In the words of Kyle Busch, Joey Logano looks like he has found a home.
Logano became the latest driver to win in NASCAR Sprint Cup last week, taking the Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, and also became the second Team Penske driver to become Chase-eligible.
Logano, 23, looks far from the driver who played third fiddle at Joe Gibbs Motorsports for the first four years of his career, trying to make his way as a teen-ager behind veterans Busch and Matt Kenseth.
“I think Joey learned a lot over the years at JGR and never felt quite comfortable there, for whatever reason,” Busch said. “Sure found a home at Penske. Those guys are really good over there. Joey has been; Brad has been. They’ve shown good speed this year.”
Logano, at 23 years and 10 months on Monday when he became TMS’ youngest Sprint Cup winner, is putting up veteran numbers.
He has been fourth or better in four of the seven races. He is the only driver to make the final round of qualifying in each race. He is qualifying high — an average of 8.9. He has finished on the lead lap all but twice. And he has led in all but one race.
His first Sprint Cup race at Texas, in 2008, when he finished 40th as an 18-year-old in JGR’s No. 02 car, seems like it was ages ago.
“I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said. “You’re 18 years old with less than half a season of Nationwide under your belt, you get thrown into a tough situation. But I didn’t realize that at the time.”
Over the next four years at Gibbs, plopped full time into the No. 20 vacated by Tony Stewart, Logano won twice and collected 16 top-5s and 41 top-10s. Respectable, but modest results at a powerhouse garage like Gibbs.
“When I was able to go to Team Penske, get that fresh start, be able to take everything you’ve learned there, you’re not taken as an 18-year-old kid anymore,” Logano said. “I came over when I was 22. You’re looked at a little bit more as a man than an 18-year-old kid that was still in high school.”
Logano apparently went to Penske with confidence thanks to the experience he gained at JGR.
“Completely different situation now,” he said. “I’ve been able to kind of walk in the doors of Penske the first time and say, ‘Here is who I want to be, here is what I want to do, here is how I feel like we can win races. Do it together.’ “
Logano was a fiend in Nationwide cars for Joe Gibbs. He remembers what he did in those cars, and he says it is a lot like what he feels now in Cup cars at Penske.
“I used to race a lot more confident and aggressive in the Nationwide car than I did in the Cup car,” he said. “Now it’s the same. I’m here to win. I feel like the competitors see that now. We run up front enough, they don’t look at you as a guy that’s going to run up there once every 10 races. It’s every week now.”
Points leader: Jeff Gordon is the points leader for the first time since Memorial Day 2009, when he ran 14th at Charlotte. The next week, a 26th-place finish at Dover knocked him down to second place, and he hadn’t been to the top since.
Stewart at Darlington: Darlington Raceway is one of only two tracks on the schedule where Tony Stewart hasn’t won. He is coming in on a roll this week, with top-10s in three of his past four starts.
Youth at the top: Four of the top-10 finishers at TMS last week were 22 or younger, led by 18-year-old winner Chase Elliott. Elliott also became the youngest points leader in series history.
Youth at Darlington: Neither of the top rookies in the standings, leader Chase Elliott and third-place Dylan Kwasniewski, have run at Darlington in a national series event.
Camping World Truck
Top-10 streak: Counting the season finale last year at Miami, German Quiroga of Mexico has three consecutive top-10s. He is in his fourth year in the truck series and is in the top 10 in points for the first time.
Schedule break: The series is off until a Friday night race on May 9 at Kansas.
95 of 110: Sprint Cup races at Darlington that have been won from a top-10 starting position.
“Well, it would be something I would have over my dad – the only thing in my entire life that I will probably have over him, so that would be fun! Being that we have always been the bridesmaid here, it would mean a lot to all of us. ... It’s Long Beach, you want to win this one, as it’s one of the greatest races in our sports history.”
— IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal on the Long Beach Grand Prix