How do you like me now? Joey Logano starting to live up to ‘Sliced Bread’ nickname
A few years ago a young kid showed up on the NASCAR Sprint Cup scene. Driver Mark Martin was one of the more vocal ones that said this young man was going to be the sports next superstar. He was only 16 years old at the time, but I think it was Randy LaJoie that coined the phrase that this kid was going to be "the greatest thing since sliced bread."
The slogan stuck and Joey Logano came into our sport with a lot of high pressure and higher expectations. Everyone thought this kid was going to turn the NASCAR world on its ear. Joey was stepping into the famous No. 20 car that had won multiple races and two championships with Tony Stewart behind the wheel.
We all know the results. Sure he won a couple races in that Home Depot car for Joe Gibbs Racing, but Logano just never lived up to the unrealistic expectations that a lot of people put on him. He just never seemed to fit in there and then when the time came when Matt Kenesth was looking to leave Roush Fenway Racing, Joey became odd-man out. Quite honestly, he didn’t even know if he was going to have a ride in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Car owner Roger Penske has always had a great eye for talent. Brad Keselowski was also very instrumental in telling Roger that he believed in Joey and wanted him as a teammate. So they brought Joey onboard over there at Team Penske and as the old saying goes, "the rest is history."
Joey obviously has gotten older and matured. He’s enjoyed a rebirth in his career behind the wheel of those Penske Fords. I mentioned last week that I had told him once he needed to stop letting those older drivers push him around and stand his ground to send a message through the garage area.
Well, Joey heeded that advice and now as we see, Joey’s more than willing to go to the mat or head to head anytime that it’s called for with anyone in the garage.
He probably hates to hear it brought back, but his three consecutive wins definitely prove Joey is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It just took moving from Gibbs to Penske to make it happen because at Gibbs, unfortunately, he was toast. Ironically, going into the Chase, I had always felt it was going to be a Penske vs. Gibbs battle for the championship with Kevin Harvick thrown in there and that’s proving out.
I think these next three weekends at three different style tracks are going to be really exciting. This weekend it is Martinsville and I think Jeff Gordon is the favorite there. Remember, he had the spring race there won, but a speeding penalty on that last pit stop cost him the win. I think Joey’s mile-and-a half program is super-strong, so I see him the one to beat in two weeks at Texas. Then three weeks from now we head to Phoenix and we all know how dominant Kevin Harvick is there. If that all plays out the way I think it will, then someone is going to get in on points for the final spot at Homestead, but I just don’t know who that is going to be.
Speaking of Kevin, here’s my take on what transpired on Sunday at the end of the race. I guess on the first restart, NASCAR can call it the way they want to, since they are the sanctioning body. My issue is the TV replay showed the green light coming on. Now the green light is activated by David Hoots in NASCAR control up in the tower, not by the flagman in the flag stand.
So the greenlight is on, I’m assuming the green flag is in the air, so to me they are coming to attempt the only green-white-checkered attempt per their new rule for Talladega. I can understand them saying that since the cars literally didn’t cross the start/finish line that they waved it off and reset the field after clean-up of the first wreck and that’s what they did.
Now the only problem I have is if they just let that thing go green as they had planned, we’d have a different looking final eight drivers in the Chase field. If you look at the footage, Kevin is up on the outside falling back in a hurry. In addition to that, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had the fastest car all day, led the most laps and who knows, he might have won the race? If that scenario happens, then Kevin is out and Dale Jr. is in the Chase but that’s not how it played out.
NASCAR lined them back up for a second "first-attempt" at a green-white-checker, which quite honestly may be another first in NASCAR history, but like we always tell you about Talladega, it’s the track where the unexpected can happen and usually does.
So they came around for the next restart and that’s where the majority of the controversy happened. Kevin is struggling because his engine in the No. 4 is going south. But listen to me a second, he can’t give up his position and fall to the back because it’s the Chase. He was in a box and had to restart up in the middle of the field where he was placed. It’s his prerogative, he can do that if he wants with the hope that he doesn’t get run over.
Whatever the situation was it worked out the best for Kevin Harvick.
On the radio traffic, he asked his spotter to ask the No. 6 spotter to ask driver Trevor Bayne to give him a shove on the restart. For whatever reason, maybe Ford versus Chevrolet, Trevor decided not to. Trevor went by on the outside at the same time Kevin was trying to move up out of the way. It’s hard to tell from the replays of did Kevin come up into Trevor or did Trevor think he had him cleared and came down.
Whatever the situation was it worked out the best for Kevin Harvick. Personally I don’t think Kevin wrecked Trevor on purpose. There’s a whole list of folks that fans can blame if they want to. You can blame Kevin, you can blame Trevor. Heck, you could even blame NASCAR if you wanted to. On the race track things happen fast and that’s simply what transpired on Sunday at Talladega. NASCAR has issued a statement that there will be no penalties issued from what happened, so as far as I’m concerned the case is closed and we move onto Martinsville.
Unfortunately championship hopes came to a close Sunday for Dale Earnhardt Jr, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin. We are now down to eight drivers fighting for four spots in the winner take-all race at Homestead on Nov. 22. Those eight are made up of two Team Penske cars, two Joe Gibbs Racing cars, two Stewart-Haas Racing cars, one Hendrick Motorsport car and Martin Truex Jr. in the Furniture Row car.
I do want to take a moment and commend Dale Jr. on the way he handled himself after the race. He could have stomped and stormed being mad at the world missing his chance for his first championship literally by mere inches when they stopped the race, but he was the epitome of class. Even though he didn’t win, he took the high road and I think there are a lot of younger drivers out there who should take note of how to handle yourself when things go wrong.
The tip of the hat this week goes to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Earlier in the week at our sixth Annual Waltrip Brothers Charity Championship he was part of Team MRO that won our golf tournament and there he was Sunday finishing ninth and getting another Top 10 finish. That No. 17 has really come to life of late and I hope that bodes well for Ricky going into 2016.
So we’re off to Martinsville. I love that joint. I’m proud to say I have 11 of those famous Ridgeway Grandfather clocks but the question becomes who will walk out of there come Sunday afternoon adding one to their own collection, or maybe their very first one?