TALLADEGA — Joey Logano is about three weeks from turning 24, but he already is a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran.
This is his sixth season as a full-time driver on the circuit, and he is turning in the type of results some thought he eventually might when he was a much-watched 18-year-old rookie.
Entering Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, he ranks sixth in the Sprint Cup points standings. More importantly, he has two wins, as the new system for deciding the season-ending Chase for the Championship puts more weight on victories.
He also has finished in fourth place three times. He has led at least 39 laps in six of the nine Sprint Cup races this year.
“I’ve been doing this for six years now, so I’ve been through a lot,” Logano said Friday afternoon before the Sprint Cup practice session at Talladega. “I started when I was young, as we all know, but to be able to have that experience now and been through a lot of different experiences.”
Logano isn’t that 18-year-old any longer, and it showed in the calm, matter-of-fact responses he gave to questions in his Friday news conference at Talladega.
It showed, too, when he was asked by a reporter how he has matured. He conceded he has grown, but also acknowledged he isn’t there yet.
“Coming into the Sprint Cup Series as an 18-year-old and going through some of the stuff I had to do and pretty much growing up in front of everybody,” he said, “so it’s hard to say one thing has changed me or made me mature into who I am now. I’m obviously not where I want to be yet.
“I always want to keep getting better, and I think that goes for everyone. I’m sure Jimmie Johnson wants to keep getting better, and that’s what it takes to go out there and win championships.”
Logano clinched his second win of the season only last week, taking first place at Richmond. Those two wins likely have put him in the Chase already. The Chase includes 16 drivers, and the top 15 in wins (as long as they’re in the top 30 in points) through 26 races will qualify. With 17 races to go before the Chase, Logano faces a different set of circumstances than ever before.
Last year was the first time he qualified for the Chase, and he did so barely — needing to do so in the final race before the NASCAR postseason.
“With a long ways to go, we can still be way back in the points by the time this Chase starts, but with two wins, you feel very, very confident,” he said.
Even so, he said he isn’t taking it easy because of his two wins.
“I’m not saying that we’re coming here all lackadaisical and don’t care,” he said. “I still want to go out there and win, and I know my team does. We want to keep that momentum just because we want to have the ball rolling and have that momentum by the time the Chase comes.”