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THIS WEEK IN NASCAR

THIS WEEK IN NASCAR Logano struggling in Sprint Cup Joey Logano is struggling as a rookie in the Sprint Cup Series, which really shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, since Logano is all of 18 years old. Ever since Mark Martin began raving about this kid who is destined to win championships — Logano was 13 or so at the time — Logano has been widely regarded as a star of the future. He had to wait for his 18 th birthday — he’ll turn 19 on May 24, by the way — to race in the Nationwide Series for the first time. He won his third race at Kentucky Speedway. Logano became the first driver to win more than once at the age of 18 with his Pepsi 300 victory at Nashville Superspeedway. In his rookie Sprint Cup season, though, the Middletown, Conn., native has struggled. He ranks 35 th in the point standings. Asked how much the Nashville victory meant, Logano said, “More than you think, that’s for sure. It’s been a long time coming since Kentucky last year, and we should have won a lot more. To get this is what this whole team needed.” Logano bears the heavy burden of driving Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Toyota in Sprint Cup. The number — and team — earned fame with Tony Stewart, who won championships in 2002 and 2005. Logano was named as Stewart’s replacement when the veteran star took the role of both owner and driver at Stewart Haas Racing. In the current configuration, cup cars are much more difficult to drive than their Nationwide Series counterparts. Logano is still trying to make the transition. But winning is important for any young driver’s psyche. “It’s big for me,” said Logano. “It’s an awesome confidence booster, for sure. Looking and saying, ‘Hey, I can do this; I am here for a reason; I can win races.’ That’s big. Just to reassure yourself of that. “I’m sure this is just going to keep carrying on, and now we just have to build on this momentum and keep going.” 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 (http://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. Copyright 2009 King Features Syndicate Rookie Joey Logano, who took over the No. 20 for Joe Gibbs Racing when Tony Stewart left to run his own team, is still trying to make the transition from Nationwide to Cup racing. (Photo: John Clark/NASCAR This Week)

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