Joey Logano fans, please do not take umbrage here.
But I never thought your driver would win two of the first four races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, move steadily into the third elimination series – the Elimination Round – and be ranked No. 1 in points with six races remaining in the season.
You know what? I would bet that most observers would never have thought Logano would be in the position he is now.
Let’s put it to a vote. All of you out there who thought Logano would be the top dog after four races into the Chase, raise your hand.
Put your hand down, Joey.
But it’s all fact. The young Team Penske driver has emerged as a serious contender for the championship – and, for the moment anyway – he’s stolen the thunder from teammate Brad Keselowski, the 2012 champion.
Logano has progressed nicely. He had already won three races and was fifth in points after Richmond, the last event before the 10-event Chase began.
Since then he’s been nearly flawless. He finished third at Chicagoland and moved to fourth in points.
He won at Loudon, his fourth win of the year, and moved into second place.
He was fourth at Dover and remained second in the standings.
The victory at Kansas, where he led 122 of 267 laps, put Logano on top. He’s first in points with a six-point pad over Kyle Busch and a nine-point margin over Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman.
It must be said that Logano’s surge was helped when teammate Keselowski and two other championship contenders – Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson – all crashed at Kansas and tumbled from the top 10 in points.
Keselowski was the leader but his early exit dropped him to 10th place. Earnhardt Jr. is 11th and Johnson is 12th. They are at the bottom of the heap.
Nevertheless, Logano’s efforts have been superior. He hasn’t finished worse than fourth in the Chase and has two victories. He hasn’t needed any help to get where he is.
And he knows it. Well, the only help he really needs is from his Penske team. And that, so far, has been enough.
“Obviously everyone at Team Penske and my team in particular has been amazing,” Logano said. “We’ve been working really hard, and Todd (Gordon, crew chief) and I have been working together as best we can.
“I think we’ve been doing a great job in practice and in understanding what we’re going to need in the race and making good adjustments overnight to fire off good when the race starts.”
Logano acknowledged that his day might well have been made easier after some stalwart Chase competitors had problems. But he adds he would have not driven any differently.
“Yeah, when I see other Chase guys having troubles, that’s when you say, ‘Holy cow, this is really about a solid finish here today,’ ” he said. “You know how the race goes – a second, third, fourth, fifth‑place finish would be great. It sets you up pretty good for getting to the next round.
“But you dangle a checkered flag in front of me, I’m going to go. We were able to have a fast enough car that I knew we could do it. I wasn’t going to put my car in a bad spot but I was going to be aggressive about it and try to put other people in a bad spot to make those passes.
“We were able to do that today.”
Logano, 24, realizes that there is still a distance to go in the Chase and that fortunes can change – which is true for every competitor.
But after what has happened to date he has good reason to think he and his Penske team will challenge for the championship – and he does – which will be determined at the last race of the year at Homestead.
“This win was important,” Logano said. “We came here thinking we needed a solid finish. We can’t win the championship in one race but we can definitely lose it.
“So we had to get two solid finishes before Talladega and this is as solid as it gets.
“We’re excited about our shot to win this championship this year. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
And if that happens Logano will make believers of us all.
Maybe he already has.