Thank Heavens for the Nationwide Series

Joey "Sliced Bread" Logano struggled in his Sprint Cup Series debut in 2008, finishing 32nd, 39th, and 40th in three starts. He has struggled equally in 2009, with an average finish of 30.7 and finishes of 30th-or-worse in five of seven races. Let the puns begin.

Fortunately for Bread, the stars aligned to give him the Nationwide Series. Or, rather, the economy cratered and NASCAR postponed its decision to make the Car of Tomorrow the car of choice for the Nationwide Series.

Can Logano drive? Clearly, the answer is yes. He outduelled Kyle Busch on Saturday to win his second career Nationwide race. But it’s equally clear that he is having a fairly disastrous introduction to Sprint Cup racing.

Logano’s career arc was unexpectedly accelerated by Tony Stewart’s decision to leave Joe Gibbs Racing; his "inevitable" rise to the top was further clouded by NASCAR’s decision to ban testing in 2009, depriving the 18-year-old of valuable seat time in the tricky Car of Tomorrow. And he’s hardly the first driver to struggle with the CoT (paging Jeff Gordon, come in, Mr., Gordon).

Still and all, throughout, JGR has repeatedly asserted that Logano would be given the necessary time to acclimate to Sprint Cup in general and the balky CoT. Justifiable or not, Logano’s underperformance has given life to rumors that Gibbs might be looking to replace him in the No. 20 (denied, of course). 

But while Nationwide wins are gratifying, provide a boost of confidence for him, and evidence to team and sponsors that the high-stakes gamble to give him Stewart’s seat will eventually pay off, Sliced Bread needs to step up his game before too long … or he becomes Burnt Toast.