Dover: Joey Logano preview

JOEY LOGANO Not Your 'Average Joe' HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (May 27, 2008) -- At first glance, Joey Logano appears to be a typical 18-year-old. But while the happy-go-lucky teenager enjoys hanging out with friends and playing video games, there's...


Not Your 'Average Joe'

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (May 27, 2008) -- At first glance, Joey Logano appears to be a typical 18-year-old. But while the happy-go-lucky teenager enjoys hanging out with friends and playing video games, there's one big difference between Logano and his peers -- the God-given talent to drive a race car.

That talent was discovered at just four years of age when his father, Tom, bought him his first go-kart. Tom watched his son in amazement as he whirled around the property of his Connecticut-based waste management company. That experience led Tom and his wife, Deborah, to enter Joey into quarter-midget competition just two years later. At the tender age of six, a racing career was born.

By the time Logano turned 15, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran Mark Martin already felt that Logano "can be one of the greatest who ever raced in NASCAR." That's quite the compliment from someone who has 90 wins in NASCAR's top three series and is among the most respected drivers in the garage. After hearing about Logano from Scott Zipadelli, brother of No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) team crew chief Greg Zipadelli, JGR quickly signed the Middletown, Conn., native to a development contract in 2005.

Fast-forward three years to this past Saturday at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, where team owner Joe Gibbs and team president J.D. Gibbs were celebrating Logano's 18th birthday and eligibility to compete in NASCAR's top three series.

JGR will now make full use of that eligibility, as the racing prodigy is set to make his long-awaited NASCAR Nationwide Series debut behind the wheel of the No. 20 GameStop Toyota in Saturday's Heluva Good! 200 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.

After leading a rendition of "Happy Birthday" in the media center at Charlotte, Joe and J.D. Gibbs presented Logano with a 150-pound birthday cake designed to look like the Toyota he'll wheel for video game retailer GameStop. The Grapevine, Texas-based company signed on with Logano and the No. 20 team for his debut at Dover, along with subsequent races at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway and Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, while providing associate sponsorship for the remainder of Logano's 18-race Nationwide Series schedule.

Even though he'll be making his series debut this weekend, Logano already has relevant experience at the track known as the "Monster Mile." Last September in the season-ending NASCAR Camping World Series East race at Dover, Logano led three times for a race-high 79 laps before finishing second in the 150-lap race, easily clinching the series championship.

He'll again have excellent equipment underneath him this Saturday as he prepares to take the wheel for the team that leads the Nationwide Series in owner points. The No. 20 team, led by crew chief Dave Rogers, has notched an impressive six wins 13 races into the 2008 season, a feat made even more impressive in that the wins have been secured by three different drivers -- Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.

While Logano might think he's an "average Joe" off the track, he'll have an opportunity to prove once and for all that he is anything but in his Nationwide Series debut at Dover against some of NASCAR's most talented drivers.

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

Do you still feel like a regular guy even though you're an 18-year-old running in the Nationwide Series for Joe Gibbs Racing?

"I would rather drive race cars, for sure. But I still think I'm just your average Joe and a typical teenager despite all this stuff. I'm a racer. I wouldn't do anything different, ever, in my life. I wouldn't trade this for anything. All my friends are the same way. Racing is their life and that's the same way for me. A lot of people don't realize how much work it really is, but I'm having a blast and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I feel like I've been waiting my whole life for this, and I finally get to make my Nationwide Series debut at Dover. On top of that, I'm really excited about having GameStop on board for my first two races. To me, it's one of the coolest sponsors a driver could have."

Despite your youth, do you feel like you're ready to compete against the competition in the Nationwide Series?

"A lot of the guys start so young, now. I started racing when I was six years old. Years ago, people didn't start racing until they were 16. I'm 18 and I've been racing for 12 years now. I feel that's where it's different, but if you look at all sports, they're getting younger and younger. Joe Gibbs Racing thinks I'm ready and I believe I'm ready."

How confident are you that you will be competitive and maybe even win some Nationwide Series races this season?

"It's the same thing. It's just bigger, better and a tougher challenge. You have more guys and bigger tracks. That's going to be the biggest difference. It's still a race car with four tires and a steering wheel. You have to be confident. If you're not confident, then you're kind of wasting your time. There's a line between confident and cocky. You definitely have to be confident going into any kind of sport like that. It's a head game. I think you have to be confident to do this. At the same time, I know I'm stepping in great equipment and I have an excellent team that has already won six races this season."

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."

Dave Rogers -- Crew Chief, No. 20 GameStop NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing

You had Joey Logano testing with your No. 20 team for the first time at Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway. How did the test go and what did you learn?

"We really didn't have a lap time goal, but we were confident enough in Joey's abilities to go off his comments on what the race car was doing. We asked him what he thought of the car and he felt like it was a top-five race car and it would be capable of winning the race at Dover. Joey is a great driver and really intelligent, especially for his age. We just went down there and had fun and got to know each other a bit more. We practiced some green flag pit stops and some restarts and did some things we normally wouldn't do to break the ice with the team and have a refresher for Joey."

With the season that the No. 20 team has had thus far, will it be difficult for Joey to maintain the standard that you've set this year? What are your expectations for him?

"I don't want Joey going to Dover expecting to win. But I think setting goals is acceptable as far as what we want to achieve. Setting expectations there would really be a bad decision. We believe in him and we believe that we'll have success with him. As a team, we're confident that Joey is going to turn a lot of heads this year, even more so than he has in the past. It might take one race, it might take a month, it might take six months, but we feel our equipment is capable now, and we think Joey is capable of winning right now. But, so much of this sport is chemistry and getting the communication where it needs to be. That's going to be the variable we will need to work on the most. When he says he's loose, how loose is he? Or when he says he's tight, how tight is he? I think the best thing we have going for us is that we're really confident in Joey and Joey is 100 percent confident in the team. I think we're already off to a great head start because of that."

The Car

Chassis No. 2041: This chassis has run the most races of any chassis currently in Joe Gibbs Racing's Nationwide Series stable. Saturday's race at Dover will be the 47th race for Chassis No. 2041, dating back to its debut in the 2003 Tropicana Twister 300 at Chicagoland Speedway with former JGR driver Mike Bliss at the controls. While this chassis made its debut in 2003, it didn't get its first win until Denny Hamlin brought the car to victory lane in 2006 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. Hamlin also brought this same chassis to victory lane one year later in the same event at Darlington. In addition to the wins at Darlington, Hamlin drove Chassis No. 2041 to poles at Darlington, Dover (Del.) International Speedway and Chicagoland in 2007. Tony Stewart brought home chassis No. 2041's most recent win as he led three times for a race-high 90 laps en route to the victory three weeks ago, again, at Darlington. Logano shook down this chassis May 14 in a test a Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway.

-credit: jgr

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Drivers Tony Stewart , Mike Bliss , Denny Hamlin , Joey Logano , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing