KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Jokes are not Mark Martin’s thing. Neither is wild exaggeration.
So when the respected NASCAR racing veteran started making incredible, almost fantastic statements about a driver who was barely a teenager, some listeners didn’t know how to react.
Was Martin serious? What point was he trying to make? Too many exhaust fumes? People kept waiting for the punch line.
Now, four years hence, the racing world has its answer: Martin was serious and perhaps prophetic when he declared Joey Logano to be the future of the Sprint Cup series.
Thirteen starts into his Nationwide series career and one week away from taking a shot at making his second Sprint Cup start – at Kansas Speedway, no less – Logano indeed looks to be the “real deal” that Martin began touting back in 2004.
In his 13 Nationwide races, he has a victory and nine top-10 finishes. He has also won two poles.
The first time he fired up a Sprint Cup car for real, two weeks ago in Richmond, he was ninth fastest in practice. Jaws dropped.
Some have called him the next Jeff Gordon.
Gordon called Logano “tremendous” and said last week, “It’s pretty impressive what he’s been able to accomplish and do. I think he’s great for our sport.”
Logano was born in 1990 in Middletown, Conn., where his father owned a garbage collection business.
Logano was a couple of years short of kindergarten when he first piled into an 8-horsepower yard kart. His father, Tom Logano, remembers those days.
“He used to drive it between the Dumpsters (on the family property) and trailers and that thing would be bouncing and fish-tailing – and he was like 4 years old,” Tom Logano said. “Me and the mechanics (who worked for the garbage-collecting company) were like, ‘If this kid doesn’t get killed, he’s going to be good at this.’ ”
Yard karts are for kids, Joey soon figured. Now water tankers, those are big-boy rides.
“We used it to keep the dust down,” Joey Logano said of the family tanker. “When I was 7, after school, I would go over (jump in the tanker) and he’d (his dad) let the clutch out for me because I couldn’t reach the pedals. I’d drive this big old tractor-trailer rig with a big old tanker behind it.”
They don’t race water tankers in this country, but they do have something called quarter-midgets. Logano, who “sucked” at stick-and-ball sports as a kid, was immediately a great racer.
“I found something that I enjoyed and I was good at it,” Logano said.
His father was shocked by how good.
“Things come hard for us,” Tom Logano said of his family. “We can work hard, hard, hard and can be a little above average, and that’s about it. But Joey (in racing), is well above average.”