Joey Logano is a NASCAR phenom. Joe Gibbs Racing, one of the sport’s top teams, signed him when he was 15 years old. At 18, he is one of the top drivers in NASCAR’s second-tier Nationwide series, and next year he will take over Tony Stewart’s No. 20 Home Depot car in the elite Sprint Cup series, racing alongside stars such as Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Joey also drives an Olympia ice resurfacer.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to call Joey the Sidney Crosby of racing. NASCAR people have been talking about him since he was 12 years old. Veteran NASCAR driver Mark Martin famously called him “the real deal” adding “I am high on Joey Logano because I am absolutely, 100 percent positive, without a doubt, that he can be one of the greatest that ever raced in NASCAR.”
Denny Hamlin, one of Joey’s teammates, said the 18-year-old is “the future of Joe Gibbs Racing.”
But when Joey was growing up, he played two sports. He raced and he played hockey.
Joey grew up in Middletown, Conn., and started racing and skating when he was 4 years old. His father, Tom, bought him an eight horsepower go-kart to drive around the 14 acres that surrounded the family garbage business. The go-kart was a double-seater, so father and son could ride together. Within 24 hours, however, Joey was driving it by himself. The next day, his father bought him a bigger go-kart, which his son soon mastered.
“It’s been like that my whole life really. Racing was with me the whole time,” Joey said.
But he also made time to play hockey. He skated up once he started playing, but then one day his house league team didn’t have a goalie and Joey volunteered.
“They scored 11 goals on him his first game, and he got off the ice and said he had a blast,” recalled Tom Logano.
It may have been an auspicious beginning, but Joey continued playing in goal in his house league until he was about 10 years old. When it came time to choose between the two sports he played, Joey had no problem with the decision.
“To me it was a non-brainer, because I was better at racing than I was at hockey so I just went with it. I’m very competitive, so whatever I’m better at that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.
Several years later Tom Logano sold his business and decided to move the family.
“I just got sick of the winters and wanted to move south,” he said.
The Loganos drove their motor home to Georgia and parked it outside an ice rink so daughter Danielle could figure skate. The family lived in the motor home in the rink parking lot for a week before they settled down. As Joey continued to move up in the racing world, Tom decided to move the family to Charlotte. He also decided to build an ice rink.
At the time there was only one sheet of ice in the Charlotte area, so the Loganos partnered with Mike and Maureen Mulhall to build the Extreme Ice Center, a two-sheet facility, in the Charlotte suburb of Indian Trail.
Not long after the move, Joey was signed by Gibbs Racing. Signing any athlete at 15 years old is a risk, and it’s no different in NASCAR.
“It’s a big risk for a team like that. They spent a lot of money developing me,” Joey said. “They took a risk on me and, so far, it’s paying off for them.”
Last year Joey won the NASCAR Camping World East Series title, one of the sport’s regional series. He had to wait until he turned 18 to move into the Nationwide series, which features younger drivers along with some of the sport’s proven stars, such as Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer. Joey’s third race in the series was at Kentucky Speedway on Father’s Day weekend. Joey won it going away.
“It was like a dream, you look back at it now and say it was incredible,” Tom said. “The competition at that level is very tough, and to be Father’s Day, it was like a dream come true.”
It may seem like a fish-out-of-water story; a kid from the Northeast making such a mark in the most southern of sports. But Joey says NASCAR is no longer a regional sport.
“I don’t think it’s a southern sport at all. It is a mix that’s for sure. There are a lot of people from up North, and drivers come from everywhere. That’s good for the sport. Back in its roots it was a southern sport, but there are a lot of race fans up North; diehards,” he said.
The rink has been open two years now, and even though racing keeps him busy it’s not unusual to find Joey out on the ice enjoying his second-favorite sport. But success has not changed the kid who grew up in go-karts and goalie pads.
“So far so good; he hasn’t changed a bit,” Tom said. “You get him in front of the cameras and he’s very professional. You get him home and it’s constant horsing around, telling jokes. He’s an 18-year-old happy kid.”
“He’s just a normal kid,” said Mike Mulhall, “He’s very well grounded. You wouldn’t know he was a NASCAR driver.”
Mulhall, who is also a District director for USA Hockey, says that occasionally NASCAR fans make their way to the rink hoping for a glimpse of Joey. He’s hoping that the rink can reach out to those race fans and get them excited about hockey whenever they come looking for their favorite Olympia driver.
“In the beginning, we had to slow him down a bit [on the ice resurfacer],” Mulhall joked, “but he didn’t go through the walls or anything.”