Dover II: Joey Logano preview

JOEY LOGANO What a Difference a Year Makes HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 17, 2008) -- A year ago this weekend at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, a 17-year-old racing prodigy named Joey Logano made NASCAR Camping World Series East history by...

What a Difference a Year Makes

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 17, 2008) -- A year ago this weekend at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, a 17-year-old racing prodigy named Joey Logano made NASCAR Camping World Series East history by becoming the first rookie to clinch the series title as a development driver for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR).

The Middletown, Conn., native needed only to take the green flag to clinch the championship that weekend, but he and his JGR teammates had no intentions of playing conservative despite already winning five events and arriving at Dover with a hefty lead in the point standings. In typical Joey Logano style, he bolted into the lead for a race-high 79 laps before crossing the finish line second in the 150-lap event, and the championship celebration began while he and everyone around him wondered just what was in the cards for 2008.

Little did Logano, or anyone, at the time know what a whirlwind the coming year would turn out to be. In the agonizing eight months between capturing the Camping World Series East title at Dover last September and May 24, 2008 when he celebrated his long-awaited 18th birthday -- NASCAR's minimum age required to compete in one of its top-three series -- Logano still found plenty of opportunities to make some noise in the racing world. He dominated his first career ARCA/REMAX Series race May 4 at Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway, where he started on the pole and led a race-high 257 laps en route to winning the 312-lap Carolina 500.

That set the stage for his much-celebrated NASCAR Nationwide Series debut May 31 at Dover, where he certainly did not disappoint by qualifying the No. 20 GameStop Toyota Camry ninth and finishing a solid sixth. And the rest is history, literally, as Logano went on to become the youngest victor in Nationwide Series history when at 18 years, 21 days, he won at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta in just his third career Nationwide Series start.

This weekend, Logano is back at Dover's "Monster Mile" in the No. 20 GameStop Toyota for Saturday's Camping World RV Sales 200. It will be his 13th career Nationwide Series start and first repeat visit to a Nationwide Series track.

Logano's driver log since kicking off his Nationwide Series career at Dover in May reads more like that of a seasoned veteran than that of a just-turned-18-year-old rookie. In his 12 previous races, he's recorded three top-fives and nine top-10s, including his victory at Kentucky. He's started from the pole three times, has an average starting position of 8.8, an average finishing position of 9.2 and he's led 224 laps out of 2,180 available (10.3 percent).

As he straps himself into the GameStop racing machine for this weekend's festivities and the stretch drive of the 2008 season, Logano does so already knowing what's in store for him in 2009. On Aug. 25, he was named the heir apparent to the No. 20 Toyota in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, currently piloted by two-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart, who is leaving JGR at the end of the season to become a driver/owner with Stewart-Haas Racing.

In a year already loaded with racing firsts for Logano, he achieved yet another personal milestone just last weekend when he finally got his first taste of Sprint Cup competition in the No. 96 Toyota Camry at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, where he started 40th on a grid set by owner points after qualifying was rained out, stayed out of trouble and brought home a 32nd-place finish.

Come Saturday afternoon at Dover, it's a good bet Logano is counting on celebrating again, just like he did a year ago.

Joey Logano -- No. 20 GameStop NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry at Dover

You've had a couple of days to think about your Sprint Cup debut Sunday at New Hampshire. What are your thoughts on that?

"It went okay. It wasn't quite what I wanted it to be, but we still went out and earned some respect from some of the drivers. We've still got a ways to go, but I think we began building respect by staying clean and staying out of trouble. Hopefully, we'll have a better run in Kansas with the DLP Toyota."

You made your Nationwide Series debut in June at Dover, right after you turned 18. What have the last few months been like for you?

"I've learned a lot in the last three months. I've learned a lot about the cars and how to race and things like that. That's helped me out a lot. It's been a little bit of a whirlwind, but I've had a lot of fun. Nothing has really changed. I just think I've learned a lot in the last few months and will probably learn a lot more in the future."

As you continue with your NASCAR career, how much help will it be to start seeing tracks for a second and third time?

"I think it will help a lot. You know how you want the race car to drive. You know the line around the race track and what the line is going to be once the race gets going. A lot of different stuff like that will help."

What are your overall thoughts regarding Dover?

"Dover is sweet. Going into both corners, you drop off into the corner big time. It's like jumping off a ledge. The whole car lifts up and then you land. When you land, that's huge. The attitude of the car when you land, that's a big deal. And then when you come off the corner, you come up out of the hole and then it lifts up off the corner. There's a lot you can do there and a lot of lines you can work with."

Greg Zipadelli, who will be your crew chief in 2009, called the Nationwide Series race for you from the pit box two weeks ago in Richmond. How is your relationship coming along?

"I think it's coming along well. The more he's on the radio helping us out, the better. I think Zippy and I, along with Mark Robertson, my spotter, have a good communication going and we need to keep that going. That's going to help me a lot going into next season."

-credit: jgr

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Drivers Tony Stewart , Joey Logano
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing