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Logano Ready To Join Teammates In The Chase

| Senior Correspondent, RacinToday.com Wednesday, February 2 2011

Joe Logano wheeled his way to a Nationwide victory in Kansas in 2010. He would like to get a couple of Sprint Cup victories in 2011. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Phoenix, Ariz. – Like so much of the country left shivering from yet another cold snap thanks to Old Man Winter, Joey Logano also was greeted by Ice Station Zebra temperatures Wednesday in the desert Southwest.

“Brrrr, I thought I was going to be able to wear just a T-shirt when I got here,” said Logano, who was here as part of a Phoenix International Raceway promotion for the upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Subway Fresh Fit 500.

Logano eventually warmed up despite the 30-something degree Valley temperatures, especially when the topic changed from weather to last season’s strong finish.

“We had a lot of top 10s, a lot of top-five’s at the end of last year,” Logano said. “That’s a big deal going into this season and a lot of momentum we want to carry over.

“We had a good test in Daytona. The car is fast and we feel like we’re ready to go.”

At only age 20, Logano already is beginning his third season with Joe Gibbs Racing. He finished 20th two years ago and was 22nd entering last season’s 10-race Chase homestretch before a string of top-five and top-10 finishes gained him six positions in the final standings.

Logano’s late-season push helped remove some of the sting of failing to join JGR teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch in the Chase.

“Last year we weren’t good enough to make the Chase,” Logano said. “This year, I have a legitimate shot. Obviously, if we do all season what we did at the end of last season, we’ll be there.

“I think we can do it, for sure. Zip (crew chief Greg Zipadelli) and I know each other so much better now. We know what makes each other run. I think the relationship building between Zip and me, and

Joey Logano is gaining confidence. (HHP/Harold Hinson)

the fact we also built some new cars for the Chase is what helped us make that run at the end of the year.”

Whatever it was that ignited the Logano torch, something clicked. And likely not a minute too soon.

If there wasn’t enough pressure two years ago when he replaced two-time driving champion Tony Stewart in the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota, Logano also was pegged by some as the sport’s next superstar thanks to a glossy resume and a glowing endorsement from Mark Martin, who likened Logano to the best thing “since slice bread.”

Who would argue?

Logano won a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West division race at PIR at age 16 and in 2008 became the youngest driver to win a Nationwide Series race. When Logano won a Cup race at New Hampshire International Speedway in 2009 at age 19, he also became the youngest to do so in that series.

But until last season’s stretch run, Logano hardly had set NASCAR’s pit road on fire. But maybe all that is about to change.

“I feel like we ended the season pretty good and I think we learned a lot,” Zipadelli told reporters at the January preseason Daytona International Speedway test. “Most importantly, we all built some confidence in each other that we are capable of running top-10, top-five every week. Now we just need to take that next step.

“I think Joey is pretty excited about the year. I think he’s built a lot of confidence in himself that he can do this. He figured a lot of things out towards the end of the year.

“But, honestly, I don’t think we’re anywhere near close to where we could be. The exciting part for myself and my guys  is I don’t feel like we’re really close to being as good as we’re going to be. I think we’re 50 or 60 percent there. That part is encouraging to all of us.”

No one, however, is more encouraged than Logano.

“I think we are definitely coming (into this season) with a lot of confidence and the feeling that we can do it, for sure,” Logano said. “There’s no reason why we can’t do it. I feel like I’ve got the guys behind me and I’ve got the cars behind me. As long as I don’t make any mistakes and as a team we don’t make any mistakes, then we should be able to do it.”

– Mark Armijo is the long time auto racing beat writer for the Arizona Republic in Phoenix and a frequent contributor to RacinToday.com

| Senior Correspondent, RacinToday.com Wednesday, February 2 2011
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