Richmond II: Joey Logano preview

JOEY LOGANO You Can Do It. We Can Help HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 3, 2008) -- As 18-year-old phenom Joey Logano attempts to make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut in Saturday night's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at...

You Can Do It. We Can Help

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 3, 2008) -- As 18-year-old phenom Joey Logano attempts to make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut in Saturday night's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, primary sponsor The Home Depot couldn't be a better fit.

Why, you ask? For Logano, driver of the No. 02 Home Depot Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) this weekend, the battle cry for this year and next can best be explained by The Home Depot's slogan since 2003, "You can do it. We can help."

Joe Gibbs, the three-time Super Bowl-winning former head coach of the NFL's Washington Redskins and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, announced Aug. 25 that the talented Logano would be moving up to NASCAR's top series full-time in 2009 as the driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry.

The young prodigy has proven that he can adapt quickly to each level of racing he's participated in, with the latest example being that he rewrote the record books by winning in just his third NASCAR Nationwide Series start in June at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. In addition to being a quick study, the Middletown, Conn., native already has 12 years of racing experience under his belt, even at the ripe age of 18. So it might go without saying that The Home Depot and JGR know that Logano can "do it" at the Sprint Cup level, and both entities want to "help" him achieve the ultimate goal of winning races and championships in NASCAR's top series.

Even more importantly for the young driver will be the team JGR will have behind him in 2009. Led by veteran crew chief Greg Zipadelli, The Home Depot outfit has been thoroughly battle-tested during its decade-long existence. In the last 10 years with current driver Tony Stewart, the No. 20 team has won two Sprint Cup championships (2002 and 2005), scored 32 wins and has totaled 127 top-five and 203 top-10 finishes.

At age seven, Logano won his first Eastern Grand National Championship in Junior Stock Quarter Midgets. At age nine, Logano won the Summer Shootout Series in both Atlanta and Charlotte in his first year racing Bandolero cars. At age 12, Logano moved on to Legends cars, where he became the youngest driver to win the Pro National Championship. At age 13, he moved up to Late Models in Georgia, where he also won in his first season. At age 15, Logano made his debut in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series, where he found victory lane in his second career Pro Cup start at Mansfield (Ohio) Motorsports Park in June 2005.

Last season, Logano ran a slate of NASCAR Camping World Series races for JGR where, again, it didn't take him long to find victory lane. He won in his first start in the Camping World Series West race at Phoenix International Raceway on April 19. The JGR development driver never went more than two consecutive Camping World races without a victory, winning the East season-opener at Greenville-Pickens (S.C.) Speedway April 28, Iowa Speedway in Newton May 20, New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon June 29, Adirondack Speedway in Beaver Falls, N.Y., July 29, and New Hampshire again on Sept. 14.

So, as Logano will attempt to make his Sprint Cup debut this weekend at Richmond, regardless of how he fares, the young driver has proven he can do it, and JGR and The Home Depot are more than committed to help now and for the foreseeable future.

Joey Logano, driver of the No. 02 Home Depot Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing:

Now that it's been over a week, has it sunk in that you are going to represent The Home Depot in the No. 20 car next year?

"It's definitely sunk in. I guess it really sunk in the day of the announcement, really. Before the announcement, I really didn't think about it too much. But being up there on stage with Frank Bifulco (chief marketing officer) from The Home Depot, along with Joe and J.D. (Gibbs), I realized that this is really happening. I'm sure when I get to Richmond this weekend it's going to sink in even more."

Now that your first Sprint Cup start is coming this weekend at Richmond, have you really had time to think about it?

"I thought about it a while back, but when it was first even suggested that Richmond might be the place, it was still a ways down the road. Now, suddenly, that's this week now, it's pretty exciting. I've never raced at Richmond, but I have plenty of short track experience and I'm told it's a fun race track. There are just so many good people surrounding me that I feel really comfortable jumping in the No. 02 Home Depot Toyota this weekend. I think that's also a big reason why the jump to Sprint Cup next year is going to be more comfortable to me because of all the great people who are a part of this team."

How are you approaching the Richmond race weekend, and will you take the same mindset you had at Dover for your Nationwide Series debut this past June?

"I think I'm going to approach it (Richmond) the same way I did Dover. Personally, I don't think it's as big of a jump as it was to go from the Camping World Series to the Nationwide Series as it is from the Nationwide Series to the Cup Series because you're already racing against a lot of Cup guys. We already race at tracks like this and I've done a lot of Cup testing. I feel more comfortable doing this than I did at Dover. You have to focus on your own race and not worry about what everybody else is doing."

You will have Wally Brown as your crew chief in both races with the No. 02 Home Depot Toyota. Can you talk about the history that you have with Wally and why he is the perfect choice to work with you in the Sprint Cup car this year?

"It will be cool working with Wally in a Sprint Cup race since I got to work with him for the first time in an actual race in the Nationwide Series at Bristol. I've worked a lot with him and the JGR Sprint Cup testing team, but never under race conditions until then. I probably have more time working with Wally, overall, than I had with Dave (Rogers, crew chief for JGR's No. 20 Nationwide Series team). He knows what I want in a race car and I know his mindset in setting up the car. I've really worked with him closely since he came over to JGR in 2006, so it will be nice to have him around since I'm really comfortable with 'Wall-Dog' and can communicate well with him."

Now that you are 18 years old and hoping to make your Sprint Cup debut this weekend, what do you recall about how things got started for you to get you to this level?

"My first memories of racing were driving a go-kart around the property of my Dad's waste management company in Connecticut. We found that I was pretty good with the go-kart, so my Dad bought a quarter-midget and I started racing that when I was nine years old. My Dad wanted me to play baseball or basketball, and I tried the tee-ball thing, but I mainly didn't like it because I wasn't good at it. I wanted to do something I was good at. So I found something that I liked to do, that I enjoyed and I was good at. Growing up, I raced and played hockey and my parents really didn't know much about either of them, so they really didn't push me in one direction or another. They were open to whatever I wanted to do, which was really nice."

When did it become obvious to you that you were better than average at driving a race car?

"I don't know if there's ever really been a moment where I thought that I was good. I've never really thought about it. I never really tried to look far into the future. I just enjoyed what I set out to do that day, and that's the way I've always been. I don't get too caught up in who I have to race, but I know that I have 42 other cars to beat and I concentrate on getting one guy at a time. I don't dwell on the past too much. I just think about the next race that I have coming up."

When you were looking at Joe Gibbs Racing as a potential team to sign with, what attracted you to them and ultimately led them to signing you?

"I remember sitting in the conference room at JGR meeting with J.D. (Gibbs) and he watched a video of me racing, and said he wanted to go get his Dad. So, Joe Gibbs walked in the room, and I was like 'Wow, this is Joe Gibbs.' I must have done something right, I guess. They took us on a whole tour of the shop. Just to know that Joe is a family oriented guy, I know he isn't going to steer me wrong. A lot of the employees there have worked there for 10 years or longer. You don't see that everywhere. That's another big selling point for me, because if they have people there that long they must be doing something right. Also, the success of the organization from the very beginning really speaks for itself. So, it really wasn't too hard of a decision for me. I felt comfortable there right from the start and I feel even more comfortable, now. I've always had my family at the race track growing up and they welcome that and that's another big reason why it works for me and so many other people who have been at JGR for so long."

How important is it for you to gain the respect of your competitors?

"It's definitely an important thing. Even when I was nine years old and I was driving Legends cars and on sanctioned tracks, you had to be 12. I went there and they told me that I could not touch another car out there. Legends cars have that big chrome bumper out there and everyone hit everybody, but if I hit one person, then I wasn't going to get to race anymore until I was 12. I've had that behind me all these times. I was 14 or 15 when I was running the ASA Touring cars and it was the same deal. You have to go out there and race people the way you want to be raced. If they're going to run you clean, then I'll run them clean. But you better run them clean before they do anything to you. I think it is a real big thing to gain respect, whether it's on or off the race track. I've tried to do that in the Nationwide Series, so far, and I'm hoping to be able to gain the respect of my competitors at the Sprint Cup level, too. It does take some time to prove that to them and I'm looking forward to starting to do that this weekend."

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Joey Logano
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing