Over the last two weeks in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Championship 4 contender Joey Logano has overcome a slow pit stop and tire failure at Texas plus falling a lap down at Phoenix.
Those calamities could have led to being knocked out in the Eliminator Round.
But instead, Logano and the No. 22 team were able to battle back, and now they’ll be racing for the Cup this afternoon at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Surviving Texas and Phoenix appears to be a sign that even though he’s clearly the “kid” among the Champ 4, Logano is mentally tough enough to challenge for stock car racing’s greatest prize.
His boss, Roger Penske, agrees with that sentiment.
After claiming another NASCAR Nationwide Series owner’s championship in last night’s NNS season finale at Homestead, Penske was asked about Kevin Harvick’s attempt at playing mind games with Logano during this week’s Champ 4 press conference.
His response was what you would expect from him – cordial words for Harvick but firm support for his title challenger, Logano.
“I know Kevin quite well and have known him for a long time,” he said. “He’s from Bakersfield [California] where [four-time Indy 500 winner Rick] Mears came from. I remember when he used to think Mears was a superstar. I respect him a lot.
“But I can tell you this, that 24-year-old Joey Logano – no one gets in his head. You could see that when he got down last week in Phoenix. We’re standing behind him. To me, he’s going to be one of the guys that are going to have to get beat.
“Harvick is going to have to beat him to win. I think it’s going to be a level playing field, and the best guy is going to win [today].”
Should Logano win the championship today, it’ll mark an unprecedented feat for Team Penske – capturing the NNS owner’s title and Sprint Cup driver’s title plus the Verizon IndyCar Series title, all in the same year.
The team’s got two of them now. And the Captain expects to get the third.
“I can tell you I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win the championship, point number one,” he said. “But we all signed up for the new format…What we’ve got to do is execute [today].”
Penske added that when he paused to reflect on his team’s 2014 campaign, he’ll see it as “one of the best we’ve ever had.”
That will be the case no matter what occurs today at Homestead. But Penske is most certainly anxious to have his second Cup championship in three seasons, and it’s clear that he has the faith in Logano to bring it to him.