Entering the NASCAR world at 18-years-old, life couldn’t get better for Joey Logano.
Already established with racing accolades that included more than a room full of trophies, Logano was hailed as the next big thing. Even veteran Mark Martin walked around with nothing but praise for the Connecticut native.
Driving for one of the most successful teams in the sport, Joe Gibbs Racing, Logano was at first welcomed with open arms. Big smile and enthusiastic attitude made him one to watch, and watch everyone did as he won in his third career Nationwide Series start.
Following that the story became how Logano would be tabbed to take over for Tony Stewart who was leaving JGR’s No. 20 Sprint Cup machine for his own team.
Talk about being on top of the world. It was almost too good to be true. For Logano it was fun, everything was falling into place and what he had worked his whole young life for was right in front of him. At one time just happy to be apart of the sport and living the dream.
Over the last year however, Logano has truly become a NASCAR driver and for fans they’ve witnessed the change right in front of their eyes.
Racing is still fun. Making money is still fun. Seeing your face on magazines and T-shirts is still fun.
The smile that was once so bright and permanent on the Home Depot drivers face though has started to slowly fade. Logano is learning that sometimes you don’t want to have fun.
When Kevin Harvick spun Logano out at Bristol in March during the Nationwide Series race, Logano for the most part seemed cool headed and walked away. It was later reported that he spoke with Harvick as the two left the track.
When Harvick spun Logano again at Pocono, this time it was a completely different attitude. Logano clearly frustrated ripped into Harvick in his interview before providing the quote of the year involving firesuits.
Welcome to NASCAR kid, it isn’t always easy and green. This is what being a racecar driver is all about.
Even more than watching Logano go from fresh-faced kid to someone that can show more emotion than just excitement, was that fans seemed to be changing their opinion of “Sliced Bread.”
Going head-to-head with Harvick went over great with some. After the initial shock of what Logano said wore off, it gave everyone something to laugh about. Others didn’t think that this kid, someone that only had one win under his belt should be going against a well-established veteran in Harvick.
Either way it was quite the change.
At one time earlier this year he was leading his JGR teammates, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, in points and contending for wins, flirting with consistency on a weekly basis. Finally making the team his and not, “Tony Stewart’s replacement.” Now comfortable with his place in the sport, the real Joey Logano began to show.
Any argument could be made that Logano was either maturing, becoming a man on national TV, or his teammates were rubbing off on him.
After Friday night’s Dollar General 300 at the Chicagoland Speedway however, it became clear that it might be the latter.
Inside the JGR camp an interesting race day story has followed Logano. That story being that he has the knack for beating Busch late in a NNS race. It looked as though Logano would be able to do the same thing when he took the lead on lap 147 of 200.
He had things well in hand but with four laps to go the caution came out and things got quite complicated. Logano took a page out of Hamlin’s book when finally speaking to the media.
“It’s almost like a guarantee that a caution’s going to come out, you it’s going to happen with 10 [laps] to go and you have more than a five car length lead,” Logano said after the race.
“Of course that happened … I’m embarrassed more than anything else.”
Embarrassed because on the green-white-checked finish Busch, who restarted along side of him and went on to win, beat a confused Logano.
After finishing second Logano stormed off, not talking to TV reporters. The move was clearly a move out of Busch’s book and wasn’t met warmly by fans.
“I didn’t know Kyle was going to start next to me until [turn] three when the 22 [Brad Keselowski] ran out of gas or something,” Logano continued. “The only thing that was screwy to me was I didn’t know how the lineup was supposed to work because I thought the 10 [Brian Scott] should have been second. I thought everyone would move a spot, but that didn’t happen.”
A lot has happened to Logano since he was thrust into the spotlight. A lot more will happen over the course of his career that is in its infancy stage.
What’s becoming clear is that Logano is no longer just happy to be here, no longer happy to be looked at as the young kid that gets to drive racecars.
Slowly, he’s developing into someone to contend with, be it good, bad or ugly. From one weekend to the next NASCAR fans might not know what they’re going to get.
It’s all a part of the metamorphosis that is Joey Logano.
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