Welcome to From the Marbles' 2014 season previews. Here's how we think the Chase will shake out in this first year of 16 drivers and eliminations. Will we be right? Unlikely, but it's fun to think about our soothsaying possibilities until the green flag waves for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 23.
Driver: Joey Logano
2013 Finish: 8th
2013 Highlight: Easy. It's his dominating performance at Michigan in August. Logano had the pole, led 51 of the race's 200 laps and captured the win. Three weeks before Michigan, Logano was 18th in the points standings and in dire need of a win or two to make the Chase. He got the win at Michigan, but ended up not needing it. After Michigan, he was 13th in the standings, and was in the top 10 following Atlanta.
2013 Lowlight: It happened as soon as the Chase began. Logano was on the pole for Chicago but suffered an engine issue and finished 37th. Much like Dale Earnhardt Jr., his Chase was over just as it began. Logano rebounded and didn't finish lower than 18th the rest of the way, but the trench that was dug at Chicago was too damn big.
Why is Logano here? Because we think that the time for Logano to establish himself as a perennial contender is now. The transition to Team Penske resulted in a nine-spot jump in the standings from 2012, and his relationship with teammate Brad Keselowski should continue to blossom. And the chances of Logano outscoring Keselowski again aren't that small.
How could Logano not be here? If you think there's bound to be a lot of regression after the leap he made in 2013. We think there will be some, but not enough to prevent making the Chase. And besides, regression is to be expected anyway. Logano is going to win a Cup title or few in his career, and it's hard to believe that he'll be 24 in May. While missing the Chase would be a disappointment, it's not going to break his career.
Best Winter Olympic Event: Can't you see Logano doing freestyle skiing or snowboarding? Maybe it's because he's the youngest driver in our theoretical Chase, but that's what pops to mind for us.
Worst Winter Olympic Event: Let's go with short track speedskating. While Logano would look cool with the sport glasses, he's so skinny that he could be easily rooted out of the groove on the final corner of the race, a la Pocono with Kevin Harvick.
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- Joey Logano