MONTE DUTTON – JOEY’S GRADUATION DAY
When Joey Logano was a teen-ager, he raced with full-grown adults, and while many of my colleagues were marveling at Logano’s skills, I was marveling at his age. I couldn’t believe he was older than 14.
Also, Logano spoke indistinctly, as if he had a mouthful of jawbreakers. I found that I couldn’t make out much of what he said unless I could see his lips move. Transcribing interviews from a recorder was difficult.
How could a kid who drove a race car have such a sheltered life? The single-minded obsession of a young racer had left him clueless about everything else.
He’s come a long way. It’s hard to claim that a teen-ager earning seven figures graduated from the School of Hard Knocks. Most racers go there, and the ones who are good graduate.
I had seen it before. Kid named Jeff Gordon. He wound up winning four championships. Now Logano has won one, too. Cue up “Pomp and Circumstances.” Nov. 18 was Graduation Day.
When Logano debuted in New Hampshire in 2008, some said he was the biggest thing since sliced bread.
They called him “Sliced Bread,” though it never grew popular enough for a garish announcer to yell, “… and ‘Sliced Bread’ Logano dives into turn three!”
He was a racer, custom-made and computer-generated. He had the benefit of every skill money could buy. Money couldn’t buy toughness. That Logano had to acquire in the Department of Adversity in the School of Hard Knocks, where he had no choice but to matriculate.
Now he’s 28, happily married to the former Brittany Baca, with a son, Hudson Joseph Logano. As a side note, I can now understand the words he says.
I used to say that Gordon was the driver I most admired, but Tony Stewart was the one with whom I’d want to have a few beers. Stewart was trouble. Stewart was worth it.
NASCAR hands out a gigantic trophy to the driver who wins the Monster Energy Cup championship. It makes sense for a Monster Cup to be a monster cup.
Logano deserved his championship as much as the game-show format allows. He won his way into the finals and beat three drivers who had enjoyed better seasons than he over the first 35 races.
That trophy is the point in a driver’s career when he officially, unquestionably, becomes a man.