Logano makes jump to Penske Racing's No. 22
By: NASCAR Wire Service, Superior Telegram
It might seem far-fetched that a 22-year-old driver would have to reinvent himself, but Joey Logano is making that a reality. In doing so, he's shed the rumors that have shrouded a substantial chunk of his NASCAR career.
Joey Logano began the second phase of his Sprint Cup series tenure Wednesday as he was formally introduced as the driver of Penske Racing's No. 22 next season. The team, which will switch from Dodge to Ford in the offseason, has used Sam Hornish Jr. on an interim basis in the car in place of the suspended AJ Allmendinger.
The move means Logano will play out the final 11 races of his term with Joe Gibbs Racing, which brought him into the Cup series with much fanfare as an 18-year-old prodigy in 2009. Rumors about his future with the team dogged him the past two seasons, culminating with Tuesday's announcement that defending Daytona 500 champ Matt Kenseth would take over the No. 20 Toyota at JGR in 2013.
Now locked into a multiyear deal with Penske, Logano hopes the rumors will fade away.
"I've become pretty tough over the last few years," Logano said. "I've been dealt a couple tough hands when it comes to stuff like that, hearing the rumors and you know, most of those rumors are probably true that you hear. You definitely learn how to be tough and how to stay confident."
Logano's first three seasons with Gibbs produced just one Sprint Cup victory (a rain-shortened win in his rookie year at New Hampshire) which led to the speculation about his job security. Even in the face of scrutiny, 2012 has been among Logano's best -- if not most consistent -- seasons.
Logano prevailed convincingly from the pole position at Pocono Raceway at June, scoring a win that has kept his name on the fringes of Chase contention. In the NASCAR Nationwide Series, he has been a threat to win each time out, recording six wins in 15 efforts this season.
In weighing his options for 2013, Logano was offered a full Nationwide ride with some Sprint Cup races from Gibbs, but he felt that remaining at NASCAR's highest level on a full-time basis was his best course. When that opportunity came with Penske, Logano jumped at the chance to revitalize his career.
"I mean, I am 22, but I've been doing this for a while now," Logano said. "I feel like I've gone through a lot of stuff where I'm at and been able to learn a lot of things. This gives you a fresh start to put those to use with no history behind you. You like to say fresh start -- you're coming in here with your guns loaded with everything you know and making the best out of it right off the bat."
New teammate Brad Keselowski -- a three-time Sprint Cup winner this year -- was instrumental in bringing him to the team, Logano said.
"Listening to how involved Brad is in the day-to-day stuff here at Penske is awesome," Logano said. "I'd love to be as involved as he is and be able to work together. He was pretty involved in getting me here for sure, as I think he is in most of the decisions that happen here at Penske."
The move brings much-needed stability for both Logano and the No. 22 team, which has seen a revolving door of drivers since the end of last season. Kurt Busch was let go after 2011 following a pattern of stormy behavior. Allmendinger, his replacement, was fired Aug. 1, nearly a month after being suspended for violating NASCAR's substance abuse policy.
"I can't say enough about how supportive (team sponsor) Shell/Pennzoil has been through a little bit of this turmoil we've been in over the last nine months," said Tim Cindric, Penske Racing president. "We've had to be even more in concert with them than we've ever been with a sponsor in terms of trying to understand what the right steps are to insure we get it right."
Cindric said that Hornish, who was in consideration as a permanent replacement for Allmendinger, would continue as the interim driver of the No. 22 for the rest of the season. Cindric said Hornish would likely continue his full-time schedule on the Nationwide Series next year with the opportunity for more Sprint Cup races as sponsorship allows.