CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There was a time when it was easy to pick on Joey Logano.

He was tongue-lashed by Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman. He feuded for weeks with former teammate Denny Hamlin and was cast as the bad guy when hard racing between the two ended in a hard crash that broke Hamlin’s back.

Logano was ridiculed when his father once angrily ordered his son to confront Harvick after a 2010 incident. Already viewed by many as a rich kid who used his daddy’s money to crack NASCAR’s top series as soon as he turned 18, his father’s constant presence did Logano no favors.

So it was no surprise last November when Harvick, ever the pot-stirrer, poked and prodded at Logano in the lead up to the championship-deciding season finale. Harvick may have rattled Logano a little bit, but with a square jaw and an awe-shucks smile, Logano did his best to tune out the eventual Sprint Cup champion.

Now here we are, nearly a year later, and Logano doesn’t appear willing to be picked on by anyone anymore. He’s shrugged off any Harvick comments, downplayed any notion that all the title contenders are chasing the reigning champion, and he’s raced as if he won’t back down from anything.

His aggression was on display Sunday at Kansas Speedway when he chased down Matt Kenseth in the closing laps for the win. Kenseth was in a dire situation, badly needing the win to guarantee his Chase doesn’t end with this week’s elimination race at Talladega. Logano, on the other hand, had nothing to lose: A win at Charlotte last week earned him an automatic berth into the third round and a victory at Kansas was worth nothing but the trophy.

So Kenseth threw a block on Logano’s attempt to pass him for the win. That move, many believe, meant all bets were off when it comes to a gentleman’s code. When Logano tried again to get past Kenseth, he made contact with the leader and caused Kenseth to spin.

The move earned Logano the victory – his second of the Chase, fifth of the season – and likely cost Kenseth his shot at the Sprint Cup title. Barring a win at Talladega or serious mishaps to several drivers ahead of him in the standings, Kenseth will be eliminated from the Chase on Sunday.

Logano was unapologetic about the outcome.

“We both went for the same piece of real estate,” Logano said. “We ran each other hard. He ran me hard, and I ran him hard back.”

Kenseth was adamant he was intentionally wrecked and willingly added his name to a list of drivers who dislike Logano.

“I’ve always raced him with a ton of respect, I’ve actually been one of his biggest fans. I’m certainly not anymore,” he said.

Logano recognizes he’s come a very long way from that scrawny kid thrust into the big leagues.

“It’s tough. It’s not supposed to be easy. That’s why this is the top level of motor sports,” he said.