Charlotte II: Joey Logano preview

JOEY LOGANO Racing at Charlotte is 'The Real Deal' HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., (Oct. 7, 2008) -- Before "Sliced Bread," there was "The Real Deal." So the story goes for 18-year-old driving prodigy Joey Logano, who will be behind the wheel of the No....

Racing at Charlotte is 'The Real Deal'

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., (Oct. 7, 2008) -- Before "Sliced Bread," there was "The Real Deal." So the story goes for 18-year-old driving prodigy Joey Logano, who will be behind the wheel of the No. 20 Farm Bureau Insurance Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in Friday night's Dollar General 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Lowe's Motor Speedway (LMS) in Concord, N.C.

Logano will make his 15th career Nationwide Series start since turning the requisite 18 years of age in May, and it will be his first race of any kind on the 1.5-mile tri-oval at Lowe's, where he's scored numerous wins en route to championships in Bandoleros and Legends cars on the shorter layout, and where in 2002 he first met the man who ultimately proclaimed him "The Real Deal" -- none other than NASCAR veteran Mark Martin, a 10-time winner in NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series competition at LMS.

During his now well-chronicled rise through the junior racing ranks, Logano first started turning heads at LMS as an 11-year-old, when he won the Bandolero Bandits Division Summer Shootout Series in 2001, the same year he also won the Bandolero Bandits Division Thursday Thunder Series at its sister track, Atlanta Motor Speedway. In all, Logano scored 11 wins in 21 starts that year and also began catching the attention of Martin, whose son Matt was running in the same circles as a young, up-and-coming driver.

The following year, after Logano clinched the Legends Pro National Championship, Martin sought out Logano amidst the post-race celebration at LMS to congratulate him, and a special racing friendship was born.

In 2005, the same year Martin let Logano race one of his trucks in a FASCAR (Florida Association of Stock Car Automobile Racing) event at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway, Martin made it known to the racing world that the youngster from Middletown, Conn., is "The Real Deal." Logano didn't disappoint in the race truck, either, qualifying on the pole and bringing home a second-place finish.

This weekend, Logano picks up where he left off two weekends ago at Kansas with the No. 20 Farm Bureau Insurance Toyota team for JGR. While the Nationwide Series was off last weekend, Logano kept the competitive fires alive by competing in the ARCA RE/MAX Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. He led Friday's ARCA race when the white flag flew, but finished a "disappointing" second in his first-ever superspeedway event, something he said will come in handy as added motivation in Friday night's Dollar General 300.

That's music to the ears of the 4,200-member agency sales force of Farm Bureau Insurance, which provides auto, home and life insurance to customers and fans throughout the southeast. "The Real Deal" is on a mission.

Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Farm Bureau Insurance NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Lowe's Motor Speedway:

Lowe's Motor Speedway, as the story goes, is the place where you first met Mark Martin, who earlier on in your career grew to be one of your biggest fans. What do you remember about that first meeting?

"I ran around in the same circles as his son, Matt, when we were running Bandoleros and Legends cars in the Summer Shootouts at Atlanta and Charlotte. We usually parked a few trailers away from each other and mingled with the same people but we never actually talked for the longest time. Finally, when I won the Legends Pro Nationals (in 2002), Mark came up and said hello and it basically took off from there. It was pretty cool. We would talk about all sorts of things whenever we'd run into each other. I really learned a lot from him when he let me race his FASCAR truck a few years ago. Naturally, I admire him a lot and I really appreciate all the cool things he's said about me."

You got to spend two days earlier this week doing a Sprint Cup tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, one of the racing landmarks in North America and the world. How do you feel about your first race outing on the big track at Lowe's Motor Speedway this weekend?

"Like Indy, Charlotte, for sure, is another motorsports shrine. It was really cool getting to drive at Indy. Just driving into the place in a rental car to go to work is a really special feeling. Charlotte, I'm a lot more used to, probably because I've spent so much time there racing Bandoleros and Legends. In one sense, a race track is a race track. But Charlotte is more special than most. You have to respect all of them or they will sneak up and bite you. Whenever I got there, like whenever I go to the really old, short tracks, I think of the big names who have driven there like Allison, Yarborough, Petty, Baker, Waltrip. It's going to be great to race a stock car there for the first time."

You recently tested a Sprint Cup car at Lowe's, so you have somewhat of a jump as far as learning the track for this weekend. What did you learn about the track during that test?

"I learned quite a bit about the track during the test. I had (JGR teammates) Denny (Hamlin), Tony (Stewart) and Kyle (Busch) there with me and they seemed to help me out a lot. We talked about all of the different things we could try to make the car go faster. We compared our data and I think having them there helped me get up to speed a lot faster. I got to find out what different changes did to make the car go faster or slower. I enjoyed the experience a lot. I definitely think we'll be okay there in the Nationwide car. There are some little things about the track that I'm glad I got to experience before goign there this weekend in the Nationwide car. There's little stuff you find about every track once you get a chance to drive it. No two tracks are the same. No two corners are the same. There should be some really good racing because you can attack the track from top to bottom."

How do you feel about how things have been going in the Nationwide Series for you as you're about to make your 15th start?

"Things got off to a great start, for sure. But over the last several races, I don't know if it's me or what, but I feel like we need to get back on our game a little bit. We're all working as hard as we can and the guys have been the absolute greatest all season long. Doug Hewitt's crew chiefing again and I'm really excited about that. We had a weekend off to get ready for this next one. It would be really cool to get my second win at Charlotte. Everyone remembers who wins at Charlotte, so that turns up the intensity a lot."

Speaking of Charlotte, this will be your first big race close to where you now live. Will it be nice actually getting to sleep in your own bed on a race weekend?

"Yeah, it's definitely going to be nice being close to home, but not necessarily because I'll get to sleep in my own bed. I'll still stay in the motorhome at the track like I do when we're on the road. What will make this weekend cool is that all my friends are close by, and we'll be able to have some fun camping out and hanging out in the infield. It'll be all business as usual when we're practicing and qualifying and racing. When it's game time, it's game time. But when that's not happening, we'll be running at a different pace and it'll be a different kind of racing weekend with my friends there. It's going to be a lot of fun."

You got your first taste of superspeedway racing in the ARCA race and the Craftsman Truck Series at Talladega last weekend, and you brought home a second-place finish in the ARCA race. How was that experience for you?

"I'm still steamed about the ARCA race because that's not the way I wanted to lose that race -- leading the white-flag lap and then going on to finish second. It was one of those tough deals. But I know what I did wrong, something you just don't know any better until it actually happens to you. If I make that mistake again, then I'm an idiot. But I definitely won't make that mistake again. It'll definitely fire me up a little bit for this weekend, and I'm looking forward to getting back to the big tracks next year."

-credit: jgr

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Drivers Joey Logano , Mark Martin
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing