Logano faces uncertain future with Joe Gibbs Racing

UPDATE #3 Team owner Joe Gibbs reiterated Thursday that he wants to re-sign driver Joey Logano but said that Logano’s future with the organization is still “up in the air."

Logano is 18th in the Sprint Cup standings, but is in contention for a Chase wild card thanks to his victory June 10 at Pocono Raceway. Logano’s contract is up after this season and Joe Gibbs Racing is expected to announce soon that it has signed 2003 champion Matt Kenseth to replace him in the No. 20 car. The organization likely would have to start a fourth team to keep Logano in a Sprint Cup car. Logano, meanwhile, is considered the leading candidate for Penske Racing’s No. 22 car next season.

“Everything right now is up in the air with Joey," Gibbs said Thursday in an interview on ESPN’s Sports Center. "We want to re-sign Joey and we’re trying to do that, but he has other options, too. So you could say that everything is up in the air there. We would love to keep him. We signed Joey when he was 16 and it’s been a great relationships and we’d like to keep him."

08/09/12 Joey Logano is mulling offers for two full-time Sprint Cup rides next year, including one to remain at Joe Gibbs Racing, and expects to make a decision soon. "I've got a couple of offers," the 22-year-old driver said on Wednesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he was promoting fall events. "I'm just trying to decipher what's the best for me. What's going to give me the most trophies and win the most races out of? I could be fairly close (to a decision). I could be a few weeks out. It all depends on the next couple of days, actually." Logano would not discuss the name of the other organization that has made an offer.

The #22 at Penske Racing has been mentioned as a possibility since AJ Allmendinger was released following his suspension for failing a drug test. Penske Racing also might be considering adding a third team next year as it moves to Ford. Sam Hornish Jr. has been named Allmendinger's replacement for the foreseeable future. "There's only so many good teams out there," Logano said when asked directly about Penske Racing. He said he is not considering a part-time Cup ride. The Cup offer at Gibbs is dependent on finding sponsorship. More at ESPN

06/18/12 Joe Gibbs doesn't have any plans to let #20-Joey Logano go after this season. Gibbs said before Sunday's rain-delayed Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway that he planned to re-sign the 22-year-old driver, whose contract with Joe Gibbs Racing expires after this season. "Obviously, we've been together for a long time," Gibbs said. "We've got a lot invested. He's our guy and we plan on going forward … right now in the 20 car." ESPN


Joey Logano on thin ice unless he starts winning soon. Will NASCAR make 'The Call'?

Joey Logano entered Joe Gibbs Racing's driver development program in 2007 and he whizzed through it in two seasons, arriving to the Sprint Cup No. 20 team in 2009 to replace Tony Stewart.

Logano was a wunderkind, a phenom, and there was no reason to hold him back. He'd barely turned 18 when he won in his third start in the Nationwide Series at Kentucky in 2008. Gibbs had intended to build a fourth Cup team around him, maybe not for 2009, but certainly for 2010, and Stewart's unexpected departure to become co-owner at Stewart-Haas elevated Logano into the big leagues of stock car racing.

Team owner Joe Gibbs, Logano and primary sponsor Home Depot knew it was going to be on-the-job training for a year or two, but they thought — correctly– that the best place to learn to race in Cup is to be in Cup.

Logano didn't disappoint in 2009 or 2010. He was 20th in the points and, with the help of some well-timed rain, won at New Hampshire at age 19, becoming the youngest driver to win races in NASCAR's top two series.

The 2010 season went well, too, particularly the final 11 races when Logano had seven top-sevens and finished 16th in the points. But 2011 was a setback with 24th in points and six top-10s.

This is the final year of Logano's contract with Gibbs. He'd make it an easy decision for the team to reward him with a long-term deal by winning a race or two, running consistently in the top-10 and challenging for the Chase. Going into the 13th race of the season at Dover on Sunday, he's fallen short in all three areas.

Logano is 16th in the points, an improvement over last year, but it hasn't been the kind of season on a race-by-race basis he's needed. Logano has been ninth at Daytona, 10th at Phoenix and 10th at Darlington and with nine finishes 26th or better, it's kept him in a decent position in the points. But he's not a contender for one of the guaranteed top-10 positions in the points or the two wild cards.

The Gibbs organization likes Logano. He grew up with them and he's a 22-year-old with 123 Cup starts with some respectable results. The potential is there to get to the next level. But they also have to ask themselves questions that could have difficult answers. Has Logano reached a plateau that he can't rise above? Can we take the chance on giving up on him too early and have him beat us for the next 20 years?

Logano's drawback is how his teammates are running. At Charlotte last week, Logano finished 23rd, while Denny Hamlin finished second and Kyle Busch third. Hamlin is third and Busch is eighth in the points. Hamlin has seven top-fives, Busch five. Gibbs knows their Toyotas and its chassis and engines are dramatically improved over a year ago. The teammates share information. They want to see Logano's results closer to his teammates.

"We work awful hard together," Busch said. "Denny, myself and Joey in team meetings every single week. Joey asks a lot of questions. He's a very bright individual and a good racecar driver. Can do it on the Nationwide side [12 wins in 97 starts]. Showed potential a couple of years ago on the Cup side, had some strong runs but hasn't been able to put it together. I think he lost a little confidence last year, crew chief [Greg Zipadelli], what have you."

Zipadelli departed to join Stewart-Haas. Logano is in his first season with crew chief Jason Ratcliff. Developing communication takes time.

"I think Jason being onboard now has helped a little bit," Busch said. "I talked to Jason at the shop. He's like, man, his feedback is so much different from yours. Jason and I worked really well together. It was seamless, the time it took for us to get working together well. He's trying to figure out exactly what Joe means when he says stuff." More at SI.com

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