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NASCAR Season Preview: Joey Logano

Photo credit: Ned Leone

#20 Home Depot/Dollar General Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing

Born: May 24, 1990

Home: Middletown, Connecticut

2011 HIGHLIGHTS: Logano took the second and third poles of his career, at Infineon in June and Pocono in August. He ran his best in big races in the middle of the season, finishing third at both the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in May and Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in July. He also established himself as a solid road course driver, finishing sixth at Infineon and fifth at Watkins Glen.

2011 LOWLIGHTS: 2011 marked the worst season of Logano’s brief Sprint Cup career, a step back from his 2010 results. He posted career lows in top 10s (six) and rank in the standings (24th). Logano also led 44 of 200 laps at Pocono after winning the pole there, but finished a disappointing 26th; he only led 14 laps in the other 35 races on the schedule.

SEASON OUTLOOK: At this point in his career, it doesn’t seem a stretch to think that Logano was a bit rushed into Sprint Cup. Like many other athletes who receive a serious amount of hype before hitting the big time, he hasn’t quite torn up the major professional ranks; his lone win remains a rain-aided victory at Loudon as a rookie in 2009. And with his contract up at the end of the season, this is a make or break year for Logano.

He’ll have to earn his contract extension in the wake of major changes for this season. Crew chief Greg Zipadelli (who had been with the #20 team since its inception in 1999) has rejoined former Gibbs driver Tony Stewart as competition director at Stewart-Haas Racing. His replacement will be Jason Ratcliff, who comes from Gibbs’ lead Nationwide Series team. Logano has also started seeing a sports psychologist, following teammate Denny Hamlin, as a way to help build his confidence. If it makes the difference between 20th in points and the cusp of the Chase, expect that contract extension to come soon enough. If not, get ready for the Bobby Hillin comparisons.

– Chris Leone

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