Logano And Martin Fates Continue To Be Linked
So, ironic much that Joey Logano bumped Mark Martin out of his way with a couple laps left to go Sunday at Pocono in order to get his first non-asterisk victory in the Sprint Cup Series? And how ironic was it that a slight bobble by the normally mistake-proof Martin, allowed Logano into position to make
It was, after all, Martin who kind of introduced Logano to the masses all those years ago when he told reporters that he knew of this kid racing short tracks who was good enough right then – at age 15 was it? – to have a Sprint Cup ride.
It was Martin, who was driving a Ford for Roush Racing back then, who opted to semi-adopt Logano and his family and who would lead to the kid to being shackled with the nickname “Sliced Bread” because he felt so strongly about Logano’s potential.
It was Martin’s opinion, in essence, which greased the skids for Logano’s move up to a Sprint Cup ride – the championship ride of Tony Stewart and highly identifiable sponsor Home Depot, no less – at the age of 18.
Perhaps Martin was as relieved as Logano was after Sunday’s race at Pocono. Perhaps relief defused Martin and kept him from taking a bigger verbal shot at Logano for the bump-and-run move that the now 22-year-old driver used to get to Victory Lane for the first non-rain-aided time in his Cup career.
Because when asked about the administration of the bump – which came with just under four laps to go and with Martin leading and Logano second – Martin shrugged it off as just racing and seemed almost
as giddy as the kid himself in doing it.
More likely, of course, is was that Martin didn’t want destroy a great NASCAR moment. A moment that involves a highly likable old protege. A coming of age moment for the driver who still looks like he stepped out of one of those 1980s John Hughes high school movies.
The guess here is that a lot of people in the garages and in the grandstands were also feeling pretty good for Logano late Sunday afternoon. Even some of the old-schoolers who are still not totally at ease with the way that big-time rides are handed out in racing these days. You know, the guys who like to slice their own bread.
Because even though Logano skipped some of the dues-paying portions of moving to the top stock car racing series in the world, he avoided the public meltdowns which some others have put on display in recent years. The kind which can incur major wrath from the NASCAR fan base.
There was just never a sense that this kid felt it was his right to be in a great ride with a great team in a great series.
And, the kid took his disappointments like a man.
Oh, he took the hook Sunday when offered a baited question by a TV head in Victory Lane by saying, basically, that this will show all the doubters. But that’s cool. A lot of his fans were probably thinking the same thing.
Now comes the interesting part for Logano and the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team. The career defining part. The part which concerns the way history will tip for Logano and Martin’s prophecies of almost a decade ago.
Logano kicked asterisk on Sunday at Pocono by winning what he called “the right way” but did he also serve notice that the wait for him to develop into a major driving force in NASCAR has finally ended?
Will the one victory serve as seed to more victories? Will he now show that his driving skills, which have been so clearly evident in the Nationwide Series, were merely being shackled by the pressures of the Cup situation?
Logano and his team have about five months to provide answers for those questions because if they want to prove they have arrived – finally – they need to win a couple of more races and earn a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
That looks extremely possible as they have, apparently, stepped up their game this year.
With his victory, Logano moved to 15th in points. He is 28 out of the 10th and final non-wild card Chase berth and the victory put him in the middle of the wild card hunt.
But perhaps the biggest benefits of the Pocono victory are the intangibles.
As he sat in his car over the final laps, Logano said he “just kept telling myself, I can do this, I can do this. And I knew I can. You’ve got to have that confidence in there that you can do it. I was focused in and made sure I did all the right things.”
And on a day when Martin did just one wrong thing.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgOne Comment