JOLIET, Ill. – Can’t miss. A future champion. Even a multiple champion down the road.
Joey Logano heard all those predictions and compliments and more during the first few seasons in the Sprint Cup Series, with some of the biggest names in the sport touting his ability and future, including former boss Joe Gibbs, mentor Mark Martin and current boss Roger Penske.
“It adds a lot of pressure, but I’ve kind of gotten used to that pressure,” said Logano, who is a legitimate contender to win the Cup championship this season. “It’s pretty neat to have that stature of people (talk about him) like Roger Penske, Joe Gibbs, Mark Martin.
“For them to say something like that, it’s awesome. And then you try to live up to it. It was hard before, but I’ve been able to hit my stride here lately and been able to figure it out.
“But it’s really cool to hear people like that say something about you. To me, a champion is not just winning this thing, it’s being a champion in life, that you take on that responsibility when you do that this year, and I feel I’m ready for it.”
So that means the guy that has carried the nickname “Sliced Bread” is now ready to go for the whole loaf and win the 2014 Sprint Cup championship.
“I feel like, hey, I’ve got a shot at this, people are talking and we’re one of the top contenders at this thing,” Logano said. “I believe that and my whole team believes that and we’re going to fight to the end to make this a dream season the best we can.
“It’s been a dream come true. If you told me that three years ago, I’d have said ‘cool,’ but I’d also probably have said you were crazy, too. But that’s what makes this moment special: we have a real shot at winning the championship this year.”
A number of elements have brought Logano to the position he’s in heading into Sunday’s Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway.
He’s matured as a driver, learned from past mistakes, has become more comfortable with teammate Brad Keselowski and has strengthened the second-year relationship with crew chief Todd Gordon.
“I could never say I had that before, ever,” Logano said. “Having a second year with Todd and working with this 22 team, they’re ready, they’re pumped up about it. I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else right now, to do it right now, and I feel like we can.
“We want to hit Chicago and hit it hard. We sat on the pole last year, led a lot of laps until our motor blew up, but we were fast.
“This year, we’ve learned a lot from our mistakes, not only from what we did (in last year’s Chase) but what was done at all these other tracks and how we had to get better at them. That chemistry between Todd and myself, building that notebook, we understand each other a lot better now.
“My team’s awesome. I’ve never been with a group of guys like this before. They’ve done great and I feel great about it. I feel very confident we can do it this year.
“We’re ready for it, man. We’re ready.”
We’ll find out if that’s true starting Sunday.
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