Of all the drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, no one's come farther this season than Joey Logano.
For four years, Logano struggled in the shadows of Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin at Joe Gibbs Racing, winning only twice and never cracking the top 15 in points. Frankly, in his last two seasons with JGR, Logano showed little, if any, progress.
That all changed this year with Logano's move to Penske Racing.
Heading into Saturday night's 26th and final race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup regular season, Logano sits eighth in points and in very, very good shape to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup for the first time.
It is a fascinating story on several levels: Logano is likely to make the Chase while teammate and defending series champion Brad Keselowski almost certainly won't. Logano's move to Penske helped him, helped the team and it even helped his old team, because the man who replaced him at JGR, Matt Kenseth, leads the Sprint Cup Series with five race victories.
And, oh by the way, not only is Logano likely to make the Chase for the first time; the way he's been running lately, he's someone who could actually contend for the championship this year.
"Quite honestly, as it stands right now with how he's ran over the last I think six weeks, he would be my favorite to win the championship," Keselowski said of Logano. "He's definitely got the momentum. His team has got things going for them in so many different directions. There's a lot of confidence that comes with that."
Keselowski also allowed as how racing luck seems to be falling Logano's way lately, as it did during Keselowski's 2012 title run, which could play a factor in the Chase.
"He's been catching the breaks, too," Keselowski said. "That stuff seems to be a little perpetual. When it's good for you, it's perpetual. When it's bad for you, it's perpetual."
For Logano, who comes in riding a streak of eight consecutive top-10 finishes, his plan for Saturday night is just business as usual.
"Really, I mean, the only thing you can do is go out there and keep doing what you've been doing," said Logano. "The momentum that this team has got right now, it's hard not to have confidence right now. I feel like if we just do our deal, be smart. Obviously we'll be aware of what's going on out there, what the bubble cars are doing. At the same time we got to run our race and get the best finish out of it we can."
And if he makes the Chase, what would Logano's reaction be?
"I'd be pretty stoked. It's going to be a helluva party," Logano said, laughing. "I don't know, milk and cookies or something for me. I don't know how to party. Somebody has to teach me. I don't know how to do that. ... It is a very big goal of mine. You strive for it every year when the season starts. I've come up short every time. This is my big shot so far in my career. Doing it with Penske Racing, as a new driver over there, it's kind of a cool story."