NASCAR 2013 Prediction No.2: Despite Move to Penske, Joey Logano Will Still Miss the Chase

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by Ryan Isley

Writer’s Note: This is Part 2 in a 13-Part series. Each Friday from November 23rd to February 15th, Ryan will make a prediction for the 2013 NASCAR season spanning over all three main touring series – Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. On February 8th and 15th, Ryan will predict the 12 drivers who will make the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase and the Sprint Cup champion. You can check out all of the predictions here.

Sometimes, hype overpowers substance. This seems to be the case so far for Joey Logano in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.  And I don’t foresee much of a change in 2013. NASCAR prediction No.2 for 2013 is that despite the move to Penske Racing, Joey Logano will once again miss the Chase.

When Logano was first brought into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series by Joe Gibbs Racing full-time in 2009 as a 19-year-old rookie, he did so with much hype surrounding him. As he leaves Joe Gibbs Racing for Penske Racing after four seasons, he does so with just two career wins in 147 races and missed the Chase in all four of his seasons behind the wheel of the No.20 Home Depot car for JGR.

Actually, Logano has never even been close to making the Chase. When the field for the Chase was set, Logano missed by seven spots in 2009, nine spots in 2010, 10 spots in 2011 and six spots this past season. Logano’s highest finish in the Sprint Cup standings in his four seasons has been 16th in 2010, followed by 17th in 2012.

Four full seasons and 147 races in NASCAR’s premier series with Joe Gibbs Racing, and the one thing that Logano is probably most remembered for is saying that DeLana Harvick is the one who wears the firesuit in the Harvick family after Logano had a run-in with Kevin Harvick at Pocono in 2010.

Logano will now drive the No.22 Ford in the Penske stable that was left open when AJ Allmendinger was released by the organization in August after being suspended indefinitely for violating NASCAR’s substance abuse policy. Logano becomes the third driver in begin a season in the No. 22 in three seasons, following Allmendinger and Kurt Busch. Busch finished 11th in the Sprint Cup standing in 2011, but was released from Penske for his off-track antics.

The perplexing part about Logano is that he has shown moments of brilliance on the track when he has driven in the Nationwide Series. This past season, Logano went to victory lane nine times in just 22 races in the Nationwide Series, with 12 top-5s and 17 top-10s.  Compare that to his Sprint Cup season, where he had one victory, two top-5s and 12 top-10s in 36 races. In fact, Logano has 37 less races in the Nationwide Series than he does in the Sprint Cup Series (147 to 100), yet has 16 more wins (18-2), 37 more top-5s (53-16) and 45 more top-10s (86-41)in Nationwide.

It just seems that once he gets up in the league with the big boys that he struggles to show consistency. In fact, there were only two instances in 2012 in which Logano finished in the top-15 in three consecutive races. The best run of Logano’s 2012 – and when it looked like he just might be turning it around – ended up being a perfect illustration of his inconsistency.

After finishing eighth in the FEDEX 400 benefitting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on June 3, Logano backed it up with his only win of the season the next week in the Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR at Pocono Raceway. The win had him just one spot out of a wild card for the Chase. His next 12 finishes leading to the Chase ranged from fourth to 35th: 35-10-22-4-14-33-13-32-31-8-18-30. When the Chase started, Logano was nothing but an afterthought.

While the enticement of a full-time ride in the Sprint Cup Series is hard to turn down (and sometimes hard to come by) it may have been better for Logano and his career had he just stayed with Joe Gibbs Racing and run a full season in Nationwide in 2013 with a limited schedule in Sprint Cup. A break from the big leagues may have been exactly what he needed.

The 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup field will be set on September following the race at Richmond International Raceway. Unfortunately for Logano, it will be the fifth season in a row that he will be on the outside looking in.

Comments? Questions? You can leave them here or email Ryan at ryan@morethanafan.net