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Joey Logano 2013 year in review

NASCAR.com

This is the sixth in a series of 2013 Sprint Cup Series driver recaps that will be featured on NASCAR.com

Strip away all the drama and what you're left with is this -- for the first time in his still young career, Joey Logano qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and finished eighth in the final points standings in 2013.
 
Because at the end of the day, that's what it's really all about.
 
Years from now, few will recall the accident with Denny Hamlin at Auto Club Speedway (and the post-race altercation with Tony Stewart), the 25-point penalty for a rear-end housing infraction at Texas, or even the victory months later at Michigan International Speedway.
 
Each had an impact on his season, but boil it all down and Logano's career-best finish is what will be remembered.
 
It was "maybe a little more interesting at times that I thought it was going to be," Logano, 23, admitted, "but once we got all that stuff behind us, we did a great job as a team, fighting forward through all the adversity.

"To come out of here with my best points position and making my first Chase ? it shows this team deserves to be here. They want it really bad ? as bad as me and those are the guys that I want to be with."
 
The 2013 season provided the opportunity for a fresh start for Logano, who spent the previous four seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing. An off-season move landed him in the No. 22 at Penske Racing and working with crew chief Todd Gordon. In addition to the normal Penske offerings -- top-shelf all the way -- Logano had the added bonus of having 2012 series champion Brad Keselowski in his camp as well.
 
"If you haven't realized it, Brad's out of the box; he has a different way of thinking of a lot of things," Logano said of his teammate. "It's fun to get to talk to him and hear what he thinks about what a fast race car is and how he makes a fast race car; try to merge that into what I do typically.
 
"And I thought both the 2 (of Keselowski) and 22 teams were fairly equal throughout the season. So I took a lot of that from the race tracks that he's better than me at and I think he's learned some things from me at the race tracks I was better that him at. Together we can make each other a stronger team."
 
Besides making his Chase debut, Logano enjoyed several other highlights in 2013 -- his win at Michigan was career win No. 3, he set career highs in top-five and top-10 finishes (with 11 and 19 respectively), and he won two poles.
 
He also led 323 laps, nearly doubling his career total.
 
It was closer to what many had come to expect from the youngster when he first broke into the Cup series full time in 2009 with JGR, stepping into the ride previously held by Tony Stewart.
 
Although he never realized his full potential at JGR, Logano said the effort and experiences were invaluable. If he was successful in 2013, part of the reason was the lessons he learned along the way.
 
"This sport is difficult. It's not easy, and I wouldn't expect anyone to come in here their first season and blow everyone's doors off," he said. "It's hard, super hard, and it's taken me a while to get to this level.
 
"It may have been possible (sooner) if I had ran a few years in Nationwide but a half a year in Nationwide and here driving a Cup car is like 'whoa!' and I didn't realize that at the time. But I do now and I'm very thankful for that opportunity and I've learned a lot from it. I've been able to have all that experience behind me and it pays off a lot now."
 
In addition to his one Cup win, Logano also scored three wins in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2013, sweeping both Dover stops and adding a victory at Chicago in between.
 
Eighteenth in Cup points after the 19th race of the regular season, Logano, Gordon and the team eventually began to click, reeling off six consecutive top-10 finishes, including the Michigan win, during the summer stretch. His team entered the Chase as one of the hottest in the series.
 
But an engine failure in the opener at Chicago dropped him six spots in the points, to 12th, and it wasn't until the final three races of the season that the group regained its footing.
 
"Really, our Chase was decent, if you take out Chicago," Logano said. "Say we lost 30 points there that day, we'd be sitting fifth, fourth, saying 'wow, we had a really good season.'
 
"We had an OK Chase, we had a couple of top-fives in it, we had a couple of finishes that were 15th-ish ? but for the most part we were pretty strong through it. And we learned as a team what type of race tracks we need to get better at, which ones we we're good at, what we need to work on for next year.
 
"To come through everything we've fought through this season, eighth is OK. It's not great but we fought through a lot of stuff and to get that, that's something we can build on."

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