MONTE DUTTON - THEY’RE BLOSSOMING INTO MANHOOD
Once upon a time, Joey Logano was the biggest thing since sliced bread. “Sliced Bread” was an early nickname, a reference to the talent he showed at an early age. A double-edged knife did the slicing. Part of the nickname was tribute; part was sarcasm.
I hear he’s the biggest thing since sliced bread.
This year the bread is available in a variety of forms: English muffins, bagels, croissants. Many older drivers have moved on.
At the ripe, old age of 27, Logano is a veteran. He competed in his first three Cup races 10 years ago. He won a Nationwide (now Xfinity) race that year. Now he’s won 18 times in Cup, 28 in Xfinity, once in Trucks, twice in K&N West, five in K&N East, twice in ARCA, thrice in X1R ProCup and once, unofficially, in the Sprint All-Star Race.
So he’s got some perspective where the modern Sunbeams, Nature’s Owns, Paneras, Bakestones and Kingsmills are concerned. He’s been both praised and resented.
Another one-time phenom fresh out of the oven, Kyle Busch, expressed some recent annoyance at all the attention the fresh young muffins are receiving.
“Here is how I look at that,” Logano said. “NASCAR has to promote youth in our sport. They have to show that there is new, young talent coming into our sport. There are a lot of greats that have retired and will be retiring in the next few years, and we need to replace them with big names. NASCAR understands that, and I understand that. I get that. I don’t think it’s just a big push on young drivers.
“Yes, is there? Yes, there should be, but there is also a push on the current drivers that have been here and accomplished a lot already. I know that because you can turn on a football game that has a ton of people watching it, and they are promoting the Daytona 500 and who is on it? It isn’t William Byron and these guys that are just coming in. It is (Kevin) Harvick and me and Kyle Busch and Brad (Keselowski), Denny Hamlin – it’s guys that have been here a long time. They are still getting that love, or whatever you want to call it. That publicity. It is important for our sport to realize that we need to keep the eyes on the drivers that are winning and making sure that we show that the talent and what they have accomplished in our sport.”
The sport doesn’t need youth behind the wheels as it does youth in the grandstands and in front of the TV screen. If the kids don’t find something to which they can relate outside of video games, they are undoubtedly going to stay inside them.
“We also need to show the growth and youth coming into our sport,” Logano said. “I think, as a competitor and as somebody that wants to see our sport grow … I think this is important. NASCAR sees that. I get it. Selfishly, we all want the spotlight on us all the time. You want the spotlight on your sponsor and what you have done. You want to get the credit when you win races. You will get that. If you win the races, they are going to have to talk about you. I think also, there is a big story right now with young drivers coming in, and that’s great. I don’t really know where I fit into it because I’m about the same age as (some of) them but I’ve been here for 10 years. It’s kind of weird.”
It was weird 10 years ago, too.
Now little Joey Logano has grown up.