Adamson: Logano deals with harsh NASCAR reality

Sep 2 2011 - 5:08pm

He's still just a kid, one who looks more at home at a bike shop spying a 10-speed than lurking in a NASCAR garage talking to a crew chief.

But Joey Logano, now 21, is starting to show some world-weariness. That wide-eyed, "aw, shucks" glow has been replaced by the stern look of a veteran. When he's frustrated, it shows.

When he gets angry, everyone knows it.

He's aging fast, and the Sprint Cup world is going by faster. It's not passing him by, mind you, but it's not as easy for him to keep up as a lot of people thought it would be.

This is the guy who won Rookie of the Year honors in Cup back in 2009 and was supposed to rewrite the record books.

He is nicknamed "Sliced Bread" because he's the greatest thing since, and based on what he had already accomplished by the time he was a teen, he was as sure a sure thing as the sport has ever seen.

But things aren't working out like they're supposed to.

Records aren't falling.

More importantly, wins aren't coming.

In fact, his one and only victory came in a rain-shortened event at Loudon, N.H., during his Rookie of the Year campaign.

That was on June 28, 2009. As he gears up for his next race at Atlanta on Sunday night, that Loudon conquest is a faded memory.

And the driver who Mark Martin hailed as having the ability to be one of the sport's greatest champions -- when Logano was only 15 -- well, he's barely even in the running for a championship in 2011.

As the wildcard chase in the Chase for the Cup enters its final two events, the Toyota wheelman basically has to win both races to make the cut.

Otherwise, this season will be the third season the Connecticut native hasn't earned a place in the Chase.

On the one hand, it was absurd to expect Logano to jump right into the top level of stock car racing and make Victory Lane his home away from home. Despite working for Joe Gibbs Racing and having access to every motorsports luxury, there's a lot of talent and experience in Cup.

Thus, there are a lot of people who want to get Victory Lane ahead of him -- and who've been there a bunch of times already.

Still, this is a business of impatient people, which is why there were rumors that Carl Edwards might leave Roush Fenway Racing and take Logano's ride at JGR.

It wasn't until Edwards re-upped with Roush that the youngster was considered safe in his current situation.

But safe is a relative word in NASCAR, and regardless of Logano's age and potential, owners and teams want results and they want them yesterday.

Logano might very well establish himself as one of the sport's all-time champions. He might come out of the gate roaring in 2012 and prove that he is, indeed, a superhero in the universe of speed.

For now, though, he is experiencing the other side of the business -- the side that isn't interested in a driver growing into a role as much as it demands a driver fit into a role the moment that role is assigned.

Logano may be "Sliced Bread," but bread needs time to rise.

 

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