody expected to even return to Roush this season. His name is David Ragan, and this year he damn near made the Chase. His amazing turnaround story has hit another high note this week, as it was announced he will be sponsored by UPS starting next year, one of the top sponsors in the garage. This is the best turnaround story I’ve seen in years, and proof that a driver who’s terrible today might be awesome next year. I’ll call it right now … Ragan will win at least one race next year and make the Chase, as he is on the way up still.
Open-wheel alert: Mad Max making the jump
Max Papis has announced he will try out for abut half of the Cup races in 09 with a new team fielded by Truck Series contenders Germain Motorsports. The car will be sponsored by Geico, which must leave the Nationwide Series after next year because it’s a competing insurance company. Papis has only made road course starts in the past, but seems genuinely excited about becoming a NASCAR driver. It will be interesting to see if he can do better that the open-wheel drivers who have struggled so much this season.
The big loser is Mike Wallace, whose longtime Nationwide sponsor Geico bolting leaves him searching for sponsorship.
A.J. going bye-bye?
A.J. Allmendinger has yet to hear from Red Bull about next season, and may be on way out. He was not sounding so hopeful this week when we wrote in a column that his chances of returning were “50/50 at best”. He is a talented driver, but lately it seems like he’s either 12th or 40th … with few results in the middle. I’m guessing the bosses in Europe don’t like that and want Scott Speed to jump in that ride. If he does get let go, he should have options. A Cup team would be wise to grab him, as he is young and talented and could do well at the right team. Or, he could go back to Indycar, where he was pretty awesome.
So it’s the first weekend of the Chase, and everyone is wondering what’s going to happen. I think Kyle Busch will try to make a statement, but will be upstaged by Jimmie Johnson, who is great at New Hampshire and flat tracks in general. Johnson should lead the most laps and win the race, and come close to catching Busch in the points after race 1 of the Chase.
Look for a strong performance from Denny Hamlin, too.