Throughout the summer months of 2008, hype surrounding the 18-year old media-proclaimed phenom was abundant. Joey Logano’s win at Kentucky in June of that season verified that there was some merit to the hype. Sure, Logano benefited from the superior equipment that Joe Gibbs Racing supplied, but it still takes talent to win, even if the cars are incredibly fast. Brad Coleman was never able to win while driving for Gibbs.
Gibbs had perhaps the brightest young star in the NASCAR garage. He was heavily endorsed by respected veteran Mark Martin at such a young age. He was a can’t-miss star. I believe Gibbs could have potentially made him the next Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon.
The 2008 season saw Tony Stewart announce his plans to vacate the seat of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in order to become part-owner of what was then Haas CNC Racing. That left one of the elite teams in NASCAR Sprint Cup for roughly a decade with an open seat.
Who would get to supplant Stewart in the recognizable orange Toyota? At the time, I believed Ryan Newman was the prime canidate. He was 30 years old with a proven resume which included the 2008 Daytona 500. He was in the prime years of his racing career. It was evident that he was leaving his ride at Penske Racing.
Newman is a hands-on type of guy who would have fit in with sponsor Home Depot. Despite all of that. Gibbs passed on Newman and decided to gamble on his teenage prospect.
That’s when I believed that Logano had more potential to end up like Reed Sorenson as opposed to Johnson or Gordon. Sorenson had one solid season in the Nationwide Series with Chip Ganassi Racing before he was prematurely promoted to the Big Leagues. Now, five years after his promotion, he is where he should have been in 2006, the Nationwide Series.
Gibbs should have pursued a driver like Newman while cautiously developing Logano in the Nationwide Series. I am no owner of a Sprint Cup operation, not even close, but I believe I would have given Logano two full years in the Nationwide Series before I even considered moving him to Cup. I mean, not only did he move up to Cup too early, but they put him in a position to where he had to fill the shoes of one of the greatest and most popular drivers of our generation.
It is no secret that Gibbs tried to replace Logano with Carl Edwards. They realized that a proven veteran gave the No. 20 and Home Depot a better shot at victories and championships. Perhaps Gibbs should have thought about this three years ago.
Logano’s career has not panned out the way some envisioned. If it were not for a downpour at New Hampshire in July of 2009, he would still be winless. While he is not dead in the water by any means, the rumors and speculation had to do a number on his confidence. He can still rebound from the slow start and become a consistent front runner at this level. But, that only depends on the tolerance and patience Home Depot and Gibbs.
Look at a guy like Brad Keselowski. He had two full seasons with Junior Motorsports at the Nationwide level. While he initially struggled in 2010, he now has three career wins and is a major Wild Card player in the race to the Chase for the Championship. With the limits on testing, drivers cannot jump into a Sprint Cup ride with instantaneous success like they did a decade ago with Johnson, Newman, Kevin Harvick, and Stewart.
That is why you have to admire Jack Roush for closely monitoring the careers of Ricky Stenhouse Jr and Trevor Bayne. He is in no rush to put them in a position that could negatively impact their careers.
So, in my opinion, if Logano cannot make it in Cup, it is not all his fault. While he would have to take some responsibility, much of the blame would point towards to Joe Gibbs Racing.