NASCAR: Logano enjoys racing his 'childhood hero'

Posted Aug 19, 2013 by John Duarte
At the age of 23, Joey Logano has his racing career ahead of him, but he enjoys few things more that racing against the man who is all but responsible for him being in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Joey Logano completes a burnout after winning the Pure Michigan 400  at Michigan International Speed...
Joey Logano completes a burnout after winning the Pure Michigan 400, at Michigan International Speedway. on Aug. 18, 2013.
Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images
“It was crazy racing Mark Martin, my childhood hero. I can honestly say I wouldn't be sitting here today without him.” Logano said from Victory Lane. “I was able to race against him in Pocono last year for the win. It is so cool racing against a guy like that.”
Logano finished this weekend's Pure Michigan 400 exactly where he started it, at the front of the pack. The win held special meaning for Logano, who drew attention from NASCAR nation at the age of 14. Oddly enough, it was Martin who was one of Logano's biggest supporters. Martin finished 27th.
It was Logano's first win of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season and it wasn't an easy one by any means. During a restart on Lap 178, Logano was trying to pass Martin, who was leading the race, but couldn't seem to make it stick, even though Martin was trying to save fuel.
“I noticed he was lifting early, because I was catching him on entry (into corners),” Logano said. “I wanted to get by him because I knew the 29 (Kevin Harvick) was fast too.”
Logano did eventually get by Martin, who finally had to bring his car into the pits on Lap 197, and fought off a charging Harvick for the final three laps of the race to win by just over one second. Kurt Busch finished third.
Logano led 51 of 200-lap Pure Michigan 400 and said he just tried to remain focused and drive the race.
“You just got to show you want it more than them,” Logano said. “Just have to go aggressive. That's what you have to do to win these things.”
Although not looking too far ahead in the season, Logano said the win was important for himself and for the team, which has been working hard to make him a contender. He added that consistency is the key from this point on if he is to be a true challenger. He currently sits in 13th place in the drivers' standings.
“We needed this to have a shot at getting close in The Chase,” said Logano, who moved three places closer to being in the list of 12 drivers who are part of the Chase for the Sprint Cup during the final 10 races of the season. “We're close now. But we can't make any mistakes.”
It was not a banner weekend for current points leader Jimmie Johnson. He wrecked his primary car on Saturday, which forced him to rear from the rear of the field Sunday despite the fact he had qualified in third place. Johnson did manage to lead the race briefly, during a round of pit stops at Lap 43, but eventually succumbed to a blown engine having completed only 54 laps.
“The engine broke,” said the series' point leader, who last weekend clinched his place in The Chase. “Definitely an unfortunate thing. We had plenty of speed in the car and I think we were going to be a factor.”
Chasing Johnson are Clint Bowyer, who gained 36 points on the leader and now is 41 points back, and Carl Edwards, who is now 51 points behind Johnson.
NASCAR goes under the lights for the next Sprint Cup Series event. The Irwin Tools Night Race runs at Bristol Motor Speedway, in Tennessee, on Aug. 24, 2013.