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Joey Logano is pumped

by Monte Dutton

Season two could be a breakout year for Joey Logano, who won’t turn 20 until May. The 2009 Raybestos Rookie of the Year has finished fifth and sixth in the past two races.

Don’t look now, but Logano, a Middletown, Conn. native, is eighth in the Sprint Cup point standings, ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch (12th) and Denny Hamlin (22nd).

“I feel more excited to come to the race tracks, is what it comes down to,” said Logano. “Last year it was, ‘Oh, boy, California, we stunk there last time.’ I don’t know if I want to go there. Now, you look at these places, and you’re excited to go back to the track because you think you’re going to have a good race car.

“I’m more pumped up about coming to the race track. I think that’s the biggest deal, me knowing what I want. It’s the biggest [learning] curve I’ve ever taken.”

Logano was still in grade school when Mark Martin began telling whoever would listen that the kid was going to be a star. One hears such stories quite often in NASCAR, but most fall short of such heady forecasts. Logano, so far, has passed every test on his way to the top.

Logano’s one Sprint Cup victory — New Hampshire Motor Speedway in June 2009 — was something of an anomaly, greatly aided by a timely rain shower that cut the race short. He wound up finishing 20 th in the point standings with the victory, three top-five finishes and seven top 10s.

It’s obvious: Logano is starting to “get it.” “It’s a gradual deal,” he said. “It’s not like a light switch. I remember last year at this point. Kyle [Busch] and Denny [Hamlin] were telling me something, or Zippy [crew chief Greg Zipadelli] was telling me something, and I couldn’t make sense of it in my mind.

As I kept going with time, and kept thinking about what they said to me when I was on the race track. I’d think about it and then, eventually, I made sense of it.”

Early results this year have raised the bar on expectations.

“I think it’s cool,” said Logano. “I’m excited.

Eighth in points… and last year I would have been happy with 20 th in points at this point in the season.

“I wish they’d start the Chase now, but we have a long way to go.”

Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (NC) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week (nascar.rbma.com) features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at nascar_thisweek@yahoo.com.

‘ 2010 King Features Syndicate

A year after replacing Tony Stewart in the No. 20 car for Gibbs Racing, Joey Logano, 19, has made a successful transition to Sprint Cup racing. (John Clark/NASCAR This Week photo)

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