During the course of every NASCAR season, there is always speculation as to who will make the Chase. Who will move up? Who will fall out? The answers to those questions often involve those drivers from around 6th-15th in the standings. But, with 14 races left until the Chase cutoff, I believe that a driver outside the top 20 may have a little something to say about this year’s group.
Joey Logano sits 25th in Sprint Cup points. That doesn’t sound impressive. That is, until you relize that just 4 races ago, Logano was 32nd, holding on to the top 35 for dear life. He had no top 10s, and only one top 20.
But then came Talladega. Logano earned his first career top 10 at NASCAR’s largest track, finishing 9th. He followed that up with a 19th at Richmond, another 9th at The Track Too Tough To Tame, Darlington, and finished 9th again in NASCAR’s longest race. In each of those events, with the exception of Richmond, Logano was, not only good enough to run in the top 10, but appeared capable of challenging for the win.
Logano appears to be among the top 10 hottest drivers on the circuit right now. And as the season wears on, things should only get better for the rookie. Notoriously, rookie drivers do better during the second half of the season because they are going to tracks they have already been to. Before the Chase cutoff, Logano will be returning to Daytona, Pocono, Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta, and Richmond, all for a second time(Pocono and Michigan have yet to host a race in 2009). While the road courses may prove to be a challenge, remember that Logano ran well on road courses in the Nationwide Series last year, and his teammate, Kyle Busch, swept the road courses a year ago. Logano will also be returning to the site of his Cup debut, New Hampshire, before the cutoff.
The next three races, at least, should be relatively easy for Logano. First, he goes to Dover, where he made his Nationwide debut a year ago, finishing 6th. After that, he goes to a pair of driver-friendly tracks, Pocono and Michigan. Logano has never been to Pocono, but his other teammate, Denny Hamlin, swept the Pocono races during his rookie year in 2006.
It’s true that, in order to make the Chase, Logano will first have to pick up 13 spots in the points, as well as make up 283 points on 12th place Mark Martin. But in the past 4 races, Logano has already picked up 7 spots and gained 53 points on the 12th spot. In fact, he picked up 5 spots last week alone! Nobody thought just 4 races ago that Logano could even finish in the top 10, much less look like he was capable of winning. But clearly, Logano is coming on strong.
Will it be strong enough to make a Chase run? Why not? He’s running as well or better than anybody. He has top-notch equipment. And the schedule seems to favor him. The question is, who will he knock out? Maybe Jeff Burton, or Matt Kenseth, or even Greg Biffle. None of them have looked much like Chase contenders this year, showing vast inconsistencies. Heck, maybe all 3 of them will fall out. Who knows? Nobody yet. At least, not for another 14 races.
That seems like enough time to get Logano into the Chase. What do you think? Can Joey Logano make the Chase?