SATURDAY'S NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Dover International Speedway will attract more attention than usual.
Joey Logano, hailed as The Next One, makes his Nationwide debut, driving the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Heluva Good! 200.
Logano just turned 18 last Saturday, the minimum eligibility age for NASCAR racers. But the Connecticut native has been racing since his father, Tom, put him in a go-kart when he was 4.
When Logano was 12, he raced a late model for the first time. Three years later, after seeing Logano race, Mark Martin proclaimed that the teenager eventually could be "one of the greatest who ever raced in NASCAR."
Hearing such compliments, how does a young man maintain the same hat size?
"I focus on one race at a time," Logano said on a recent conference call. "That's kind of how I treat life, one day at a time. As long as you go out there and win races, that stuff [expectations] will take care of itself."
Before Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Martin said: "I don't think NASCAR's ever seen anything quite like Joey Logano. I predict he's going to bring a lot of excitement to NASCAR yet this year."
Logano dominated the ARCA series race at Rockingham, N.C., earlier this month, leading 257 of the 312 laps on his way to beating veteran Ken Schrader by more than 4 seconds.
"He embarrassed the competition at Rockingham," Martin said.
Last year, Logano outran Kevin Harvick, another Sprint Cup series veteran, in a race at Iowa Speedway.
Handling Dover's banked "Monster Mile" won't be a new experience for Logano. Last year, he finished second in the NASCAR Camping World Series East race at the track, yet clinched the series. Logano led the most laps (79) in the 150-lap event.
With his life revolving around racing, Logano has been home-schooled. He said he attended a Catholic school in Connecticut through fourth grade. Then the family moved to Georgia. They now live in North Carolina. He said he hasn't missed attending high school.
"I've kind of been doing this my whole life, so I don't know anything different," he said. "I have friends who are my age, but they all race."
Most kids don't have T-shirts with their names and faces on them. Logano was 9 when his first T-shirts were printed.
"We didn't sell them. We just wore them around and gave them to friends," he said.
Penalties handed down
The crew chiefs for Chevy drivers Scott Riggs and Johnny Sauter were fined $100,000 each and suspended six races for tampering with the cars' rear wings during Sunday's race at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Riggs and Sauter were docked 150 driver points each.
Meanwhile, in the wake of an altercation after Saturday's Nationwide race, Tony Eury Sr., crew chief for Brad Keselowski's No. 88 Chevrolet, was fined $1,000 and placed on a month's probation. Two crew members also were put on probation.
Pocono not for sale
The annual "Pocono Raceway is not for sale" statement was issued this week. Dr. Rose Mattioli, the track's secretary/treasurer and wife of Pocono chairman Dr. Joseph Mattioli, was responding to Bruton Smith's recent purchase of Kentucky Speedway.
Speculation had Smith buying Pocono and moving one of its two Sprint Cup races to Kentucky. Rose Mattioli stressed that Pocono will be led by their grandchildren. Brandon Igdalsky, one of the grandchildren, is the raceway's president.
As expected, Smith's son, Marcus, was announced as the new president of Lowe's, replacing Humpy Wheeler, who stepped down last week.
Kahne's confidence soars
With consecutive victories at Lowe's Motor Speedway in the Sprint All-Star race and the Coca-Cola 600, Kasey Kahne feels he is Chase-worthy. Kahne holds 12th place in points, the final Chase for the Championship berth.
"We had two really good weekends and a good test leading into there," Kahne said yesterday during Car of Tomorrow testing at Pocono. "It can definitely change a season around [and] give a team some momentum and confidence. I definitely got more as a driver. It's been fun to drive again the last few weeks."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the fastest driver during Pocono testing, with a lap of 167.302 mph.
This week's race
Best Buy 400 Benefiting Student Clubs for Autism, Dover International Speedway, Dover, Del.
When: Sunday, 2 p.m.
TV/Radio: Fox/WXTU (92.5-FM), WNPV (1440-AM)
Race course: 1-mile oval
Race distance: 400 miles/400 laps
Last year's race winner: Martin Truex Jr.
Last year's pole winner: Ryan Newman, 152.925 mph
Track qualifying record: Jeremy Mayfield, 161.522 mph (June 2004)
Track facts: Newman was runner-up in last year's race; Carl Edwards was third. Edwards won the fall race at Dover ... Truex' victory last year was his first in the Cup series ... Newman (2003) is the last driver to sweep Dover's races. Newman also won the fall 2004 race ... With sixth- and seventh-place finishes in the last two races, Matt Kenseth has climbed to 16th in points. He is 190 points out of the 12th and final Chase for the Championship spot. Kenseth has qualified for all four previous Chases ... The weekend kicks off with the Craftsman Truck Series race tomorrow at 5 p.m. The Nationwide race is Saturday at 3 p.m.
Wins: Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards, 3 each; Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, 1 each.
SPRINT CUP STANDINGS
1. Kyle Busch (1 last week) 1,860 -
2. Jeff Burton (2) 1,766, -94
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr., (3), 1,721, -139
4. Denny Hamlin, (4), 1,596, -264
5. Clint Bowyer, (5), 1,578, -282
6. Carl Edwards, (7), 1,538, -322
7. Kevin Harvick, (9), 1,517, -343
8. Tony Stewart, (8), 1,511, -349
9. Jimmie Johnson, (6), 1,493, -367
10. Jeff Gordon, (10), 1,486, -374
11. Greg Biffle, (11), 1,483, -377
12. Kasey Kahne, (14), 1,454), -406
13. David Ragan, (12), 1,398), -462
14. Ryan Newman, (13), 1,369, -491
15. Martin Truex Jr., (15), 1,291, -569
16. Matt Kenseth, (20), 1,264, -596
17. Juan Montoya, (16), 1,263, -597
18. Bobby Labonte, (19), 1,258, -602
19.Travis Kvapil, (18), 1,240, -620
20. Brian Vickers, (17), 1,203, -657
Up next: Pocono 500, June 8, Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pa., 2 p.m.; TV: TNT.