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Joey Logano Reveals the NASCAR Legend who Played a Huge Part of his Early Career
“I wouldn’t be sitting here today if it wasn’t for Mark Martin," Logano says of his career and mentor.
Prior to forging a successful stock car racing career — currently highlighted by his two NASCAR Cup Series Championships — Joey Logano was an adolescent prodigy who put grown men to shame on several a race track. But he recognized that, despite showing tremendous talent at such a young age, in order to be a champion, he needed to refine his skills. And what better way to do that, than to be coached up than by NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin?
“It’s so interesting how that all played out with Mark, and how much he helped me in my career,” Logano said in a recent episode of NASCAR’s Untold Stories. “I wouldn’t be sitting here today if it wasn’t for Mark Martin.”
Arguably the best driver to ever compete in the NASCAR Cup Series without winning a title, Martin came so close to capturing a championship, finishing as a runner-up five times while scoring 40 Cup race victories. Though he went without a championship, Martin never let that define him, giving him a unique perspective as a mentor for an up-and-coming wheelman like Logano.
Martin is also featured in the new video to celebrate NASCAR’s 75th anniversary, and he reflected on what it was like to see a young Logano embarrass a field of adult drivers on the track.
“I saw Joey race legend cars which are the hardest things in the world to drive,” recounts Martin as he heaped praise on the current wheelman of Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford Mustang. “I think at 10 years old racing in the pro division. I’m talking about the grown-ups. I saw him whip them and I was like... ‘He’s gonna be a NASCAR champion. He’s going to be a Cup champion.’ I knew it from the time he was 10 years old.”
It's not every day that a rising athlete is mentored by one of his heroes, and Logano, who’ll soon trade paint in Kansas during the second race of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, elaborated on how their special bond took shape.
“Mark ended up buying our elite model for his son Matt, and so we kind of built a relationship a little bit,” reminisced Logano of now-retired stock car driver Matt Martin. “We tried to put a deal together with [auto company Roush Performance], and we just couldn’t make it work. But, in the meantime, while we’re trying to make it work, they gave us one of their older Cup cars that was retired and said, ‘Here, just go play with it.’”
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Soon, though, playtime would be over, and the Hall of Famer would put Logano’s emerging talent and his competitive spirit to a test, one that No. 22 remembers fondly.
“We’d go to local short tracks that were nearest and then sometimes they go test at Lakeland,” continued Logano. “[I] went down there with him, and we ran two days of testing. He had his full Cup team, like their preseason test. I think I was 14, running this Cup car out there, and I couldn’t go as fast as Mark, and I was so frustrated, and I remember just like so clearly, he came up behind me, and I’m 14, so all I can do, even though it’s a test, I’m like, ‘I gotta keep Mark behind me.’”
For the then-green Logano, despite a valiant effort, keeping the racing icon at bay that day would ultimately prove to be futile.
“I’m just trying to drive, and he came and just punted me out of the way,” Logano added. “Later on, we figured out we had a different set of tires than what they had. ... I felt way better about it. But for two days, I didn’t say anything, and I thought I sucked! But he was still a little faster than me, don’t get me wrong, he’s Mark Martin.”
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The journey with Martin was made even more memorable when Logano made it into the Cup Series and got to compete against his childhood hero.
“To think about, that was just one of the cars I rooted for, and then getting to know him and racing with his son, and then forming a relationship and ultimately racing in the Cup Series against him — like I said, it’s nuts.”
“When kids tell me now that they’re going to be out there racing with me, I believe it," Logano added. "I believe it because it definitely can happen.”