CUP: Sliced Bread Rising Up

Published March 01, 2010

| Speedtv

Don't look now, but the most successful Sprint Cup driver at Joe Gibbs Racing this season isn't Kyle Busch, winner of 12 Cup races since the start of 2008.

And it isn't Denny Hamlin, the choice of many pundits as the driver most likely to challenge Jimmie Johnson for the championship this year.

No, the JGR Sprint Cup driver with the most points so far this season is none other than Joey Logano, who at the ripe old age of 19 has shown remarkable improvement in his second season in NASCAR's top division.

In his first three Cup races as a rookie in 2009, Logano posted finishes of 43rd, 26th and 13th, an average of 27.33. This year, the difference has been impressive. Logano opened the year with a 20th-place finish at Daytona and followed it up with a fifth at Auto Club Speedway and a sixth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That equates to an average finish of 10.33.

And that's why the driver known as “Sliced Bread” is sitting eighth in the Cup points standings after three races, while his high-profile teammates Busch and Hamlin are 12th and 22nd, respectively.

Yes, the 2010 season is still very, very young and much can happen. But Logano's performance has been nothing short of a revelation.

There's no question that the enthusiasm is visible in Logano. Sunday at Las Vegas, he came up about half a fender short of catching Matt Kenseth at the start-finish line, but ended up sixth. Still, it was a second consecutive impressive effort for the Connecticut youngster.

“Two weeks in a row, I am really excited about that,” Logano said of his strong showings at ACS and LVMS. “I tell you, if you keep getting top-10s, you’ll get closer to the top five, and eventually the wins are going to come. I’m pretty pumped up about how we did here.”

Logano credited crew chief Greg Zipadelli with getting the No. 20 Home Depot-sponsored Toyota more and more dialed in as the laps piled up.

“We didn’t start the race that good, but to come back at the end and get a solid top-10 — we almost had Matt (Kenseth) there coming to the line (for fifth-place),” said Logano. “It’s a lot of fun, like I said last week, to see the front of the lead pack and you can almost get to the lead — it’s a lot of fun.”

As well as Logano has performed, though, the real measure of how far he's come — or far he still has to go — may come on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a track he's had a hard time coming to grips with.

“Next week will probably be a tough one — Atlanta is one where we struggled a lot last year,” said Logano, who finished 30th and 22nd at AMS last year. “If we run good there, that’s going to really say something to me.”

It's going to say something to his competitors, too.

Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEEDtv.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.

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