INSIGHT: Last-lap glory a long time coming for Logano at Atlanta

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INSIGHT: Last-lap glory a long time coming for Logano at Atlanta

Opinion

INSIGHT: Last-lap glory a long time coming for Logano at Atlanta

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Finally.

Joey Logano needed one word to encapsulate his victory Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Logano’s No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang dominated the day by leading every lap on his way to winning the first stage, barely missing out on winning the second stage and leading a race-high 140 laps led.

Logano pulled off his first Atlanta win in dramatic fashion. After going toe-to-toe with former teammate Brad Keselowski over the final 15 laps, Logano made a last-lap pass.

“We’ve been so close so many times here,” Logano said. “To get a win, it’s meant so much to me — just the memories. I was here when (Kevin) Harvick got his first win. I remember watching that from the grandstands and how cool that was.”

Harvick’s victory was in the spring of 2001, three weeks after the death of Dale Earnhardt. It was a turning point for the sport and shot Harvick, who was making just his third career start, to superstardom. Being in that same position as a NASCAR Cup Series driver was still far off for Logano.

But Atlanta would come to mean just as much to Logano and why his victory meant just a little more than an ordinary triumph. The memories he mentioned came from all the time the Logano family spent in the area and at the racetrack.

“Racing here with my parents running Legends cars,” Logano said. “Thinking about the first time we drove down here and driving through the infield tunnel and thinking this was the biggest racetrack we’ve ever been to. We were just down visiting and we met Kenny Ragan, who runs Legends of Georgia — David’s dad.

“He said, ‘Why don’t you race a Bandolero and give it a shot.’ We did that day. He let us rent one for the weekend, and we raced and then came back down here about six months later when we moved and started racing right here. Ran so many races.

“There are so many memories of showing up here … Wednesday nights and Thursday nights, we’d race. Our race shop was two miles up the road. I lived in the condo up there.”

In the FOX Sports broadcast booth for the Saturday Xfinity Series, the camera showed the condos over the racetrack, Logano mentioning his former living quarters. A graphic of his incredible performance on the Atlanta quarter mile as a young driver and the many races he won was also displayed.

Battling to the last lap with Keselowski made the Atlanta win dramatic, but it was more his family history there that made it so special for Logano. Nigel Kinrade/Motorsport Images

But winning a NASCAR race at the facility didn’t come as easy. Before Sunday, Logano was 0 for 18 on the big oval, and his best finish was a second-place result from 2013. It had been one of only two top-five finishes for Logano at Atlanta.

“The dream was always to race on the big track,” Logano said. “Every time you run that quarter mile over and over again, the dream was someday I just want to go straight and hit the big banks. That’s what it was about for me.

“I guess this win here is for those kids; I got to meet a lot of them this weekend. I’m sure you saw them around, a lot of kids that race. It just shows you keep working hard and chasing your dreams, and the dream of always driving a Cup car into victory lane came true today. It was really neat.”

Not all drivers get to experience a full circle moment in their careers. And the longer a career goes spans, as Logano’s has with two championships, over 30 wins, including some of the sport’s biggest, and 15 years at the highest level, the less likely it is that a win will mean anything more than another trophy to go in the display case.

Logano got his long-awaited full circle moment and his 32nd career win that is more than just a win.

“That was cool,” Logano said of sharing that with his father, Tom, who met him on the frontstretch after he climbed from the car. “Obviously, I didn’t see him coming. I think that was neat to see that. There’s been plenty of times he’s run out to the start-finish line to give me a hug here, maybe 20-something years ago.

“This was kind of an emotional win when you think about what Atlanta Motor Speedway is all about to our family, the memories that are made here. This is one that we’ll definitely remember forever. It’s cool to have my dad here to celebrate with.”

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