Will 2013 Be Joey Logano's Breakout Season?

Michael Guadalupe@The_GuadaFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2013

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 18:  Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Penske Racing, watches on during NASCAR Testing at Charlotte Motor Speedway on January 18, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

When Joey Logano was 15 years old, he was praised as one of NASCAR's future greats by Mark Martin. Fast forward to the 2013 season though, and NASCAR fans are still waiting for Logano to break out in the Sprint Cup Series.

Will 2013 be his year?

Logano has been a dominant factor in the Nationwide Series since his debut in 2008. His success in Nationwide, though, hasn't exactly translated into the Sprint Cup Series.

With the start of the 2013 season only weeks away, Logano has what he needs to start fresh this year. He is no longer sitting behind Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing. Logano is now working with Brad Keselowski and the Penske Organization.

Logano was picked to be placed in the 22, and clearly both Keselowski and Penske Racing see a big future with him.

With the switch to Penske and the new technology of the Gen-6 car being introduced this season in NASCAR, now is the year for Joey Logano to break out.

Overshadowed at JGR

When Logano joined Joe Gibbs Racing in 2009, he filled a pretty big spot. Tony Stewart left JGR to go form his own racing team, and the 19-year-old Logano was brought in to compete with some of the best in stock car racing.

Logano had a lot to live up to, especially when he was paired up with Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch who both quickly emerged as two of the top drivers in NASCAR.

With the way Logano performed in the Nationwide Series, expectations seemed high when Gibbs signed the young driver.

Still, Logano struggled in the Sprint Cup Series and never stood out at JGR.

Then Joey was basically pushed out of the door at JGR when Matt Kenseth announced he was joining JGR in the 2013 season.

And while Gibbs wanted to keep Logano around in the organization, they were still trying to work out the details of a fourth JGR car. Sponsorship might have been an issue, and Logano might have only been running a limited Sprint Cup schedule if he had stayed with JGR.

Clearly it would have been a step back for the driver.

Fresh Start

Now in 2013, Logano is getting a fresh start in the Sprint Cup Series because he decided to sign with Penske Racing and drive the 22 car.

Logano was picked by Keselowski to field the 22 car, and the Sprint Cup champion already has big plans for Joey at Penske Racing.

"I think that Joey is an elite talent in this sport and if we can work together, we will both be better," Keselowski was quoted by Jordan Bianchi via SBNation.com.

"I would rather finish second to him next year in every race and even the championship than to rest on my laurels, not get any better (while) the whole field does and run fifth, 10th, 15th, 17th – whatever it might be – and beat him."

"I think it's that spirit that is going to drive us to be the best we can."

It might seem like a lot of pressure for Logano to have a new teammate who just won the Sprint Cup Championship. However, even after struggling in the Sprint Cup Series, Logano was still picked to drive the 22.

The fresh start at Penske Racing is just what Logano needs to try to break out this season.  Not only is he with a new company, but he is also making the shift from Toyota to Ford.

These major changes might be all Logano needs to be as great as Mark Martin predicted.

Can He Still Stumble?

Of course Logano can stumble in 2013 and deal with the same struggles that plagued him at JGR.

Maybe a fresh start will be too much for the young driver to handle, and he'll collapse under all the pressure.

Or he could struggle with the new Gen-6 model car and take steps backward instead of forward.

Logano wasn't extremely impressive at JGR last season, except for when he won at Pocono. So how could he really do any worse now that he is at Penske Racing?

At this point in his career, though, if Logano continues to struggle, it's time to start doubting the great expectations Mark Martin had for him.

Joey is still young, and has plenty of time ahead of him, but NASCAR fans have been waiting years for Logano to break out and become a top driver.

There is a chance he will stumble this season. However, after making the smart decision to leave JGR for Penske Racing, and having a teammate like Brad Keselowski who is clearly supporting the new Penske driver, 2013 is shaping up to be Joey's breakout season.

"I am high on Joey Logano because I am absolutely, 100-percent positive, without a doubt that he can be one of the greatest that ever raced in NASCAR," Martin was quoted as saying by Jay Hart back in 2007.

"I'm positive. There's no doubt in mind."

2013 could be the year Martin's prediction comes true.


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