CHARLOTTE – Joey Logano was years away from being old enough to buy a drink, or fast enough to win a title, when he made his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut in 2008.
Logano looked like a high-school kid climbing in a racecar, and with good reason.
It had only been a few months since he’d graduated.
Logano, then 18, qualified 40th and finished 32nd in the No. 96 Toyota for Hall of Fame Racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 14, 2008.
“My first race was terrible,” Logano said. “I’m still trying to forget it.”
He’s more open to discussing the lean times, though, since he’s closer than ever to winning a championship.
He’s on firm footing with Team Penske, one of NASCAR’s best teams, in one of its best cars, proving himself to be one of the sport’s best drivers at the same time many 23-year-olds are just finishing college.
Logano finished a career-best eighth-place in points last year. He gets a chance to better it this season, when the Sprint Cup schedule kicks off Feb. 15 with the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.
The race, for pole-winners and past Sprint Unlimited champions, will be televised at 8 p.m. Feb. 15 on FOX Sports 1. Logano’s No. 22 Ford is in the show thanks to his two poles last year.
Winning poles and races looked to be a sure thing when he reached the top of NASCAR’s ladder. Logano’s first Sprint Cup event, a week before New Hampshire, made him think he’d already arrived.
“I tried to make the race at Richmond (in the No. 02 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing), and I went out there for practice and was like fifth on the board,” Logano recalled. “I go to qualifying trim and I’m third quickest.
“I’m thinking, ‘This is awesome! This is going to be easy!’ Then it rained out qualifying, so we didn’t make the race. Then we go to (Loudon) and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, this is going to be easy. I’m going to go out there and be top-three on the board again.’”
“I ran about 35th most of the day,” Logano said. “It was ugly. My first four or five races were like that. It was not good. That’s part of it with the lack of experience, but I went through it. Where I am now is because of that. That’s the hard work you have to put in to try and move your way up the ranks.”
Two-time Nationwide Series champion Randy Lajoie nicknamed Logano “Sliced Bread” when he was a teenager – as in “the best thing since sliced bread.”
He became the youngest driver to ever win a Sprint Cup race when he won at New Hampshire in 2009, less than a year removed from the doldrums of his debut.
Logano's no longer just chasing wins. He’s going for championships now.
“It’s kind of cool to start from 35th and work your way up to eighth,” he said. “I feel like I have the potential to be way better than that, but I have to keep working on myself to realize that potential.”