2014 Sprint Cup championship preview: Joey Logano

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Driver: Joey Logano
Age: 24
Full-time seasons in Sprint Cup: six
Career starts: 218
Career wins: 8
Career top-5 finishes: 43
Career top-10 finishes: 82
Pole positions: 8

* 2014 record to date: 35 starts, five wins, 16 top-five and 22 top-10 finishes. One pole. Laps led: 993. Average start per race: 9.8. Average finish per race: 11.2. Lead lap finishes: 29.

* Highest single-season finish to date: Eighth, 2013

* Season finishes to date: 2008 (41st), 2009 (20th), 2010 (16th), 2011 (24th), 2012 (17th), 2013 (eighth).

* Homestead Record: 5 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 1 top-10, 1 pole. Best career finish: Eighth in 2013. Average start: 18.0. Average finish: 20.8.

* Year-by-year finishes at Homestead: 2009 (24th), 2010 (39th), 2011 (19th), 2012 (14th), 2013 (eighth).

Will “Sliced Bread” make mincemeat of his other three championship challengers?

This hasn’t just been Joey Logano’s breakout season, it’s also been a coming of age season for the 24-year-old Connecticut native.

With five of his eight career to-date wins coming in 2014, Logano has lived up to all the expectations and predictions made about him by numerous drivers over the years, including Mark Martin and Randy LaJoie, who nicknamed Logano “Sliced Bread” – as in the best thing to come along since sliced bread.

With teammate Brad Keselowski being eliminated from advancement to the Chase final round this past Sunday at Phoenix, Logano has the title hopes of the entire Penske Racing organization riding on his shoulders heading to Homestead.

Will he be able to handle the pressure, as well as the expectations from his organization?

No problem, says Logano, who is feeling more than confident.

“It is exactly how you would think it feels – it’s the accumulation of a whole season of hard work,” he said. “This No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford team has been strong all year, and I think we deserve to be in the final four competing for this Championship.

“I think it would have been a shame not to race for the title after the year we have had. Thankfully, we were able to make it through the Chase and make it to the final round. All of the teams in the Chase will say the same thing, but we deserve it.

“This team has worked its butt off all year long. We’ve been through a lot and we’ve come a long way to get where we are. (Crew chief) Todd (Gordon) has led this team, and we are all very close. This is the type of team you win Championships with.”

One thing not exactly in Logano’s favor is his past history at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In five starts on the 1.5-mile track, Logano has just one top-10 finish (eighth, last season) and one other top-15 finish (14th in 2012).

He’s completed just 92.4 percent (1,234) of the 1,335 total laps he’s completed in contested in his five career starts at Homestead.

And perhaps the biggest key stat of all: His average starting position there is 18.0, and his average finishing position is worse at 20.8. He also has one DNF at HMS.

At the same time, two of Logano’s five wins this season have come on 1.5-mile tracks (Texas in spring, Kansas in fall). He also has four other top-five finishes on 1.5-milers.

That bodes well for Sunday’s race.

When asked to size up his competition, here’s what Logano had to say:

“I think they are all going to be strong. You don’t make it to this position without being strong. Kevin (Harvick), of course, has been strong all year long. They’ve led a lot of laps, and they’ve been strong at almost every single track.

“Denny (Hamlin) and that team have been coming on lately, and they’ve been strong in the Chase. And he won last year at Homestead, and that’s probably one of his better tracks.

“And Ryan (Newman) is consistent. Sometimes you just don’t think about him and there he is running fourth or fifth in the race out of nowhere.

“All of the teams are strong, but I think the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil team is just as strong, if not stronger, than all of them. I think we have as good of a shot as anyone, and I’d put my money on me. It will be fun to watch as a fan, for sure.”

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