Monday, April 8, 2013

Joey Logano moves on from controversy in Martinsville

Logano at Fontana: Photo by Brandy Valentine 

Joey Logano’s name has been involved in controversy the last couple of weeks. He has had his “feuds” with drivers, but hoped to move on at Martinsville. Logano focused on trying to have a good race without the drama.

Logano has come a long way since he started racing. He started when he was six-years-old in quarter midgets in Connecticut where he won various races and championships before the age of 10. When Logano was 15, he was racing in the FASCAR Pro Truck Series. He was also able to catch the eye of veteran driver Mark Martin, who was racing for Jack Roush at the time. Martin thought Logano had  potential to be a strong competitor in NASCAR.

In 2007 a new NASCAR rule was put into effect that allowed 16-year-old drivers to participate in the Grand National Division which allowed Logano to compete. He started 13 times in the Camping World East Series, winning five races, three poles, 10 top fives, 10 top 10’s, and the championship. Logano also raced in one NASCAR West Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, where he started second and finished first in the No. 10 Joe Gibbs Driven Toyota. That same year the young driver won the Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale Speedway.

Logano went on to make his NASCAR Nationwide debut in the 2008 Heluva Good! 200 at the Dover International Speedway. Logano won his first major NASCAR series race at the Meijer 300 at Kentucky Speedwat in only his third start. That win made Logano the youngest winner in Nationwide history. 

In 2008 Joe Gibbs Racing called a press conference to announce that Logano would drive the #20 Home Depot Toyota Camry in the 2009 Sprint Cup Series. Logano would be filling the empty seat left by Tony Stewart. 

Logano ended up starting in the Sprint Cup series in 2008, driving for Hall Of Fame Racing team in the #96 car for five races. Logano’s official Sprint Cup debut was in New Hampshire on September 14, 2008, in the two-hour practice for the Chevy Rock & Roll 400. Due to Tropical Storm Hanna, qualifying was rained out and Logano was not able to run in the actual race. He was not in the top 43 in owner points and did not make the field.

Logano drove for Joe Gibbs Racing from 2009 to 2012, and had a rough start. Logano ran in the Daytona 500 and crashed half way through finishing 43rd, but got his first win in Loudon. He went on to finish well in Las Vegas, Talladega, and Darlington. Logano was also the fan vote for the 2009 All-Star race, and finished 8th.

Logano joined Penske Racing for the 2013 Cup season and started out rocky by making contact with his former teammate Denny Hamlin, and finished 17th in the race at Bristol. The two have been at odds ever since, exchanging unpleasantries towards each other through social media and contact on the track. 
Logano also had some on-track issues with former champion Tony Stewart on a late race restart at Fontana. The contact between Hamlin and Logano ended in a last lap crash that resulted in injuries to Hamlin when he hit the inside wall head on that had no SAFER barrier. Logano made some comments after the race that Hamlin got what he deserved for racing him that way, but did not know the extent of Hamlin’s injuries. Logano later stated that he did not know at the time that Hamlin was hurt and in no way meant for it to sound like Hamlin deserved to be injured. 

Hamlin, who is out of his car for at least five weeks, was at Martinsville to watch Martin drive his car. Logano and Hamlin did not speak to each other even though their haulers were parked right next to each other. As for Logano and Stewart, neither driver created any further controversy on or off the track, and both put the incident behind them. 

Going into the weekend Logano stated, "I feel like with Tony and I, I think it's pretty much over. We have not talked to each other, but we had an off-weekend and time to relax a little bit and cool off, so I feel like that's over. I feel like we're moving on. I think we're both out there trying to improve on what we've got already. I feel like with our Shell/Pennzoil Ford we've had a decent season so far, but we're not where we want to be yet. I'm sure everyone in the garage is saying the same thing about there car, so we're focused on making ourselves faster."

Logano started fourth in Sunday’s STP Gas Booster 500 and was involved in a early crash that also involved several other drivers including Brian Vickers, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Logano was able to make some quick fixes and at halfway was running 11th. He was able to stay competitive. With only 105 laps to go, Logano started to lose power in his battery and had to switch to his back up battery, but started to lose power in that one as well. He struggled - with only 53 laps to go he was one lap down and running 22nd. After a late caution Logano did not pit when most of the other drivers did. After the restart  he was running 24th with 37 laps to go. Logano continued to struggle and finished the race 23rd, and now sits 11th in the points. 

*photo used with permission

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