Speed Weeks is finally here! After three months of anticipation, we finally get to see these new Gen-6 cars roar to life, fully painted up and racing for the first time in the Sprint Unlimited. It’s a new year and like every other year, there are drivers out there that need to prove themselves, others that are looking to step it up after a disappointing 2012 and those who are simply looking for a season on par with last year’s performance. Joey Logano is a big name that really needs to perform as he joins a brand new team and puts his four years with JGR behind him.
2013 will be a make-or-break year for Joey Logano. The crazy thing about that statement is the fact that he’s only 22! Former champions such as Bobby Labonte, Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt didn’t even start racing at NASCAR’s premier level until their mid to late 20’s. Unfortunately for Joey, this is a different era where sponsors have no patience to wait for a driver to mature and reach their full potential. There is no denying that Joey can drive; you don’t just luck into a K&N championship and 18 NNS wins.
When Joey first started racing in the Cup series, people were calling him “the best thing since sliced bread” and that he would post numbers unheard of in NASCAR history. His first major stock car start was back in 2007 and within two years, he was driving the #20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry full time in the Cup series. He never even got a full season of Nationwide competition under his belt before he was thrown into the Cup car. Not to mention he had these unreal expectations thrown at him at just 18 years of age so it’s no surprise that he struggled to find his footing. In 147 NSCS races, Joey has amassed 2 wins, 16 top-5’s and 41 top-10’s with a best points finish of 16th. Those are decent numbers but not even close to what was expected of him. In his final two years with JGR, the young Logano had to deal with whispers in the background of superstars such as Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth coming to take his ride. Not an ideal environment for any driver trying to make their way in NASCAR.
In 2013, Joey starts with a clean slate as he joins Penske Racing to pilot the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion as a teammate to defending champion, Brad Keselowski. This is a much more stable environment for Joey but this ride is a double-edged sword. There are no more excuses for him, he has to perform or even the most loyal Logano followers will begin to question whether or not he can make it in the Cup series. An ideal 2013 for Joey would be winning at least one race and making his first chase. I think that would finally put the talk that he can’t make it to rest.
In the closing laps of the first Pocono race last year, we saw a Joey Logano unseen in previous years. The usual, courteous young driver threw his manners out the window in the final laps as he proceeded to move 52 year old Mark Martin out of his way as he went on to score his second ever NSCS win. That is the Joey that needs to be racing every week. He can’t be giving room and trying not to rough up anyone’s feathers anymore. You do that too much and fellow racers are liable to take advantage of your generosity. Whether or not he is finally able to showcase his true potential in 2013 or continue to post so-so results with occasional flashes of greatness is yet to be seen. One thing we do know though is that all eyes will be on him as he looks to prove once and for all that he belongs in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.