Logano must perform for Gibbs now

There’s going to come a time this year when Joe and J.D. Gibbs will have to make a decision on Joey Logano’s future.

And entering such a vital year, the last thing you would want as a driver is to have to start over with a new crew chief at the Sprint Cup level.

But for Logano, that may offer his best chance to prove himself.

The 21-year-old enters his fourth full season of Sprint Cup competition with an uncertain future as his contract with Joe Gibbs Racing is up at the end of the upcoming season. But even after losing championship-winning crew chief Greg Zipadelli, he is upbeat about turning things around and staying at Joe Gibbs Racing in the future.

This season, Logano will work with former Nationwide Series crew chief Jason Ratcliff in the Cup ranks.

“We need to grow a lot as a team. Jason is going to have a learning curve, I feel like we are going to have a bit of a learning curve together,” Logano said. “But I feel it’s accelerated a lot already.”

After showing improvement from 2009, his rookie season, to 2010, Logano stumbled in 2011 — leading to numerous rumors that he was on the outs at Gibbs.

“That’s a new thing for me, I’ve never really (had to deal with rumors like that) before,” Logano said. “It’s tough. You hear a lot of things and you say, ‘Is that true? Where did it come from? How are they getting this information?’ All you can do is go to the horses’ mouth and ask him. As long as you are straight up, you know what’s going on and it’s not a big deal and you’ll stay focused. I will say for a couple of weeks it was tough. But you know what? I figured out what I need to do and then how to come out of it.”

But after a disappointing season, Logano knows the addition of Ratcliff — who has been with JGR’s uber-successful No. 18 Nationwide team for the past seven years — means it’s put-up-or-shut-up time.

“I think this is a very important year just like any other year," he said. "You can argue that last year was equally as important as this year. I feel like I have the guys behind me, the team behind me to make that happen. I’d say it’s less pressure for me — I feel like I got what I need: A lot of energy, a lot of confidence in myself and my team this year. I feel like we can do it. I feel like we don’t have any excuses left.

“. . . I feel like it’s not going to be long until we are where we need to be. There’s no reason in my mind that we can’t go down to the (Daytona) 500 and win that thing — I feel like we can do that already.”