SPARTA, Ky. — Amid news of a contract extension for Denny Hamlin and speculation swirling around Matt Kenseth’s possible arrival at Joe Gibbs Racing next year, team owner Joe Gibbs said Saturday at Kentucky Speedway that his top priority was re-signing Joey Logano.
Logano, 22, who is in a contract year, has five NASCAR Nationwide Series victories and one Sprint Cup win to his credit this year and has begun to blossom in his pairing with first-year Cup crew chief Jason Ratcliff.
“We’re working real hard right now on extending him and his relationship with us,” Gibbs said Friday after the drivers’ meeting for Saturday night’s Quaker State 400. “We’ve had a great relationship — signed him when he was 15. We’ve got a lot invested in Joey. I think right now he’s stepping up, and we want him to be with us.”
Asked whether sponsor Home Depot would continue to be part of the equation, Gibbs told the NASCAR Wire Service, “I think part of what we’ve got going on with us right now — there’s a lot going on. So the things I talked about . . . Joey, we want to get that done. Everything else is kind of up in the air for us right now.”
It’s fair to say that sponsor alignments are in a state of flux at JGR. Gibbs said that inking a new deal for Hamlin was a separate issue from extending the deal of Hamlin’s sponsor, FedEx.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with FedEx — it’s just Denny,” Gibbs said, but that doesn’t preclude the possibility of FedEx returning to Hamlin’s car.
Gibbs was mum on the Kenseth rumors, but he left the door open for a future announcement.
“I don’t think I should spend time talking about that right now,” Gibbs said. “The timing’s not there for us to talk about that. We’ve got a lot of decisions that need to be made, and we’re working through that right now.”
Kenseth, the Cup points leader, announced earlier this week that he would not return to Roush Fenway Racing and already had a new deal in place for 2013, with JGR the clear front-runner for the role of Kenseth’s new employer.
Hamlin is eighth in the series standings with two Cup wins this season. The driver of the No. 11 Toyota confirmed on his Twitter feed at 6:51 p.m. ET that the extension was a done deal.
“Happy to know where my future is,” Hamlin wrote. “Excited for tonight and beyond with my team.”