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Gibbs team couldn't keep Penske-bound Logano

September 04, 2012, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com



Gibbs team couldn't keep Penske-bound Logano
Move to No. 22 car nets four-year veteran a multi-year contract, full-time Cup ride

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. -- Amid all the smiles and handshakes that accompanied Matt Kenseth's arrival at Joe Gibbs Racing on Tuesday, one face seemed to be missing. And it became clear why a few hours later, when Joey Logano was announced as the new driver of Penske Racing's No. 22 car beginning in 2013.

The two-time Sprint Cup race winner will take over the car driven most of this season by AJ Allmendinger, who was released by the team earlier this year after failing a random NASCAR drug test. The 22-year-old Logano, who is in his fourth full-time season at the Sprint Cup level, signed a multi-year contract, according to the team.

"I am very excited to join Penske Racing and begin the next phase of my career. I am looking forward to the opportunity as it will be an honor to drive for Roger Penske and race for wins and championships."

--JOEY LOGANO

"I am very excited to join Penske Racing and begin the next phase of my career," Logano said in a statement issued by the team. "I am looking forward to the opportunity as it will be an honor to drive for Roger Penske and race for wins and championships."

Added Penske president Tim Cindric: "Joey Logano is a very talented driver who has already achieved a lot of success at a young age. Joey is a great fit for our organization and we look forward to building on his success as he takes his place behind the wheel of the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford."

Logano's move to Penske was the latest in a series of events set in motion when Kenseth announced he was leaving a Roush Fenway Racing team for which he has won two Daytona 500s and the 2003 series championship. Kenseth's destination for 2013 and beyond was formally announced Tuesday, when he was introduced at the Joe Gibbs Racing shop as the new driver of the organization's No. 20 car -- the same vehicle Logano has piloted the past four years, and will step out of after this season's finale.

As warm as the welcome was for Kenseth, who fit right in even wearing a JGR polo shirt that took its crimson color from the Washington Redskins -- the football team his new boss used to coach -- there was equal sadness over not being able to keep Logano in the fold.

"That part of it you don't like," team owner Joe Gibbs said. "We had so much invested in him, and he's so young, and you know he's going to blossom and wind up having a great career. It's sad to think that we won't be a part of that."

"I love Joey to death," added Gibbs driver Kyle Busch. "I think he's one of the best. He's one of the hardest-working drivers out there. I think that's what gives him a lot of namesake in this sport. I wish Joey would stay. But obviously if there's something better out there for him, you've got to do what's best for you."

The Gibbs team tried to keep Logano. Team president J.D. Gibbs said ideally, the organization wanted to put the driver in a full-time ride in the Nationwide Series -- where he's won a career-best six times already this season -- with some Sprint Cup starts sprinkled in. "That would be a great fit for him and us," J.D. Gibbs said. But the opening at Penske changed the equation.

"We tried a number of things trying to get it to work so that we could keep all four [drivers]," Joe Gibbs said. "Nothing clicked. I think at the end we still had a package there. But you take our package, and he had a chance to have other opportunities, I think he felt like one of those would be better."

Cup Careers

DriverYearsWinsT5sT10s
Logano521637

That would be the No. 22 at Penske, and the opportunity to stay on the Sprint Cup circuit. "There's no question that he's a Cup driver. He's passionate about that," Joe Gibbs said. "One of the things we were trying was four [Cup] cars. We tried a little bit of everything. Originally that's what we were after, was to keep him driving Cup. But it just didn't work out for us."

J.D. Gibbs said JGR has debated adding a fourth car "for four or five years." But the pieces -- namely sponsorship -- have to be there, and they evidently weren't in this case. "We're set for that fourth car," J.D. Gibbs said. "We've learned before, though, that you can't force it. Unless you have the right driver, the right sponsor, the right crew chief, don't try to force it to happen. So for us, I think we're just waiting for it all to align. We can go do it whenever. But we're in no hurry to do it, either."

From there, the intent was to field a full-time Nationwide ride for Logano next season, with an eye toward adding that fourth Sprint Cup car in 2014. As it stands now, Gibbs will field its three Cup entries next year in addition to three Nationwide cars, with Kenseth, Busch and Denny Hamlin splitting one seat with some younger drivers yet to be determined, and perhaps two of those vehicles running full-time for the series championship.

Logano, though, won't be a part of those plans. After this season he'll step out of his No. 20 car, and move to Penske where he'll be a teammate to Brad Keselowski.

"He's got a good opportunity," Hamlin said. "I think if he were just out on the street looking for a ride right now, I think that would be tough. But I think he's making a lateral move, and so I think he's as optimistic as anyone."