By winning last Sunday at Pocono Raceway, Joey Logano earned a starting spot in next February’s Budweiser Shootout all-star race at Daytona International Speedway.
It also might have saved his job.
Like so many other drivers on the final year of a contract, Logano felt the pressure to be a contender this year. By winning the pole, leading the most laps and easily driving to Victory Lane last week, it ended years of frustration at Joe Gibbs Racing – even if it only lasts a week.
“I hope it shuts them all up is what I hope,” Logano said of critics. “You just don’t understand. Man, it’s just cool.”
Logano is part of a list of drivers who need a strong second half to satisfy sponsors and car owners. Others who reportedly are in the final year of a contract are Jamie McMurray, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Aric Almirola, Bobby Labonte and Regan Smith.
Newman is the only one of the group who currently would qualify for the Chase for the Championship.
Marcos Ambrose, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin could be in the final year of their contracts, too, though they haven’t talked about contracts this year.
Logano doesn’t have that luxury. He either has to be a contender or find a new job.
“Obviously, this is a contract year,” he said. “I better pick it up. I understand that. I see that.”
Winning a single race doesn’t always translate to a contract extension. David Ragan won the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona last July and still was dropped from the Roush Fenway Racing roster.
Logano’s best hope of earning a spot in the 10-race playoffs is to qualify as a wild card. To do that, he needs at least one more victory. But winning, he hopes, could help convince car owner Joe Gibbs to stick with him.
“Obviously winning a race means a lot and it helps that out a ton,” Logano said. “For sure right now my future is not set with anybody. You need to go out there and win races, not like we always do, but to get this win means a lot.
“My hope is to obviously stay with what I’ve got and keep working with (crew chief) Jason (Ratcliff). But you never know. You
know, those things go back and forth and switch around a lot, and all I can do is stay focused on my job, and that’s driving the race car. Whatever happens from there happens. The puzzle pieces will fall together eventually.”