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Logano, Penske Racing each get fresh start

September 05, 2012, Seth Livingstone, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com



Logano, Penske Racing each get fresh start
Move to the No. 22 Ford gives all parties involved a chance at new image

If all goes well, Joey Logano's move to Penske Racing will demonstrate how a 22-year-old driver and 75-year-old team owner can benefit from the same fresh start.

That term -- "fresh start" -- came up repeatedly during Wednesday morning's media teleconference, introducing Logano as the driver of Penske Racing's No. 22 Ford for the 2013 season and beyond.

Ideally, the move frees Logano from the shadows of high-profile teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, offering him the opportunity to form a bond with rising star Brad Keselowski, become an instant voice and a consistent Cup Series winner

For Penske, Logano brings youth, exuberance and a clean-cut image to the Shell-Pennzoil-sponsored No. 22, which suffered from Kurt Busch's tirades last year and AJ Allmendinger's fail drug test this season.

"I work very hard and expect a lot of out myself," said Logano, the youngest driver to win at the Nationwide and Cup levels. "I don't think I ever [simply] accept everything because I'm shooting for the moon. You always want more. Maybe you can call me 'greedy,' but that's the competitiveness in me.

"I work very hard and expect a lot of out myself. I don't think I ever [simply] accept everything because I'm shooting for the moon. You always want more."

--JOEY LOGANO

"This is a great opportunity, to work with Roger Penske and have a great teammate like Brad Keselowski -- a great opportunity for me to win some races and try to win a championship."

Logano might have remained at Joe Gibbs Racing if he was willing to take a back seat. JGR announced Tuesday that Matt Kenseth would take over in the No. 20 car next season. That would have relegated Logano to the Nationwide Series and likely an occasional start in Cup.

"In all reality, if we could [have gotten] Joey to do a full Nationwide deal and some Cup stuff, that would be a great fit for him and for us," said J.D. Gibbs, of his team's desire to keep Logano on board.

But Gibbs also knew that the chance to drive the 22 full-time was an offer too good for Logan to pass up.

"I weighed all my options and made it clear to [JGR] that I wanted a full-time Cup ride," Logano said. "When this opportunity came up, it seemed like a perfect match. I couldn't have chosen a better place to come and continue my career."

Logano posted his second career Cup victory this season at Pocono Raceway. Having those wins on his resume were critical to Penske's decision to hire him. But so was his clean-cut image.

"From an overall perspective, Joey was the right guy for us," Penske Racing president Tim Cindric said. "His character's been proven.

"I can't say enough about how Shell-Pennzoil has been through the turmoil of the last nine months. We had to be more in concert with them [about driver selection] than we've ever been with a sponsor. We had to insure that we get it right. Joey, having won at the Cup level, was a big help."

Cindric also likes the Keselowski-Logano combo.

"Brad came to us last year and mentioned Joey's name as a person he could work well with," he said. "We found the chemistry between the two was obvious. It's a big positive to have this relationship they have developed."

Logano says he's already developed strong working relationship with Keselowski -- "He's the one who called me and said, 'Hey, you might want to talk [to Penske] about this' " he said. And Logano relishes the idea of getting involved, hands-on, at Penske.

"Based on the short time I've been able to listen to Tim and the guys about how involved Brad is on a day-to-day basis, that stuff is awesome," Logano said. "I'd love to be involved as much as he is. He was pretty involved getting me here, for sure."

Logano says as good as his situation was at Gibbs, there might be more room to grow more rapidly with his new team.

"My voice was heard for sure [at JGR] but I think it will be heard even more, being able to be involved as much as they let the drivers be here," he said. "I think my voice will be even louder here. Hopefully, that will be a good thing for them."

A lot was placed on Logano's shoulders at a young age. He responded, particularly well in the Nationwide Series where he has 15 victories (six this season) in 103 career starts.

"I feel like I've gone through a lot of stuff to be where I'm at," said Logano, who joined Gibbs after winning the K&N East Pro Series title in 2007. "I've been able to learn a lot of things. Now, you put those things to use, put that history behind you. I'm coming in with guns loaded, with everything you know and plan on making the best of it, right off the bat."

Cindric said Logano's arrival does not spell the end of his team's relationship with driver Sam Hornish Jr., who took over in midseason from Allmendinger and is expected to be in the No. 22 Dodge for the remainder of this season. Hornish had a long-standing relationship with Penske as a successful open-wheel driver before turning his attention to NASCAR.

"Sam has obviously done a great job for us. We've seen him grow in his ability at the Cup level and in his confidence," Cindric said.

Ultimately, Penske would like to have third Cup team for Hornish, who will continue to drive a full Nationwide slate in 2013. Sponsorship, however, is what's lacking. And keeping strong primary sponsors like Shell-Pennzoil happy is vital.

Long-time crew chief and broadcaster Larry McReynolds says that's why Logano's fresh start and Penske's fresh hire should be a win-win.

"The best thing for Logano is a clean sheet of paper," McReynolds said. "He needs a fresh start after being yanked all over the place the past two years. It also was a no-brainer for Roger Penske to hire Joey Logano. Shell-Pennzoil has been beat up pretty badly by Kurt Busch's off-track antics and then the AJ Allmendinger saga, and they needed a squeaky clean driver. Joey fits that bill."

Logano will complete his fourth season as a Cup driver for Joe Gibbs Racing. In fact, he still entertains slim hopes of making the Chase -- a chance predicated on winning Saturday night's race in Richmond.

"It's a do-or-die weekend in Richmond," said Logano, admitting that his contract status has been a bit of a distraction. "Win and we're in [the Chase]. There wouldn't be a better way to complete this week."