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Catch 22! That is what the entire Sprint Cup Series has been trying to do since the green flag dropped on the 2015 season at Daytona. Joey Logano has won the Daytona 500 and 5 more races this season including sweeping the entire Contender Round of the Chase. The sweep was a first since the Chase format was implemented, it is also the first time since 1994 that a Ford driver has won 3 races in a row. Logano has been involved in some controversy this year, most recently involving Matt Kenseth at Kansas. Logano had the dominate car all day and when a late pit stop put Logano behind Kenseth it caused a confrontation that sent Joey to victory lane and Kenseth into the wall and basically out of the Chase. The incident set off a firestorm on social media with Kenseth fans and Logano haters pointing the finger at Logano for rough racing. In times like this I ask myself, “What would Earnhardt do”? The answer is simple, win! As a race fan for over twenty-five years I cannot remember a time when the Intimidator would have second guessed using his bumper to get a trophy. I also remember a young Matt Kenseth that used his bumper and roughed up Jeff Gordon at Bristol which resulted in a very angry Gordon shoving Kenseth before teams and officials could separate them. It seems Kenseth has a short memory.
The first time I heard of this kid they called “Sliced Bread” was in 2007, he was making a name for himself in the ARCA Series for Venturini Motorsports. I met him for the first time in 2009 during his rookie season, he reminds me of a young Richard Petty, laid back, nice disposition, tall and lanky like “the King” and he even has his version of the Petty smile. I watched how he interacted with the fans and kids, he really appreciated every person who came to meet him. How a driver interacts with fans speaks volumes of their character and to me means more than Championships and wins which would come later. Logano has been under the radar until last season. Fans seem to forget he has been in the Sprint Cup Series since 2009. He made 3 starts in 2008 with a best finish of 32. In his rookie season, he won a rain shortened race at New Hampshire but only achieved an average finish of 20th. Logano has stated that the first win wasn’t very special because he couldn’t race for it and that his second win was more special. That second win came at Pocono in 2012 racing one of his heroes, Mark Martin. The win was his last for under Joe Gibbs Racing.
Logano moved over to the 22 car in 2013 and has slowly been making gains in speed and consistency. Penske has allowed Logano to become a seasoned driver and that was on display at Bristol Motor Speedway in August of this year. Logano was in a late race duel with Kevin Harvick for over thirty-five laps, the two drivers where running two different lanes on the track which would allow Harvick to come within inches of Logano deck lid only for Logano to get a charge of 3 car lengths coming out of the corner. Logano and Harvick fought their way through lap traffic putting on one of the best races of the year. In victory lane I had a chance to speak with Logano’s father. I asked him what it was like seeing his son compete at this level. He said it has been a long road and that Joey appreciates where he is. He said “when Joey won the Daytona 500, I asked him if he ever thought a little kid racing quarter midgets up in New England would be in the Winner’s Circle at Daytona”.
You could see the pride in his eyes as Joey was doing the post-race interviews and photographs. With the momentum of the Chase clearly in his favor, Joey has four races remaining to prove he has what it takes to be Sprint Cup Champion. With 6 wins and support from his family and fans can anyone catch 22?
[Photo: Mike DiNovo / USA TODAY Sports]
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