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For Joey Logano, pressure has always been just part of the game. But now he's got a new attitude about it

  Crew chief Jason Ratcliff (L) and Joey Logano (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)

   By Mike Mulhern


   If you haven't watched Joey Logano lately, then you just don't know this Joey Logano.
   Last season was a horror show, things going from bad to worse, and that was a surprise after Logano's furious finish down the stretch in 2010.
   This year Logano has a whole new outlook on NASCAR life, a new crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, and he's on the verge of some big surprises.
   Just watch.

   And the first could come here in Sunday's Las Vegas 400.
   If so, credit the power of positive thinking.
   Dr. Bob Rotella, the sports psychologist, preaches confidence is everything.
   And Logano is now a believer.
   "The big thing," Logano says, "is attitude.
    "My whole team has the attitude right now -- to go out and win races, make the chase…make this happen right now.
    "Everybody has picked up their game.
     "It's like a restart button."
    That was the sense a month ago, before the season. Now Logano and Ratcliff have been backing it up.


Logano and team boss J. D. Gibbs (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)


    "You can feel the difference," Logano says. "My attitude's different; I walk around with a lot more confidence in myself.
    "That carries through the whole team.
     "It goes vice versa too -- When someone loses confidence, it's contagious."

    Stock car teams have a lot of specialists, mostly tech guys, of course. But sports psychologists appear to be in vogue in NASCAR these days.
   Teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin both bought into it, and Logano has taken advantage of it too.
    Joe Gibbs, the team owner, suggested it, and Logano took him up on it: "I drove up to his house, spent a day and a half with him, just talking. Going through things that were going on in my life.
    "It gives you some answers, some tools, to be able to deal with situations: How to talk to people in a positive way, in a motivating way.
     "It's people-skills…leadership skills."

      It's not easy, of course. And Logano is still just 21.

    A pensive Joey Logano (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)

   He says it's a lot of little things.
      But it starts early every Friday: "You have to show up at the track with the right mindset…knowing you can go out there to win.
      "When you show up and your goal is to finish in the top0-10, the best you're going to finish is 10th.
     "You need to focus on winning this whole gig."
       Yeah, it all sounds like a good game, good fodder for books. But when you walk up in Logano's hauler, even that very first day at Daytona, it was remarkable to sense it. Like some mystical aura, hanging in the air.
    Now we'll all see how this deal goes when things get tougher, which they certainly will eventually.
    But at the moment, with a pair of top-10s, and sitting eighth in the standings, and that with some issues to be sure, Logano looks to be on a smooth start.
    Logano of course has been in the heat of the spotlight for quite a while now, though he doesn't even turn 22 till May.
   "My career went really, really quick," he says. "As I was growing up, I got started into a lot of high-pressure situations -- make-it-or-break-it things: 'Here is your big shot, make the best of it.'
      "That's been like that my whole career."
    However that doesn't make it all any easier.


The other half of the Logano equation this season: new crew chief Jason Ratcliff (Photo:Getty Images for NASCAR)


    And this is another one of those 'make it or break it seasons,' with what looks like the Home Depot sponsorship at issue…though in a not clearly defined way.
   The sense is that Home Depot -- which has watched arch-business-rival Lowe's clean up in NASCAR for too long now, with Jimmie Johnson's five straight championships – may be ready to pick up its ball and go elsewhere….depending on how well Logano does this season.
    Home Depot has cut back sponsorship. And what it does when its current contract is up is up for debate.
    Losing Home Depot, of course, would be a significant marketing blow for the sport too, considering the company's national impact.
    So Logano has a lot riding on his shoulders this season.
    Pressure, Logano insists, "has just been part of my career.
    "It's been fun; I've enjoyed it. Yes, the learning curves have been steep, and I've been challenged more than I thought I was going to be challenged.
    "But I have fun with it."

    Joey Logano, the guy with a Richard Petty million-watt smile, has been listed as a 'comer' ever since Mark Martin brought his name up repeatedly some 10 years ago, when Logano was still an unknown.
    And when Logano arrived, he was immediately tagged with the nickname 'Sliced bread,' as in 'the best thing since….'
    However it took a while before he could really come to grips with the fact that NASCAR racing is about more than just Sunday's racing and Friday quals.
    "I came into this gig thinking 'I'm going to drive a racecar, the only thing I've done my whole life,' he says in retrospect.
    And then he got hit with shots of reality.
    "When you have to lead a team -- especially at a young age, when all the guys working on the car are older than you -- it's really hard to earn that respect," he concedes now.
    "Especially when times are not as good, like last year.
     "Learning how to be a leader was something I didn't know I was going to have to learn. But it was a huge deal…and hard."

   That million-watt smile (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)

I still have the recording of

I still have the recording of the race to watch, but I too was enjoying the lovely weather we had out in the Bay Area this weekend. What a lovely couple days its been! LOVE the pictures of the Nationwide drivers decorating Easter eggs. That would have been a fun event to attend. And congratulations to Joey Logano on winning. Can't wait to watch how it unfolded.

AWESOME job to Joey

AWESOME job to Joey AWESOME job to Joey. and glad that Jeff Gordon finished 2nd he would of won it if it had not of rained. But all in all AWESOME job and I am happy.

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