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