Joey Logano: An Everyday, Typical 17-Year-Old NASCAR Champion by Matt Kentfield
Even With the Success, Logano Still the Same "Goofball"
Logano's trademark smile was plenty apparent when NASCAR President Mike Helton handed him the BES championship trophy. (NASCAR Photo)
A lot of titles have been attached to Joey Logano’s name through the years. He’s added even more of those labels in 2007. NASCAR Busch East Series Champion and Rookie of the Year. Youngest-ever USAR Hooters Pro Cup Winner. Five-Time NASCAR Grand National Division winner in 2007. Youngest driver to compete in the old ASA National Tour. “The Real Deal,” according to NASCAR legend Mark Martin.
Yet with all the success that Logano has seen this season and in years past, from the time he started in Quarter Midgets, on to Bandoleros and Legends Cars, then Late Models, ASA, Pro Cup and now in the Busch East Series en route to the top levels of NASCAR in 2008 and beyond, he has never let any of those titles change what he always has been and hopes he always will be.
“I’m still the regular goofball I always was,” said Logano. “You can ask anybody, I only get serious when I’m in the racecar. Most of the time I’m just goofing around and having fun. That’s the way I’ve been my whole life.”
In a day when up-and-coming NASCAR phenoms are developed to be polished and arrow-straight, Logano is still the same driver he was when he was a wide-eyed, fun-loving Legends Car National Champion…oh yeah, another title Logano earned along the way. A lot of people are already penciling Logano, a Joe Gibbs Racing Development Driver, into a Cup Series ride in the next few years, but for now, having fun with some friends and winning races is what this 17-year-old is all about.
“That’s what I’ve expected for myself and it’s what I’ve been working towards my whole life, to get to the Cup series and win races there. So far, everything’s on the right track. I’m testing a lot on the bigger tracks and that’s helping me out a lot, so I think as long as I keep doing that and learning this, I’ll be alright.
“When I strap in, all I think about is winning. I have fun, but you have to play hard and work hard. That’s the way I live. You have to have fun, but when it’s time to get down to business, you’ve got to get down to business. It’s cool that my job is racing. I can still have fun with it, too.”
Logano’s accomplishments in 2007 speak for themselves. Six wins between the NASCAR Busch East and West Series in 15 total starts. He finished outside the top-10 in his rookie season just four times. He was so dominant, he clinched the BES title ust by taking the green flag in the series’ final event at Dover.
He’s been interviewed by the biggest newspapers and television networks from coast-to-coast. NASCAR experts are already planning his timeframe for getting to stardom.
But just look into the infield during any Busch East race and you’ll see that Logano may be the future of the sport, he’s presently perfectly happy hanging out with his buddies that made it to the Busch East Series, guys like Chase Austin, Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Marc Davis and others as he is getting ready for what tomorrow holds.
“It was kind of cool because I raced against a lot of those guys when I was little. When I went ASA racing, I didn’t get to race with anyone I grew up with because I was only 14 then and most of the ASA guys were a lot older. It’s kind of cool now that we’re all racing each other now in Busch East. It’s neat to have people around your age that you can hang around with at the track.”
Logano hasn’t been inside his Busch East car since clinching the title at Dover last month. He won’t be in it again until the invitational Toyota All-Star Showdown event in Irwindale, California on October 20th. So it’d be safe to imagine that Logano would be welcoming the month-long break to spend his time as a normal teenager.
Even when Joey (right) isn't racing, he's at a track helping and joking with buddies like Corey LaJoie (left) in their racing efforts.
But Joey Logano is not a normal teenager. Normal teenagers don’t get a chance to test NEXTEL Cup cars in their spare time.
“I’ve actually been real busy, believe it or not. I haven’t done any actual racing, but I’ve been testing a lot for the Cup guys. I’ve actually been gone all week and just got back yesterday. They keep me busy doing something. I’ve been working out every day, doing media stuff and stuff like that, so I’ve been keeping pretty busy.”
The Logano family is always right at Joey's side.
Logano still does sneak in the occasional outing with his friends, but he never gets too far away from racing. If he’s not inside a racecar of his own on any given weekend, he’ll be around a short track helping out one of his racing friends on the track.
“Me and my friends, all we talk about is racing. We relate everything to racing. No matter what it is, we relate it to racing. It’s screwed up, but we do it. Racing’s our whole life, so that’s just how it is.
“I’m going to Myrtle Beach this weekend for the Legacy Series race and the Pro Cup race to hang out with my friends. I enjoy that. I don’t know much besides racing, so when I go to the racetrack I have fun with it. Pretty much everyone I know is at the racetrack. I got to help out the 'Flying Oreo' (Chase Austin) last week (in a PASS South race at Hickory) and we had a blast.”
Logano is head for stardom, there’s little room for arguing there. On the racetrack, he’s a winner, without question.
But at home, he’s still Joey. He’s still Danielle’s little brother and a son who needs to behave for his mom and dad, Debbie and Tom.
“Oh yeah, it’s nothing at home, believe me. My dad, sister and especially my mom, they keep me grounded. I actually had to fight pretty hard to get to be able to go down to Myrtle Beach this weekend. We had a bit of a fight and it took a while, but I got there eventually. I’ll be there,” joked Logano.
A 17-year-old who still needs to ask permission to go out for the night. So maybe Joey Logano is a typical 17-year-old after all.
A typical 17-year-old NASCAR Champion.
The BES is all about racing for fun for Chew. (Ken Spring Photo)
“We’ve got to appeal the thing and all that crap, but I got on last night to Jayski and they’ve got this whole thing with NEXTEL Cup and Busch penalties,” said Ste-Marie. “If you do the percentages of what those guys like Kasey Kahne and the #17, they got kicked out for four races for blatantly cheating with shocks, unapproved aerodynamic devices and that sort of thing. They got kicked out for four races and 50 points. The percentage of 50 points for them with 36 races and the four race suspension for 36 races is a far cry from our 13-race schedule and me getting kicked out for three races and then stripping us of all our points and our money.
“What that comes down to is that puts us from fourth to I think 11th in points (revised points from NASCAR have the #99 actually in 10th), which winds up being a $4,300 fine (from the race winnings getting stripped) and fourth to 11th in the point fund from last year is about 28 grand. Apples to apples, with us having 13 races, a three-race suspension is a quarter of our season. That’s like telling Chad Knaus and Robbie Reiser they’ve got to skip 10 races. It’s completely out of the ballpark.
“The bottom line is, I apologize to the team, the sponsors and the fans for the mistake because I’m ultimately responsible for Is the Crew Chief. But, all we can do is to see where we can go from here.”
While Chew and Ste-Marie can sympathize with Matt Kobyluck’s frustrations following the Adirondack event, making the pain of the post-race penalty even worse was knowing their gear issues may have had a hand in Kobyluck’s black flag.
“In Matt’s defense, I called Perry (Waite, Kobyluck’s crew chief) and apologized because we’re real close, but the reason why Matt’s restarts look so bad was because we were so low on gear,” said Ste-Marie. “I asked them down there at NASCAR yesterday if any of those guys bothered watching the film or if any of those experts have ever been to Adirondack Speedway. You would’ve seen that we didn’t have any gear or we were lagging back. It’s just a tough deal.”
To recap, Kobyluck was penalized, fairly or unfairly, out of the lead. Chew had the lead going into the final corners when spun lapped cars came back onto the track and blocked his path, allowing Joey Logano to take the lead without a caution flag coming out, then the #99 team was penalized for gear issues. Logano, a NASCAR development driver ,took the win.
Could this be a way of the Busch East Series playing favorites towards the developmental, high-dollar programs?
“I definitely think that the veterans, as in Matt, myself and (Mike) Olsen, it just seems like we are not wanted there. There was a comment made to Spot that there was a reason we were so fast and we must’ve been cheating by a NASCAR official when he got his fine. I take that to heart.
“Our race program, over the last two or three years, has bumped up. We’ve been in contention to win almost every race,” said Chew. “I truly think that was a comment stating to me that they really don’t want you guys here, meaning the veterans. For us, as veterans, to win or do very well, it’s sort of a letdown to them. If you don’t think I’m correct, then every race I’m in and I’ve come in the top-five, which is five of them, I’ve gotten no press from them whatsoever. I finish second, ‘oh Chew finished second.’ I get a little bit of press, but all the kids and all the development drivers get everything. I’ve been saying it since the third or fourth race after I finished second at Elko, they don’t really want me there. If they don’t want me there, then just tell me. I don’t want to be treated any differently and get a penalty like this, then we won’t be there. I have supported this division for nine years, when they had problems.”
Chew (#99) has had many battles with fellow BES veterans such as Mike Olsen (#61) over the years. (Ken Spring Photo)
Roy, however, says that is not the case.
“Every team is important to us; the first place team, the last place team and every team in between,” said Roy. “I don’t differentiate. I like to think that my officials don’t. I want every team that wants to compete on the Busch East Series to feel that they can come race with us on an even playing field and they have the opportunity to do the best they can with the equipment and the driver and the team that they’ve got behind them. Beyond that, I certainly feel that we try to treat everyone the same, it doesn’t matter what number is on the side of their car.
“I can understand the frustration any time you’ve got a good car and don’t win. I can only relate that at one point in my very abbreviated racing involvement, for three years I
was involved with Ricky Craven and I acted as Team Manager and at times Crew Chief. I know all too well the other side of that fence. I’ve been down that road and I’ve had victory taken away from us by what I thought were unjust calls, but somebody had to make those calls.
“I don’t think I’ll ever go to a racetrack, whether I’m involved with NASCAR or somebody else or on the other side of the fence, where everybody’s going to agree with the calls. They have to be instantaneous, they have to be based on the best information that you have or the best sight that you had to see the situation. I could go into the whole last two laps of that race in detail and what went on and so forth, but at this point it’s irrelevant. It was run, it was finished under the checkered flag and I felt very, very confident that the way that unfolded, certainly during the last two laps and throughout the race, I’m very comfortable that the Race Director did an excellent job.”
So where does that leave Bryon Chew, Ron “Spot” Ste-Marie and the rest of the Buzz Chew Racing team to go from here. Could the Busch East Series be losing one of the longest-running teams currently on the tour?
“I’m pretty devastated at this particular moment,” said Chew. “The penalty is way too harsh. The words that were said about our team were way too harsh. I don’t know where we’re going to go from here. We have to sit down and evaluate our situation. We have to go through the process of appealing, which is something we shouldn’t even have to do, and then make a decision from there.”