There is a long list of drivers who, despite enjoying the holiday break, will be doubly anxious to get engines cranked in the 2011 season.
But Joey Logano might be the driver most jittery while waiting for 2011 and Daytona to arrive. And for a couple of reasons.
Logano had some struggles through the first half of 2010, but he finished very strong. In fact, in the closing weeks of the year he produced the sort of streak that is rarely seen in Sprint Cup – or any other sort of – racing.
It began innocently enough with a seventh-place finish at Charlotte Oct. 16. A sixth-place run followed in the next event at Martinsville, and then Logano finished fifth the next week at Talladega.
Suddenly, it was a trend. Next one would have expected a fourth place, and that’s exactly what Logano delivered at Texas.
Next in the sequence? Third place, and Logano got that at Phoenix.
Logically, one would have looked for a second-place run from Logano in the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway and then – he would be pleased by this – the first-place finish to complete the streak in next year’s season-opening Daytona 500.
Unfortunately, the unusual streak ended – and ended badly – at Homestead.
A controversial on-track encounter with Montoya sent Logano sailing into the outside wall, leaving him with a damaged race car – and bruised feelings. After a long period in the garage for repairs, Logano returned to the track and administered some frontier justice. He wrecked Montoya during a caution period.
“That’s a disappointing way to end the season,” Logano said. “We were running mid-pack and about to take a big swing at changes to the Home Depot Toyota when I felt I was hooked by the No. 42 car and sent into the wall. We’ve had great momentum going over the last seven races, and I really want to carry that into next season, and I know we will.
“I try and show people respect on the track, but that’s the second time he’s done that to me this year. It was time to stand up for myself and this team. We will be able to put this race behind us, focus on the positives and look forward to 2011.”
Ultimately, Logano finished 39th, a run that left him 16th in the final point standings.
He’ll be more than ready when engines roar to life in Daytona in February.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.