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Joey and Tom Logano at Joey's Nationwide debut at Dover, June 2008. 
(Dan Stanley Photo)

September 20, 2008


You have to listen when Kenny Schrader speaks. A couple of years back, when we published his book Gotta Race!, Professor Schrader mused, “I wonder how many millions of dollars Jeff Gordon has cost people. Unintentionally, of course. It was never his idea that so many frustrated racers out there would decide their pension plan would be a son or a daughter who makes it to Daytona.”

Over the last season, the situation seems to have gone berserk. Pit areas across the country are awash in teenagers with peach fuzz chins wheeling far more lavish equipment than many seasoned veterans can afford. Talk to one of these kids – or their fathers – and you know their objective immediately. Often they are quite open about not even wanting to race at the short tracks. They covet NASCAR and TV stardom.

Given all of that, it was fascinating to sit down with Tom Logano at the Sylvania 300 at NHMS earlier this month. Tom’s son Joey, the jewel in the crown of America’s motorized teenagers, was making his initial Cup start, after a beyond-sensational sweep through the ARCA, Camping World, and Nationwide series.

You don’t hear from Tom what you would expect. He’s a gust of fresh air about racing and parenting.

“I was never into racing myself. This is Joey’s thing. His sister’s is skating. My wife Deborah and I have been lucky to be able to support both of them after we sold my business.

“Joey got hooked on this so young, and I went along with it as part of our relationship, as a way to have fun together. I began to realize that he was above average when he won the three-quarter midget grand nationals three times by the time he was nine. Even then he wanted to race all the time. Deborah had to put her foot down about things like racing on Christmas weekend.

“Then when he was 12 and won the Legends nationals and Mark Martin took notice of him, I realized this could be more than a sport for Joey – a career. I was no racing fanatic, but I knew that Mark Martin must know about racers! A couple of years later, Mark made some very positive public statements about how good Joey is and that blew me away.

“When Joey was15, we signed a long-term contract with Joe Gibbs Racing, and I understood just how big this could be. Everything picked up momentum – through the miracle season in Camping World and that first Nationwide win this year.

“When we heard that Tony was leaving, Joey asked me to call Coach and JD. I did and the four of us had a meeting. I just sat there listening. Joey said, ‘I want that ride. I think I’m ready. I’ll have a learning curve, but I can do it.’ Coach told me that he made up his mind to go with Joey right then.

“I never dreamed anything like this would happen. You cannot believe how the phone started ringing for appearances. Some people get disgruntled with media. Not Joey. He says bring it on.

“It’s Deborah and me who keep holding him back. I want him to first enjoy life and then to focus on racing. I don’t want some agent who is constantly signing him up for appearances. I tell him, ‘Go out with your girlfriend. Have fun!’ It’s so important for his life to be balanced. That will be hard next year when he runs both Cup and Nationwide.

“We love Joey to pieces so I have always been so concerned about his safety. The legends cars were the most scary to me. Joey was so young; they were so fast. I went to Atlanta ten times to work with Jim Downing to modify a HANS device for kids. I also went to ButlerBuilt to have that seat technology brought in. I’m glad I had the time to do it.

“NASCAR is really careful, and I’m secure with it, given soft walls, the CoT, foam, etc. If anything happens today, it’s in God’s hands. To be honest, Deborah and I are much more worried when Joey’s out in his boat on the lake!

“I get so many calls from parents asking how I did it for Joey – and how they can, too. I keep saying I didn’t do anything. I just followed my son. Bottom line is that you gotta win races. Go race for enjoyment and let things take their course. If your kid doesn’t excel, that’s fine. Let’s be honest. 99% of them don’t. I played softball until I was 35. I knew I’d never be a pro, but I still enjoyed it.

“I feel so bad about families putting up their homes to fund their kid’s racing. That famous Denny Hamlin story doesn’t happen too much. Much more often, kids can be forced into something they, deep inside, might not even want to do.

“Love is blind. Some families go down the road looking at things only one way – on a mission. You’ve got to stop occasionally and reevaluate. Be real. We have tried really hard to do that. If Joey decided to quit today, that would be fine by us. He will still be our son – and it will have been an amazing, fun ride.

“In the meantime, Deborah is really good at helping us with that balance. You can bet that Joey will be home for Christmas.”

© 2008 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181

Joey aboard the #96 Gibbs car at his NHMS Cup debut. 
(Dan Stanley Photo)

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.: Previous Tearoffs :.

9/1/08 - One Night at The Park

8/20/08 - Transitional Technology

8/6/08 - Wallace on Wednesdays

7/19/08 - Star(ter) of the Show

7/7/08 - McUnderdog

6/18/08 - The Night Buzz Was Worried

6/5/08 - John Richards - Boomer Role Model

5/20/08 - The Spirit of a Racer

5/1/08 - Bobby's Blues

4/15/08 - Thinking About Rene Charland

3/26/08 - Carl and Corey

3/4/08 - A Cool Track with Cool Racers

2/14/08 - Doug Wolfgang

1/25/08 - Frankie Schneider

1/7/08 - When Drivers Can't See

12/21/07 - When Starters Couldn't See

12/1/07 - Ride Along with Erica Santos

11/15/07 - Tough Drivers

11/1/07 - Cockpit Safety

10/15/07 - That First Race

10/1/07 - Racing Nicknames

9/15/07 - Too Many Officials

9/1/07 - The Look of a Real Driver

8/15/07 - Being Dale Junior

8/1/07 - Armond Holley

7/15/07  -  Red Farmer