Tony Stewart proudly proclaims that he’s shown you don’t need to hit the gym to be a successful race car driver. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his team emptied a beer cooler after winning at Pocono last August.
There’s no question those two are among the biggest draws in NASCAR, coming across as down-to-earth, good ol’ boys that your typical race fan can relate to.
Joey Logano, for whatever reason, has yet to resonate with fans in that regard. He admitted he “didn’t know how to party” after winning the Daytona 500, laughing at himself but also suggesting why he might not have the fan base as others.
Logano typically receives a mixed reaction when introduced before races. Some believe he comes over as entitled and arrogant after making such a quick climb to racing’s top circuit, while others appreciate his talent and potential.
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What does Logano make of it all?
“Some of them love me, some of them hate me, but that’s OK,” said Logano, who was on hand Tuesday at Texas Motor Speedway’s media day at the House of Blues as the reigning Duck Commander 500 winner.
“At least they’re saying something. Driver intros are the tell-all. How many cheers you get, how many boos you get … basically how much noise you get is the tell-all for how things are going. As long as they’re making noise, I’m happy.
“When you walk out and it’s quiet, it’s a lonely feeling. At least they’re saying something.”
Seeing fans so divisive over Logano is an interesting case.
On the surface, it seems as though Logano should be one of the more well-liked drivers. Off the track, he has an easy-going attitude and takes ribbing in stride from other drivers for his constant squint when he smiles.
He also hasn’t been scared to stand up for himself on the track. Logano has had an ongoing feud with Kevin Harvick since he famously said Harvick’s wife, DeLana, “wears the firesuit in the family” after a 2010 race at Pocono.
Logano also didn’t back down from Stewart following a 2013 race at Auto Club Speedway.
“That’s the kind of guy I want,” TMS president Eddie Gossage said. “I don’t want a guy who is going to shrink from things.”
But Logano is also a guy who was nicknamed “sliced bread” in his early racing days, as in he’s the best thing since. The Connecticut native was billed as the LeBron James of NASCAR at a young age, destined for glory.
And it took him a while to achieve it. Given his success of late with a Daytona 500 win earlier this year and five wins in a breakout season last year, it’s easy to forget that it hasn’t been that easy for Logano.
He lost his ride with Joe Gibbs Racing after the 2012 season at age 21, and was fortunate enough to catch on with Team Penske. That’s when he began to resurrect his career.
The perception by some, however, remains that he’s been handed everything in his career.
“He didn’t skip any rungs in the ladder; he just climbed it faster because he’s so good and his skills are so superior,” Gossage said. “And he’s stumbled and had to find his own footing in the sport.”
Logano has certainly done that and it’s remarkable to think he’s in the middle of his seventh full-time Cup season at just 24. He has plenty of years ahead of him, and all signs point to them being championship contending-type years.
Gossage alluded to Logano possibly becoming the “next Jeff” Gordon in the coming years. Before he hosted Saturday Night Live and helped elevate the sport to new heights, Gordon wasn’t the most beloved driver by fans.
That’s changed over the years and maybe it’s just a matter of time before something similar happens for Logano. After all, winning has a way to do just that.
As Gossage said, “Winning solves everything.
“But Joey has a great personality, too, and he’s a great young man. Everything that I know about him personally is clean-cut, All-American, all those kinds of things.
“I’m a big Joey fan.”
Texas Motor Speedway schedule
▪ Xfinity: O’Reilly Auto Parts 300,
April 10, 7:30 p.m.
▪ Sprint Cup: Duck Commander 500,
April 11, 6:30 p.m.
▪ Trucks: Winstar World Casino 400,
June 5, 8 p.m.
▪ IndyCar: Firestone 600, June 6, 7 p.m.
▪ Trucks: Winstar World Casino 350,
Nov. 6, 7:30 p.m.
▪ Xfinity: O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge,
Nov. 7, 2:30 p.m.
▪ Sprint Cup: AAA Texas 500, Nov. 8, 1 p.m.