Aftermath, Pocono: Can Joey Logano Become A Fan Favorite?

Logano

The first thought that went through my mind when Joey Logano began his long, smoky spin toward the end of Sunday's Pocono race was, "When will that kid ever stand up for himself?"

There were certainly others who wondered the same thing.

Incidents like the one with Kevin Harvick have already happened enough in Logano's young career that whenever his name is mentioned in conversations, people inevitably say, "He just keeps getting pushed around."

Harvick has taken advantage of Logano. So has Greg Biffle. And until Logano showed he wasn't willing to put up with it any longer, he was likely to continue getting the short end of the stick.

It's one thing to be a clean driver. It's another to allow yourself to get run over.

But that's been the rap on Logano so far: Real nice kid, ultra-talented, hasn't developed a backbone yet.

Until now, that is.

It didn't take long for Logano to reverse his reputation in one adrenaline-pumping moment at a track known more for sleepy afternoons than flaring tempers.

Logano, livid at what he perceived to be an intentional move by Harvick, parked his car next to the No. 29 on pit road, then climbed out and appeared fully intent on a confrontation.

Yeah, his wild-eyed father got in the middle and clearly told his son to stand up for himself. But I'm confident Young Joey was going to get in the mix with Harvick's crew whether Dad was there or not.

As the scene unfolded, viewers at home likely either jumped to their feet or surged forward to the edges of their seats.

It was like the moment in a coming-of-age movie when the wimpy kid finally stands up to the bully and gets his revenge.

You want to cheer, high-five your friend, pump your fist. Yeah! You tell him!

Even though he lost some class points by later bringing Harvick's wife into the discussion, Logano will still emerge from this looking like a hero to the vast majority of fans – some of whom were probably moved to log online and buy a Home Depot hat or T-shirt right then.

The whole thing was that powerful and image-changing for Logano, who instantly became more interesting and appealing than any number of Home Depot commercials could make him.

As for his immediately "Quote of the Year"-worthy comments ("His wife wears the firesuit in the family"), I don't believe he meant to insult DeLana Harvick (who actually does wear a firesuit at every race) as much as he intended to call her husband a wuss.

But that portion of the post-race events only added to the water-cooler conversation and will undoubtedly get NASCAR on a few sports talk radio shows today.

Honestly, that's exactly what the sport needs.

There's been a lot of talk about ratings lately, and as much as some fans want to blame the TV networks themselves, I don't believe that's why people are tuning out or aren't as glued to the race as they once were.

The racing itself has been some of the best ever this season, with the final result often in doubt until the last lap. But the sport has still lacked the character and personality it so needs to get the attention of fans, both old and new.

NASCAR needs bad guys and good guys, and fans have been faced with more drivers they dislike than ones who they can stand and cheer for (and the one most of them root for hasn't given them anything to get excited about lately).

Logano, firmly in the hero camp after Sunday, should ride this wave of newfound interest and capitalize on the void for a NASCAR good guy.

At the same time, he needs to be cautious and avoid getting slapped with the "mouthy punk" label some like to throw on his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates.

To some, there isn't much middle ground.

Last fall, Logano co-hosted the "WWE Monday Night Raw" wrestling show and saw first-hand how fans reacted to different types of characters.

Logano played the role of a popular good guy that night, and his smile lasted long after the show went off the air.

Can he do the same in NASCAR?

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