Joey Logano wins Pocono 400, June 10, 2012Enlarge Photo
Prior to the Pocono 400 Presented by #NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway on June 10, there was talk that sliced bread had gone stale.
Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, came into the sport with the moniker of “Sliced Bread,” as in the best thing since... It was a name given to Logano by former NASCAR Nationwide Series competitor Randy LaJoie, based on Logano’s quick and successful progress throughout the motorsports ranks.
Logano lived up to the nickname when he hit the Nationwide Series soon after his 18th birthday, and he’s still a fixture in victory lane on the Nationwide circuit, running a part-time schedule there to supplement his full-time stint in the Sprint Cup Series.
But Logano hit a wall, of sorts, when he worked his way up to the Sprint Cup Series. After a partial 2008 Nationwide schedule that saw the youngster make his way into victory lane in only his third start, Joe Gibbs Racing announced that Logano would be Tony Stewart’s replacement in the No. 20 Sprint Cup entry, as Stewart was leaving to venture into the world of NASCAR owner/driver by becoming half owner of the newly-named Stewart-Haas Racing.
With only a part-time partial season of Nationwide Series competition under his belt, many in and out of the sport felt that Logano was being thrown to the wolves, so to speak, at least a little too soon.
Maybe he was. Maybe he wasn’t. Fact of the matter was that Logano just didn’t enjoy the success he had become accustomed to once he hit the Sprint Cup circuit.
Logano did manage a win in 2009, his first full-time season at the Sprint Cup level. But that win had somewhat of a proverbial asterisk, as it was a rain-shortened win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon in June of that year.
Until that elusive second win at Pocono earlier this month, that win in a rain-shortened race back in 2009 looked to be the only bright spot so far in the young career of “Sliced Bread.”
Had the bread gone stale? Was Logano deserving of a top-level Sprint Cup ride, or was he just better suited for the Nationwide Series? Those were questions asked heading into Pocono. It didn’t help matters for Logano that 2012 is a contract year for Logano. A lot of speculation lately has had Logano losing his ride in the No. 20 come the end of the year.
“I haven't been informed on where I stand for next year yet, so it's all up in the air,” Logano said. “Obviously winning a race means a lot and it helps that out a ton. For sure right now my future is not set with anybody. You need to go out there and win races, not like we always do, but to get this win means a lot.”
But not so fast, maybe his recent win at Pocono will silence the critics, especially since Logano now can claim a win in a race that ran its complete scheduled distance.
“It’s awesome to finally win one the right way,” an excited Logano exclaimed to his crew via radio right after taking the checkered flag at Pocono.
After the race, Logano expanded on his excitement on winning a race the “right way,” as in driving into victory lane after completing a full race’s distance.
“To get a victory, it meant so much, and pulling the Home Depot car into victory lane at a Sprint Cup race and winning it the right way was just an amazing, amazing feeling that you can't replicate and you can't explain what it means,” Logano said.
Maybe the bread hasn’t quite gone stale. It looks like there’s still a few fresh pieces in the loaf, after all.
-- Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR