Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski are two of the most promising young drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series today.
There are many similarities between the two budding stars, who are currently ranked 14th (Keselowski) and 17th (Logano) in the Cup series.
Keselowski and Logano each experienced success in the Nationwide series, both prior to and after moving to Cup competition. Each drivers' first Cup wins are two of which that could be considered flukes. Both Keselowski and Logano drive for strong teams in the Sprint Cup Series. Joe Gibbs Racing is probably stronger overall than Penske Racing (in NASCAR anyhow), but Kurt Busch has consistently won races for Penske and Keselowski is now showing he can do the same.
There are some significant differences which one must take into account when projecting who will have the better career.
Joey Logano is one year ahead of Keselowski in his Cup career, despite being several years younger. Logano received early attention when Mark Martin saw him racing at 15 and declared, "I am high on Joey Logano because I am absolutely, 100-percent positive, without a doubt that he can be one of the greatest that ever raced in NASCAR. I'm positive. There's no doubt in mind." Not too long after, Logano was dubbed "Sliced Bread," as in the greatest thing since, by former Busch Series champion Randy LaJoie.
Logano began driving for Joe Gibbs Racing at the age of 16 and two years later, he became the youngest winner of a Nationwide series race in only his third series start. He was quickly rushed into Sprint Cup competition at the tender age of 18, driving the No. 20 Home Depot car Tony Stewart made famous. Logano became the youngest winner in Sprint Cup history during his rookie year, but for the most part he has struggled to fulfill his immense potential.
In contrast, Brad Keselowski took a much longer road toward reaching the top level of NASCAR. Racing was the family business and Keselowski cut his teeth in a number of lower racing series for many years. He didn't receive a top-level driving opportunity until he signed on with JR Motorsports in 2008 at the age of 24, and didn't reach the Sprint Cup level full-time until last season at 26.
At the end of the 2010 season, it appeared Logano was on the verge of a major breakout. He scored five top-7 finishes in the last six races of the year and appeared primed for a huge year in 2011.
Keselowski, meanwhile, failed to record his first top 10 finish until the 32nd race of the season. In his first full year in Cup, he slogged his way to a disappointing 25th-place finish in the points, while Logano appeared poised to challenge for a position in the next year's Chase after finishing 16th in the 2010 standings.
In 2011, however, Logano has failed to live up to the heightened expectations that were raised for him. With no wins under his belt, Logano is 17th in the standings and not challenging for a Chase spot.
Keselowski, meanwhile, has vastly improved on his rookie campaign. He already has four top fives and seven top 10s. Most importantly, he has two wins in 2011, one at Kansas and one earlier this month at Pocono. With the wins, Keselowski is on track for a wild card berth in the Chase, provided he can maintain his top 20 position in the standings.
Which driver is likely to have the better overall career?
I believe it will be Keselowski. Right now Logano is with the better overall team at Joe Gibbs Racing, but I think Keselowski will end up with a truly top-notch team some day.
In fact, after Keselowski announced he was moving on to Penske Racing, team owner Rick Hendrick said, "I won't lose him forever." But in the meantime, he is fully capable of doing just fine with Penske Racing.
Keselowski is experiencing a truly remarkable breakout season in his sophomore year in the Cup Series. Logano, meanwhile, has regressed in his third full year of Cup competition.
Both drivers are young and have bright futures ahead of them, but so far, Keselowski has shown greater poise and better results on the track. He has three Cup victories to Logano's one, in fewer starts.
Both drivers are immensely talented, and only time will tell, but based on the results we've seen to date, I think Brad Keselowski will have a better career than Joey Logano.
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