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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"Sliced bread" Logano looking stale, but don't panic

Just a few months ago, we were calling him “sliced bread”.

Now, we’re calling him “that guy who hits the wall every week”.

Joey Logano is literally on the edge of dropping from the top 35. If David Gilliland outperforms Logano this weekend, there’s a good chance he’ll overtake Logano for the final guaranteed spot in the owners points.

But for all the people talking about how Logano might lose his ride and will never live up to the hype that surrounded him when he made his Nationwide debut last May, I have this message: CALM DOWN.

I, like anyone with a pair of eyes, fully recognize now that the move to Cup was made too soon for Logano … but it’s too late to turn back. Joe Gibbs knows this kid is talented and it will show up in the future.

There won’t be a bunch of early career wins like Tony Stewart had for Gibbs when he jumped into the #20 car a decade ago. But Joey is not Tony, and he’s on his own timetable. Gibbs recognizes this and will be patient, and he’ll reap the rewards once Logano does blossom.

Remember, he’s only 18, and turns 19 next month. Sure he was hyped by the media, including me, but no one said he was going to fight for the title.

The talk of him losing his ride is silly. His goal in 2009 should be to improve as the year goes on, and do better at tracks he is returning to for a second race in Cup. Most important, he needs to get out of that danger zone and start inching up the points chart. It‘s no fun having to worry about whether you‘ll qualify each week. Just ask Logano‘s rookie of the year competitor Scott Speed, who failed to qualify for Texas and is now in a hole he will find hard to escape.

Logano must make every race this year and learn as much as possible. During this time, he must build a relationship with crew chief Greg Zipadelli and the team so he can be more effective at improving his car during races.

If they do this, next year he will be better. Give him a couple years and he should start showing the brilliance he has shown in every other series where he‘s raced.

With so much praise thrown his way, the expectations for a rookie like Logano are so much higher than any other rookie has ever had to face. It’s clear this has overwhelmed him a bit and he would have been better off doing another full year in Nationwide in 2009.

But that ship has sailed. He is in Cup, and he’ll have to get better while driving there, even if he may be out of his league at times.

So the next time that Home Depot car scrapes the wall, don’t be cursing Logano and wishing he were fired.

It may not look like it now, but Logano will be very good … it’s just going to take a little longer than a lot of impatient fans want.

R.I.P. #8
Remember when the #8 was out front, with that Budweiser sponsorship and a pretty popular driver, winning races and competing on a regular basis?

That car is now parked until a sponsor shows up, leaving Aric Almirola out of a ride and leaving Earnhardt Ganassi racing with only the #1 of Martin Truex Jr. and the #42 of Juan Pablo Montoya. Both these drivers are talented, and Montoya is nearly in the Chase after a strong start to the season. But in today’s NASCAR, a two-car team isn’t going to be able to compete with the Hendrick, Roush and Gibbs operations.


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