Crew chief Todd Gordon puts driver Joey Logano’s success this season in basketball terms.
“There’s only a handful of guys who want the ball when there’s three seconds on the shot clock,” Gordon said of Logano, who won Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. “Joey is that guy.”
Walter Czarnecki, Team Penske’s vice chairman, prefers to compare Logano to a running back in football.
“Todd handed him the football and he found the holes,” Czarnecki said.
What Logano’s bosses are trying to say is they know they have a driver in Logano who will deliver, no matter the conditions.
Saturday, Logano held off the skilled and experienced Kevin Harvick over the race’s final 25 laps to win for a third time this season. Harvick stayed close while Logano navigated lapped traffic, waiting for him to make a mistake of which he could take advantage. That miscue never came.
“I’m working my way through traffic and I know (Harvick) is ready to pounce at any moment,” Logano said. “One mistake and, boom, he’ll put you behind a lapped car. I fully expected that.”
Logano has already won at Watkins Glen’s road course and the season-opening Daytona 500. He’s won 11 times in his seven seasons as a Cup driver.
“I think that Joey has a great sense of self,” Czarnecki said. “He does not have an this inflated image of himself. He knows what his limitations are, he stays within his limitations. He listens to people like Todd because he knows they have his welfare at heart, and he doesn’t extend beyond it.
“When I listen to the dialogue between Todd and Joey during the race, Joey doesn’t say a whole lot. He knows that he’s executing. He has a great deal of confidence in Todd. He doesn’t know better, he realizes he’s part of the team and he’s not trying to extend beyond it.”
Logano’s victory brought at least a temporary halt to a run of recent success by Joe Gibbs Racing, the team he drove for the first four years of his career. He considers those his formative years.
“Obviously JGR is a good team, they’re kicking butt out there right now,” Logano said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to drive for two great teams. The difference now is I’m ready to go race for championships and I wasn’t then. But I wouldn’t trade those years for a million bucks. I owe them a lot.”
And, to think, Logano is still just 25.
“It’s exciting to get a grasp on what his potential might be,” said Gordon. “He’s much mature beyond that age. He’s 25 with seven years experience of understanding what it takes to be successful. I’m thrilled at what the future brings for us.”
Logano said what he’s found at Penske – from team owner Roger Penske, to Czarnecki, to Gordon, to spotter Tab Boyd and everybody else involved – is something special.
“There’s no one hero on this team,” Logano said. “Together we’re a hero.”