Logano needs to watch his back

BY foxsports • March 21, 2010

After Kevin Harvick punted Joey Logano in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, the youngster has to prove that he won’t be a doormat for drivers in NASCAR’s top series.

Logano appeared destined to finish in the top five for the first time at Bristol Motor Speedway in the Scotts Turf Builder 300 before Harvick nailed him off of Turn 4 on the final lap of the race. Logano finished 14th.

Even though he was racing against the occasionally combative Harvick, Logano expressed surprise after the incident.

“I don't understand that at all,” Logano said. “It was for fifth place, so I don't know what he was doing. It wasn’t for the win! We ran together clean for almost the whole race and then he dumps me on the last lap. I don't understand what he was thinking."

Logano was running a completely different line from Harvick. When diamonding the corners, the No. 20 Toyota continued crossing Harvick’s path.

“I raced with him and raced with him and he kept chopping me and chopping me,” Harvick said. “I got into the back of him and hate that it happened.

“You have to have a lane to race, so you do what you have to do.”

On Sunday, Logano starts the Food City 500 from the pole. At 19, he’s the youngest racer in NASCAR history to roll off from the point. But in the Sprint Cup Series, youth isn’t always an advantage, especially when a driver ascends through the ranks as quickly as Logano has in one of the best rides the sport has to offer.

And Logano has been a target in the past for veterans. Greg Biffle took advantage of Logano’s youth and inexperience at California not once but twice.

“He’s had run-ins over there with other people and it has not carried over to this side,” said Greg Zipadelli, Logano’s Sprint Cup crew chief. “As soon as it starts carrying over to this side, he’ll stop driving the Nationwide car as far as I’m concerned -- absolutely, positively no drama about it.”

Zipadelli, who won two Cup titles with Tony Stewart, never had to worry about his former driver being a patsy. A modern day A.J. Foyt, Stewart refuses to take crap from anyone on or off the race track. Zipadelli never had to worry about defending Stewart.

Although Harvick starts 33rd on the grid today, Zipadelli knows it’s just a matter of time before he moves up to the front. But the veteran chief isn’t concerned for his driver.

“Harvick will only make him a doormat for so long,” Zipadelli said. “Harvick showed yesterday how he races him and that’s the end of that. There’s two sides to that story. They raced for a long time. Joey obviously in parts of the race track was faster. In other parts of the race track Harvick was faster.

“That’s part of this place. This place, next week, the same thing. It’s hard to pass. It takes patience. But like I said, it’s not carried over to here. As far as I’m concerned, Harvick is the only one that has to worry about anything. We just need to run a good solid race and finish in the top five or 10 at the end.”

Although the talk among Logano’s teammates is he has his honor to uphold, Zipadelli is more concerned with the big picture. Logano has yet to finish a race at Bristol. With the new tire, a different element has entered the tuning equation and Zipadelli still feels Logano need help finding his comfort level at the track in a Cup car.

“He hasn’t run this race for 500 laps,” Zipadelli said. “He doesn’t know the mental toughness it takes to be there at the end. That’s the most important -- to run all 500 laps competitively and leave with a good finish. What happened yesterday is yesterday’s business. If it carries over to today, that’s a different story.

“Joey is young. He doesn’t forget a lot. He takes it all in. I don’t want to say that Kevin Harvick is jealous of Joey but I don’t think people cut him slack. He’s 19 years old. He did come over here, has good equipment and has proved to be successful. To me, if you can come over here (Cup), back it up and run good, that speaks for itself. If you’re getting good equipment and you can’t back it up, that’s different. But I don’t think anyone can look at what Joey has accomplished and say he doesn’t deserve to be where he’s at. He’s a racer.”

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