Before Pocono, all the talk about Joey Logano was that he may be on his way out of a Cup ride at Joe Gibbs Racing. Following a win from the pole on Sunday, the discussion about Logano is now about how the win saved his ride. But I’m not convinced that is the case.
2012 is a contract year for Logano, and as is so often the case with athletes in contract years, Logano’s performance has improved this season. His average start and average finish are the best of his career, and he has led almost as many laps this season as all of last. And the Pocono win is his first legitimate one as a Cup driver.
But as much as one win is good, Home Depot is a signature sponsor that wants a signature driver. Finishing 24th in the standings as Logano did last season is not what you expect out of a signature driver. Teams can’t sell wins, because they aren’t guaranteed, but when a sponsor gets involved with a team like JGR, they expect a certain level of performance. Before Pocono, Logano had not delivered.
On the strength of this win, Logano needs to start running well consistently. He doesn’t need to win every race, but showing that he is moving in the right direction is what will save his ride. Realizing the potential of “Sliced Bread” and showing that he could legitimately challenge for a Chase spot is key.
What’s interesting is that even if Logano was dropped from the 20, it is likely that he would stay with JGR. A step back to full time Nationwide, a la Sam Hornish and Penske, would probably be the result. JGR has a lot invested in Logano and it seems they aren’t ready to give up on him completely.
Either way, Logano’s future will not be decided by one good race in the Pennsylvania mountains, but by continued performance over the coming weeks.