DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — By Jason Christley, NASCAR — NASCAR File photo — Joey Logano had barely finished with the post-race television in Victory Lane when Kevin Harvick walked over to offer his congratulations.
It was a surreal scene at the time, as the then 16-year-old Logano stole the spotlight from Harvick, in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series race at Iowa Speedway in May of 2007. Harvick, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran, was just a day removed from winning the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Logano was a relative unknown.
Fast forward to Wednesday, where Logano and Harvick share more in common than being former NASCAR K&N Pro Series champions. The two drivers are among the 16 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Could Logano have envisioned, as a teenager, that he’d someday be competing against Harvick for the sport’s biggest prize?
“Of course you think that,” Logano said Wednesday. “That’s what your goal is. And you’ve got to believe in that, you’ve got to believe in yourself.
“Is it still a dream come true? Yes, because I was dreaming about it. But it’s something I had my mind set on doing.”
Logano and Harvick were among the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who spent the day at 16 different locations as part of the unprecedented ‘Chase Across North America’ media tour. Logano visited Talladega Superspeedway, while Harvick traveled to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn. As the drivers spread out across the United States, Canada and Mexico, to talk about the next 10 weeks of the season, it was a good reminder that some of the sport’s top stars trace their roots from NASCAR’s touring & weekly series.
After his Iowa win, Logano went on to win the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship. He was the first in a wave of fresh, young drivers to come through the NASCAR K&N Pro Series on their way to the national series — a path followed by drivers such as Trevor Bayne, Austin Dillon, Darrell Wallace Jr., Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson. Logano’s breakthrough came in the first year in which NASCAR lowered the minimum age from 18 to 16 to compete in the touring & weekly series. It has since been set at 15 for the touring series, and 14 for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
“It is a good stepping stone to get to this level,” said Logano.
Harvick won his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship under the old NASCAR Winston West banner in 1998.
The Chase field nearly had three former K&N Pro champions in the field, but Larson came up just short in his rookie campaign.
Among other notable touring & weekly series accomplishments for the 2014 Chase drivers:
• Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch was the 1999 NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour champion, a year after he won the rookie of the year honors in the now-defunct series. Both Kurt and his brother Kyle raced at the Bullring At Las Vegas Speedway, a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series sanctioned track. Kyle had 10 wins and finished fifth in Late Model points at Las Vegas in 2001.
• Greg Biffle nearly won the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship in 1995. Biffle won the track titles at Portland Speedway and Tri-City Speedway in West Richland, Wash. He finished tied in points with five-time national champion Larry Phillips for the Pacific Coast Region. Phillips won the tiebreaker by virtue of more wins (32-27) and claimed the overall crown as well.
• Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin are former track champions as well. Edwards won the 2000 title at Capital Speedway in Holts Summit, Missouri, while Hamlin took home the crown in 2003 at Southern National Raceway Park in North Carolina. Hamlin also won nine times between 2003 and ’04 at South Boston Speedway in Virginia.
• And Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s first NASCAR victory came in a Late Model at South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway.
The NASCAR touring & weekly connection doesn’t stop once the drivers reach the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
• Ryan Newman has become a familiar face on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour stops at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway. He has four wins in 17 starts since 2008, driving a Modified for Sprint Cup crew chief Kevin “Bono” Manion. And before he joined Richard Petty Motorsports, Aric Almirola picked up the victory as a late substitution for Dale Earnhardt Inc. in the 2008 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Dover International Speedway.