By Brian Wiggins-
There’s no denying that Joey Logano has been preforming under a microscope ever since he jumped aboard the Joe Gibbs Racing 20 car in 2009.
He was the new hot-shot rookie on the scene, and everyone expected him to take the sport by storm at 19-years-old.
To say Logano’s career started off “less than ideal” is quite the understatement after crashing out of the 2009 Daytona 500 early and finishing the race 43rd.
From there, he struggled to grasp the Sprint Cup car, finishing far down the running order in a top-level ride was not the start JGR or Logano had in mind.
But then came the race at New Hampshire where Logano took the win in a rain-shortened race. A win that silence all the critics—or not—for a moment.
After the win, the successes in the Cup Series were few and far between for Logano as he continued to be a weekly contender in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series.
However, his lack of success in the Cup Series after the New Hampshire victory woke up a stir of talks of how secure his future was with JGR.
Then came the 2010 Chase stretch when he accumulated the third highest amount of points among all Cup drivers during that time. Surely, people thought that was the turning point for Logano and his team to start contending for race wins and Chase births in the Cup Series.
But Logano struggled in 2011 with the new expectations of winning and the Chase, failing to place inside the top-20 in points or win a race. His lone bright spots on the season were poles at Sonoma and Pocono.
For 2012, JGR thought that a possible change over the radio would help Logano succeed in Cup with veteran Nationwide Series crew chief Jason Ratcliff taking over as crew chief for Logano’s Cup effort.
While the season didn’t start of ideal for the 20 team, Logano and Ratcliff seemed to be slowly and surely making progress amiss talks of possible replacement drivers for Logano for 2013.
Heading into the month of June, talks of Logano needing to contend and win races to have a chance to keep his job were louder than ever.
With the newly repaved Pocono Raceway on tap for the weekend—a track where Logano had success in the past—the No.20 team started the weekend off strong by leading opening Friday practice and winning the pole for Sunday’s 400-mile race.
Starting off the race strong, Logano quickly jumped out to a three second lead and looked to have a chance of contending for his second career win.
With eight laps remaining, Logano was lined up next to the driver who gave him is famous—and sometimes infamous—nickname, Mark Martin.
“I kept telling myself under caution, ‘I can do this, I can do this'”, said Logano. “I couldn’t have picked a cooler guy to lineup side-by-side with at the end.”
Martin was able to vault around Logano to grab the lead, and looked to be on his way to the win as Logano drove with everything he had to re-pass Martin.
In turn three with five laps to go, Martin’s car bobbled, breaking his momentum and allowing Logano to chase him down entering turn one.
“I saw the bobble coming off of three, and that was my chance. It’s so hard to pass, and that was my one shot to get him. We needed to get it back. ”
Logano put the bumper to Martin’s Toyota with four laps to go, and drove off to the win in Sunday’s Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway.
“I didn’t want to get in the back of Mark there,” said Logano in victory lane to reporters after the race. ” I was kind of running in with speed, and he was getting free and I just stayed right there.
“It’s just awesome to finally get in victory lane the right way. You don’t know what this means.”
For Logano, who became the youngest winner in Pocono Raceway history on Sunday, a win in the Pocono 400 feels nothing like his previous win at New Hampshire.
“The first win, it came soon. It came under rain delay. This one has a different feel. It’s amazing how different this feels than the Nationwide wins.”
After leading 49 laps on the day, Logano can feel a change in performance 14 races into the 2012 season. But, he’s still not sure if everything is set in stone for 2013.
“I think us teaming up with Jason this year has been a big help for me. My hope is to stay with what I got and to stay working with Jason. All I can do is stay focused on driving the race car, and what happens, happens.”
When it comes to dealing with the talks of being out of a ride, Logano has only one thing to say to them after his win Sunday.
“I hope it shuts them all up.”
Pocono 400 Unofficial Results:
- Joey Logano
- Mark Martin
- Tony Stewart
- Jimmie Johnson
- Denny Hamlin
- Clint Bowyer
- Matt Kenseth
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Paul Menard
- Jamie McMurray
- Carl Edwards
- Ryan Newman
- Marcos Ambrose
- Kevin Harvick
- Jeff Burton
- Regan Smith
- Juan Pablo Montoya
- Brad Keselowski
- Jeff Gordon
- Martin Truex Jr.
- David Reutimann
- Bobby Labonte
- David Gilliland
- Greg Biffle
- Dave Blaney
- Travis Kvapil
- David Ragan
- Aric Almirola
- Kasey Kahne
- Kyle Busch
- A.J. Allmendinger
- Tony Raines
- Stephen Leicht
- Michael McDowell
- Casey Mears
- J.J. Yeley
- Joe Nemechek
- Mike Bliss
- Stacey Compton
- Scott Riggs
- Reed Sorenson
- Josh Wise
- Landon Cassill