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Championship Takes: Bread, Bullies And Cinderella

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 16 2014

Will Joey Logano, the youngest of the four Cup championship contenders be victor or victim today? (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Some pre-race thoughts on Sunday’s  season-ending, championship-deciding Sprint Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway:

You have to remember that Wonderbread – that gooey, relatively tasteless and nutritionally neutral (at best) thing that kids seem to like but doctors say to avoid – is sliced. You have to remember that when somebody compares something to sliced bread, it is not necessarily a compliment.

But you also have to remember that proof of great bread is in the eating, not in the labeling.

For several years, it looked like Joey Logano, nicknamed “Sliced Bread” by enthusiastic others, was going to mold-over as a Sprint Cup driver. Race-winning good in Nationwide after being hired by Joey Gibbs Racing as an 18-year-old prospective phenom, he looked lost in Cup races.

In four full seasons and one partial season with JGR, Logano managed two victories in cars which teammates seemly were driving to victories every other weekend. Worse, the kid with the John Hughes-movie face was being bullied like a John Hughes-movie nerd. On the track and, some say, on his own team.

Logano’s take: I was learning.

“My whole career, racing was easy,” he said this week. “When you are the best one out there it is easy. When you get to the level where you aren’t the best one out there and you are against the best of the best and all of a sudden you have to take a step back and ask where you are the worst and what you have to work on. That was step one, figuring out where you aren’t good and then working on it from there. It has been quite a few years of a process. I am still not done with it. You always try to find that next bit. It has been an adventure so far and I am loving every minute.”

Last year, Logano went to work for Team Penske. There was bit more learning to be done as he was able to add just one victory to his total, but he did make the Chase and finished eighth in points.

This year, Logano exploded. He won three times in the regular season and twice more in the playoffs for Roger Penske and it’s no coincidence.

“Team Penske has had legends drive for them,” Logano said, “not just championship drivers but legends in the sport. When you drive for an owner like that it is a special opportunity. We have the opportunity to put my name as the driver that won a championship for Roger Penske and Team Penske, that is awesome.”

Logano’s 2014 season has put bread critics on the run. Wonderbread is indeed still sliced but so is that $8 a loaf stuff they sell at boulangeries.

Who is the most freaked out of the four Chase contenders? Psychologists might say it’s Kevin Harvick.

Once again Harvick has emerged as the bully of the field. (Like was that a schoolyard bully tactic when he shoved Brad Keselowski into the brawl at Texas or what?)

During media day, as he’s done on past media days, Harvick  again set out on the road less secure as he picked on the field’s youngest competitor – Logano. Harvick then put the tongue on Logano again on Saturday.

Sounds like somebody is ashamed of himself. See, according to an article in the October, 2010 edition of Psychology Today, it is shame that drives bullies.

The article asserts, “When you feel shame, you can feel disgraced, dishonored, inadequate, undesirable, or flawed. Shame makes you want to hide yourself or just disappear. Shame can be experienced as such a negative, intense emotion of self-loathing that it can lead you to disown it, and, in the case of one who acts like a bully, give it away by evoking that emotion in others. Kids who bully and tease can easily figure out what makes other kids ashamed. They are skilled at triggering the emotion of shame in others.”

After being needled by Harvick on media day this week, Logano was asked if he were bothered by it all.

“No, not at all. I think it is funny,” Logano said. “It is so cool to be here and having a shot at a championship. It is so cool. On top of that, when you have one of the threats to win the championship along with yourself trying to play head games with you it means they are nervous about you. I think that is cool. I am having fun with this today.

“With him you never know what the heck he is going to say. I just go with it.”

Guess when you don’t feel you can with with skill, you pull out the mind games. Why else would one?

The driver with the worst odds of winning the championship has to be Ryan Newman. Not because of driver skill. More because of the track record of his team and how he got to the Final Four.

Not only has Newman gone 0-35 in 2014, his team has gone 0-106 this season as none of the three Richard Childress Racing cars have yet won a race.

Actually, the last RCR driver to win a race was Harvick. Take Harvick out of the equation and no RCR driver has won a race since 2011.

The moderator during the media day press conferences made the mistake of referring to Newman as the Chase as Cinderella.

“I didn’t know Cinderella was a race car driver,” Newman, who has won 17 races – including the Daytona 500 – during his career. “For me really it’s just another opportunity, for all four of us, to go into the last round, the Championship Round, and really end up … what really matters is racing each other, and we’ve had a lot of fun getting to this point, and we need just to keep doing what we’re doing on the 31 side. It’s really a storybook, I guess in some form or fashion. But hopefully we can get through Sunday and write our own book.”

Newman also knows there is only one race that matters when it comes to 2014 and winning the championship. The one that is scheduled to start at 3:17 this afternoon.

“Winning the race,” is what matters, he said. “I mean, that’s the toughest part each and every week is winning the race. You win the race this weekend, you win the championship, if you’re one of us four. To me, that’s really what it’s all about, and that’s why, on our side at least, our intent is the same. We’ve gone into every race with the intention of winning it and leading the most laps and winning the pole and everything else that goes along with it. We just haven’t been as successful as some of these other guys. But our consistency has been there, so we just have to be there at the end.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 16 2014
One Comment

One Comment »

  • MarkM says:

    On Harvick’s action, anyone that has followed him in the sport shouldn’t be surprised. Sickened, but not surprised. He’s always been a bully in the sport & I really wish he would have been around to try to pull his stunts on drivers of the past. he’d have found out damned quick what the business end of a wrench upside his head felt like, as those driver wouldn’t have put up with his childish, schoolyard bullying. Given his talent, it’s sad that he’s still so immature. At nearly age thirty-nine isn’t it time he started to grow up?