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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Darlington run proves Logano is not all hype

Does anyone still think he’s not for real?

When the season started so terribly for the #20 team, many fans jumped to the conclusion that 18-year-old Joey Logano had made the jump to NASCAR too soon. Joe Gibbs had made a mistake, the doubters claimed, and Logano needed more training before he could be successful in the sport’s top series.

They had some basis for their beliefs, as Logano hit the wall more in the first month than anyone in the series, with the possible exception of Scott Speed and Sam Hornish Jr. Those of us with more patience, though, realized Joey needed time to get in sync with the team and get used to the COT, and would soon see the success that has made him such a sensation at every level where he has raced in the past.

While I don’t deny that Logano probably should have spent another year in the lower series to tune his talents, his masterful performance Saturday night in Darlington should silence all the doubters thinking he was going to fail to live up to all the expectations being placed on him.

When history looks back on the career of Logano, Darlington will be viewed as his big breakthrough, the first in a very long list of great days at the track. It’s arguably the toughest track on the schedule, and most rookies do horrendous at the track, but Logano almost won the Southern 500 at age 18. He finished 9th once all the pit strategy played out.

As I said one year ago when his Nationwide debut was looming, believe the hype. If Logano can almost tame Darlington at age 18, imagine what he’ll be capable of when he’s Kyle Busch’s age.

Keselowski is the real deal
On a similar note, those who thought Brad Keselowski’s Cup win at Talladega was just a fluke, think again. He was another rookie putting on a great show at Darlington, and ran in the top 10 for much of the night, finishing 7th. That takes talent, which was made clear by the fact that half the field smashed into the walls at Darlington on Saturday night.
Survival was the game at Darlington (even Clint Bowyer’s 83-race streak of no DNFs ended), and Keselowski kept his nose clean all night and was able to run with the best drivers out there. This is all coming from a guy who isn’t even in a full-time Cup ride yet.

I don’t need a crystal ball to tell you that you can look forward to many Keselowski vs. Logano battles in the decades to come in Cup racing.


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