Sunday, June 3, 2012

Logano successful in Nationwide, but when will he catch up to JGR teammates?

Joey Logano during Cup qualifying in Darlington on May 11
Photo Credit: Genevieve
Joey Logano has won four races this season in the Nationwide Series, including Saturday's Nationwide race at the Monster Mile in Dover. But he’s yet to win one in the Sprint Cup Series since his lucky win in 2009 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and that happened due to a rainout.

To sweep the weekend would be a sweet victory for the young man in the No. 20 Toyota. He starts today's FedEx Autism Speaks 400 in the 11th position.

Logano is one of the youngest Cup drivers in the series - he turned 22 last week on May 24. He signed on to be a Joe Gibbs Racing development driver in 2005, and it's been an uphill ride for Logano since.

 “He's a very bright individual and a good racecar driver,” teammate and friend Kyle Busch says of Logano. “I mean, we work awful hard together, Denny (Hamlin), myself and Joey in team meetings every single week. Joey asks a lot of questions.”

In the four full seasons Logano has raced in the Cup Series, his stats haven't caught up with his teammates Busch and Hamlin. This season, he has three top 10s in the Cup Series. In the Nationwide Series, he has four wins, five top fives, seven top 10s and three poles.

If he were racing for a championship in NASCAR's second-tier series, would he rank higher and would he win it? Logano's stats would put him in position to contend for the title. Might he be wishing he were racing for the championship in NNS?

Logano “can do it in on the Nationwide side,” Busch continued. “(He) showed potential a couple years ago on the Cup side."

Sure, Hamlin and Busch are more experienced because of their age, so, is that the only missing link in Logano’s Cup career? In 123 series starts, he has 32 top 10s and 14 top fives - that’s a really good number for someone that young racing with the sport's elite.

But age may not be the reason why Logano can't keep up.

“I think he lost a little bit of confidence last year, crew chief, what have you," Busch said. “I think Jason (Ratcliff) being on board now has helped that a little bit.”

Ratcliff was Busch's Nationwide championship-winning crew chief in 2009 and remained his crew chief at JGR until Busch formed his own Nationwide team after the 2011 season.

In Sprint Cup, Ratcliff was paired with Logano for the 2012 season after Greg Zipadelli's departure. Zipadelli, Logano's crew chief for the last three years, left to reunite with Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing. Logano was under a lot of pressure to fill Stewart's shoes while working with Zipadelli, the Cup champion's longtime crew chief.

As of now, Logano is 16th in points, and he’s been bouncing around the points ladder for a few weeks. So is the challenge of the right crew chief/driver combination a real factor in his lack of wins?

“Joey and Jason may be learning each other a little bit,” Busch said. “I talked to Jason at the shop, he’s like, “Man, his feedback is so much different than yours” – Jason and I, we worked really well together.”

Joey Logano talks to NASCAR Hall of Famer Leonard Wood
before Cup qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.
Photo Credit: Genevieve
It may be just that - it took time for Busch and Ratcliff to work well together in the Nationwide Series, and now Ratcliff is trying to figure out exactly what Logano means when he communicates what the racecar is doing.

The crew chief/driver relationship is similar to any other job: success happens when the communication among management and employees are in sync. But in the Cup Series, the competition is more fierce and passing is getting harder and harder to do. Even the best of the best drivers are struggling to win more often.

I ask you, readers, do you think Logano will make the Chase for the Championship this season? What do you think lies ahead for this talented young man?

Genevieve is a freelance writer with a day job in child care. She currently resides near Charlotte, N.C., not far from all of the race shops. Photography is Gen's new favorite hobby; she also loves to run, exercise, spend time outside with friends and family. You can reach Genevieve on Twitter at @C_Genevieve.


  1. Don't know if he will make the Chase this year, but it has been a better season for him. I think he will finish in the top 15.

  2. A insane amount of pressure has been put on this talented young man. He has handled it better than most. I feel there is a huge future for him. He seems to have alot of detractors, he does something "wrong" the village idiots want to tar and feather him, however if one of the "tough" regulars did or do the same the comments from print and Tv outlets is that is "just racing" he does its and they want to lynch him...I think he is a great representive of the sport..polite, talented, there for the fans, giving of his time and just a great and humble attitude, not to mention the real deal...long live JTL in the Nascar series...

  3. The Gibbs Nationwide cars are obviously superior to most of the others. I feel that little Joey's wins in that series have no bearing on his mediocre abilities and Cup results. More opportunities for up and comers like Wallace, Truex and Blaney are in order.

  4. All three you mentioned are over rated...and before you say Trevor Bayne he is too!