DARLINGTON, S.C. - Joey Logano says his "sliced bread syndrome" is over.
The 23-year-old was dubbed the greatest thing since sliced bread as an up-and-coming young racer by NASCAR great Mark Martin. Those were big words to live up to and Logano said he was definitely too young to match that moniker when he first raced in Sprint Cup in 2008.
"Did I start too soon? No doubt I did,"he said Friday at Darlington Raceway, site of tonight's Southern 500. "But you know, it's experience that I value a lot right now."
Logano laughed when asked if "sliced bread syndrome" was dead. "What is that?" he said with a grin.
He acknowledged there were plenty of bumps along the road from phenom to Cup title contender. He won just twice in 145 starts for Joe Gibbs Racing from 2008-2012. Logano moved to Roger Penske's No. 22 car last season and made the Chase for the Championship for the first time in his career. He is all but locked into this year's 16-team playoff with his victory Monday at Texas Motor Speedway.
"I feel like it's taken me quite a number of years to figure out what I need to do in this sport and how to race against these guys," Logano said.
Logano appears to have plenty figured out. He had a more than 2-second lead late at Texas when a late caution forced a green-white-checker finish. Jeff Gordon took just two tires and came out of the pits first. But Logano and his four fresh tires quickly overtook Gordon on the restart and pulled away for victory.
Logano said the win took some of the pressure off himself and the team, giving them the chance to experiment at testing sessions on tracks that make up the 10-race Chase for the Championship: "We can get our guns loaded for when the Chase starts."
Pole for Harvick: Kevin Harvick won his first career pole at Darlington Raceway, coming out on top in the first knockout qualifying session at NASCAR's oldest superspeedway since the circuit made the change from single-car laps. Joey Logano was second, followed by Aric Almirola. Almirola finished first in the second of three rounds of qualifying and set a track record of 184.145 mph, shattering Kurt Busch's mark of 181.918 set in May.
King mourning: Richard Petty, 76, is spending his weekends at home mourning the death of his wife instead of his familiar spot at the track. Lynda Petty died last month after battling cancer for several years. She was 72. "He's doing pretty good, he's used to going to the racetracks and being at the racetracks alone, but he's not used to being at home and being alone," said his son, NASCAR announcer Kyle Petty. "So I've stayed with him some, and my sisters have stayed some. It's just going to take time. They were together 57 years."
Near deal: Driver Greg Biffle said he and Roush Fenway Racing are getting closer to a contract extension and could have an announcement soon. Biffle's contract is up after this season, but he expects to continue driving the No. 16 Ford as he has done full time since 2003.
NHRA: Shawn Langdon led Top Fuel qualifying in the Four-Wide Nationals with a run of 3.753 seconds at 321.81 mph in Concord, N.C.
Sprint Cup points
After seven of 26 races. Sixteen drivers will make the season-ending Chase for the Championship.
Driver Pts. Back
Jeff Gordon 259 -
Matt Kenseth 255 4
Carl Edwards 247 12
Joey Logano 235 24
Kyle Busch 231 28
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 228 31
Jimmie Johnson 228 31
Brad Keselowski 218 41
Brian Vickers 205 54
Paul Menard 203 56
Ryan Newman 202 57
Austin Dillon 202 57
Southern 500, 6:30,Darlington (S.C.) Raceway TV/radio: Ch. 13; 102.5-FM