He's described his 2009 season as a "rollercoaster", but luckily for 19-year-old Joey Logano, his rookie year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has seen far more ups than it has downs.
Despite three DNFs, Logano has had 17 top 20 finishes and collected his first win at his home track of New Hampshire Motor Speedway earlier in the year.
His Nationwide Series season has also been a success, with five wins and 15 top-ten finishes in his 20 starts.
Talladega Superspeedway was the sight of the young driver's first Sprint Cup Top Ten, and he looked to repeat—and better—his performance in April.
Before he looked to conquer Talladega, though, he and teammate Kyle Busch headed to Buffalo, New York to host WWE's Monday Night RAW .
It wasn't Logano's first exposure to the world of wrestling; when he was voted in by the fans to the Sprint All-Star Race, 16 time world champion Ric Flair introduced him to the fans.
"He kept shouting, 'Woo! Joey Logano, woo! Woo!' And then he gave me the microphone, and I didn't know what to say," said Logano. "So I threw a 'Woo!' out there that didn't have the same oomph. I don't have as deep a voice as he does. At least it didn't crack when I did that, though it would have been pretty funny."
Despite being nervous, Logano and Busch entered the HSBC Arena in their No. 20 and No. 18 Nationwide Series cars, respectively, which will be raced in the O'Reilly Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway.
“This was way, way, way outside my box,” Logano said after the show went off air. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not too many people get to do this.”
With their hosting duties complete, Logano and Busch joined the other 41 competitors on their way to Alabama.
On Friday, Logano ended the first practice of the weekend fifth on the charts.
Qualifying the following day was canceled due to rain, meaning Logano and the Home Depot Toyota would start 20th once the field took the green flag for the Amp Energy 500.
Once the green flag dropped at 1:22 ET, it was a mostly quiet day not only for Logano but the field overall. By lap eight he'd made his way into the top ten, but under green flag pit stops he lost a lap to then leader Casey Mears. Kurt Busch's lap 50 spin gave the rookie the lucky dog.
While the ABC crew focused on the potential of a big wreck and championship leader Jimmie Johnson's charge to the front, Logano steadily—and silently—worked his way back to the top. Just 50 laps after getting back on the lead lap, Logano ran second to teammate Denny Hamlin, and took the lead on lap 114.
Despite the racing getting dicier and drivers jockeying for position, Logano was able to hold his own until the end of the race, running well ahead of both "big ones" to finish third in just his second run at Talladega.
"It was exciting for me at least, but you have to expect that in a green-white-checker at Talladega," said Logano. "It was a good run for us. One more lap, I don’t know what would have happened. It was fun to be up there racing for the win with those guys so it was a good run for the Home Depot Toyota."
With his third place effort, Logano scored his third Top Five finish of the season, and his second Top Ten finish at Talladega in 2009. He continues to pace the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings ahead of Scott Speed and "Mad" Max Papis.
Thanks to USA Today, NASCAR Scene Daily, Racing Reference and NASCAR.com for the information and quotes used in this article.
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