There comes a time when a boy becomes a man. For each man, maturity arrives in differing places; some are thrust upon it due to a family a tragedy, others get there when they have the responsibility of wife and/or family, some may live in a Peter Pan-like state and may only get there later in life, if at all. As a kid from days gone by- Jeff Gordon- prepares to ride off into the sunset, it would certainly seem that a kid of more recent vintage- Joey Logano- is stepping up to the plate to take his place at the man’s table.
Make no mistake, this is not another premature premonition of greatness. That mistake has already been made in terms of deeming the Middletown, Connecticut. Could he be great? Maybe. Nine wins in a Cup career 220 races old makes you neither a bust nor a legend. If it all somehow ended today, we would one day ruminate one what might have been, of how a driver made a sudden ascension after an unsteady beginning, and just like that, he faded into racing obscurity.
Yet, let’s look beyond those bumpy rides there were a part of Logano’s journey at Joe Gibbs Racing. Did his maturation come at that moment when he realized that at 22, he would be moving on after learning that Matt Kenseth was taking over the 20 car in 2013? You could make that argument. Armed with a reference from Brad Keselowski, Logano stepped into the 22 car at Roger Penske. Some labeled him a reckless punk after his collision with former teammate Denny Hamlin and his confrontation with Tony Stewart at Auto Club Speedway. Others would say that was the moment Joseph Thomas Logano made it clear he would no longer be pushed around like the playground wimp, and that messing with the bull would get you the horns- the chrome horn, to be exact.
He fought through adversity, and he endured. One victory in 2013 grew into five more in 2014, and a place among the final four at Homestead. Whether you like him or not, whether or not you buy the narrative of the spoiled trust fund baby, there was no denying that Joey Logano had risen to a new level of success in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Since then, Logano has become a married man- another advancement past adolescence. Today, he is fresh off a win in the “Great American Race.”
Spin it how you wish. To be sure, it’s a restrictor plate victory, regarded by some as a fluke. However, let us not forget that twice, wins in the Daytona 500 launched championship seasons for Jimmie Johnson. Last year, a victory in the season opener kicked off the most successful season Dale Earnhardt Jr. had enjoyed in a decade.
Let us also remember that this win for Joey Logano is his seventh in 73 races since signing on with “The Captain.” With those nine career victories, he ranks only behind Jeff Gordon (17) and Kyle Busch (15) for wins before age 25. While it doesn’t automatically make him a great, his performance of late portends future success.
Great or merely just pretty good, Joey Logano is not a kid anymore. Winning takes a measure of guts when you’re going toe-to-toe with Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, and that is something that Logano has developed a knack for doing.
No more Happy Meals- it’s time for some steak and potatoes.