DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Story by Race Chaser Online Correspondent Kyle Souza- Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images Photo–
Sunday afternoon when the checkered flag flew from high above the Daytona International Speedway, it was over a youngster who has quickly become one of NASCAR’s biggest stars.
When Joey Logano arrived in NASCAR in 2009 his first Daytona 500 ended up with him crashed in the tri-oval and out before the halfway point, devastated.
A move from Joe Gibbs Racing to Penske Racing in 2013 seemed to set off a spark in Logano and propelled him toward being the driver he always wanted to be.
“I think it’s no secret that I got thrown into the series too young, inexperienced, didn’t know what I had to do,” Logano said. “I started working my way up. Obviously the switch over to Team Penske, the best move of my career. To be here, get teamed up with a great team, it was an opportunity for me to regroup, be who I wanted to be as an adult, not an 18-year-old kid anymore, go out there and work hard.”
Logano, age 24, is from a small town in Middletown, Connecticut, became the second youngest winner in Daytona 500 history on Sunday. He only trails Trevor Bayne, who won the Great American Race at age 20 in 2011.
During the mid-point of Sunday’s Daytona 500 fans were starting to see Logano was extremely fast. After cutting through traffic to the front passed the haflway point, he and Dale Earnhardt Jr. became the top cars to beat for the late stages.
Logano was leading with under five laps to go when Justin Allgaier suddenly crashed at the end of the tri-oval and set up a green-white-checkered finish.
Logano got out front of the Great American Race late and had the lead on the final restart. He used drafting help from behind to jump out front and never look back.
A wreck in the back of the pack ended anyone’s chances of getting around, when NASCAR threw the caution flag when the leaders hit turn three. A charge from Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was halted dead in its tracks.
“I can’t really put it into words. It’s something that you can’t describe. I keep reliving over and over again what it was like down the back straightaway when I came off of turn two there, looking in the mirror, saw them crashing. Okay, you hope there’s a caution. But I think even that, they weren’t close enough to be able to make a run,” Logano said following his victory Sunday.
With the win Sunday, Logano practically guarantees himself a birth in the chase to the Sprint Cup Series championship. Last year, he made his way to the finale at Homestead and finished fourth in the overall standings.