2023 Feb3 Joey Logano Main Image.jpg

Logano: ‘I’m going to be Jeff Gordon’s worst nightmare’

In 1997, Joey Logano was a 7-year-old kid learning the ropes in his quarter midget in Connecticut.

A quarter century later, the 32-year-old enters the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season as the defending champion, a two-time title winner who‘s enjoyed 31 points-paying wins in 14 full-time campaigns.

His growing statistics — and family — are about the only things that have seemed to change for the hard-charging driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford.

RELATED: See Joey Logano’s stats | 2023 Cup schedule

The aggression Logano shows on track today is not a new or learned trait; it’s been ingrained in him from the start.

“The Hartford (CT) Courant did an article about kids racing quarter midgets and stuff,” Logano said. “And so they asked me a couple questions and I said, ‘I’m going to be Jeff Gordon’s worst nightmare,‘ and I was 7 years old racing quarter midgets. That was my goal.”

A photo of the original article that ran in the Hartford (Connecticut) Courant

Shawn Courchesne, who authored that article, remembers his first trip to Tom Logano‘s “shop” in Portland, Connecticut, well. It was far less a race shop and far more a business headquarters — “a pretty significant building” that housed the large sanitation business the elder Logano owned and operated. Oh, and the family‘s quarter midget racers.

“I met Tommy and met Joey and Deb [Joey‘s mother] and Joey was very quiet,” Courchesne told NASCAR.com. “I mean, he was 7 years old and I think he was just shy about everything. And when he did speak, you could tell there was a confidence that he had in himself, but it wasn’t like arrogant. It was just a 7-year-old kid who was totally excited about what he was doing and the success he was having.”

Courchesne covered motorsports for the Courant for nearly 19 years before founding RaceDayCT in 2012, which covers motorsports in New England as the name implies. But there was something unique about Logano‘s situation that Courchesne couldn‘t shake.

“We kind of had this rule that we tried to avoid writing stories about the youth motorsports thing in the same way we try to avoid writing certain stories about Little League teams because you felt like if you did one, you would get 150 parents calling the next day: ‘Well, I want you to write about my kid now,‘ ” Courchesne said. “I still to this day think it’s so interesting that we chose to do Joey. It just seemed like it was different than anything else we had heard or seen before. And then ultimately, that choice that we made was the kid that made it to the top and won a NASCAR championship and did all that he’s done.”

Logano and his family found early success as Joey won two track championships at Silver City Quarter Midget Club in Meridan, Connecticut, in the summer of ‘97, taking home titles in the Junior Honda and Junior Super Stock divisions. By October, he‘d won 17 Honda features and 24 in Super Stock.

But standouts at the youth level weren‘t always uncommon, leaving Courchesne with hints of hesitancy — at first, anyway.

A photo of 7-year-old Joey Logano courtesy of the Hartford (Connecticut) Courant in 1997

“Even with as much success as Tommy was talking about they had, you know, in the back of my mind, it’s like, ‘yeah, I’ve heard of a lot of quarter midget kids that have had this success, and does it really get you anywhere?‘ ” Courchesne said. “But what I do remember is that Tommy was all in at that point. He was like, they’re gonna make this work, and we’re gonna go places with this. And you heard that from a lot of people, but there was something about Tommy’s passion at that point.

“And obviously, I knew they had the resources as a family to make things work, which we all know is super important in motorsports, but it just felt like wow, this one does feel a little different. Like I feel like they can make this work.”

Indeed, the Loganos made it work — and quickly. Courchesne and the Courant kept close tabs on his progress even as he moved south to begin bringing those NASCAR dreams to life. Fast forward some 11 years from that inaugural interview, and Logano was climbing behind the wheel of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for his rookie season in the Cup Series.

Despite moving to Georgia early in his racing pursuits, Logano leaves no doubts his allegiance still lies with New England.

“They never walked away from their roots in Connecticut,” Courchesne said. “And when Joey made it to the top levels, he still came back to Connecticut all the time to do fundraisers to help people, to do appearances with certain groups that you wouldn’t expect a Cup driver to come do appearances with.”

In 2021, Logano returned to Silver City after donating to the track, helping fund the track‘s first repave since 1975. And he continues supporting the track and its racers today, backing a program connected with the facility that grants families new quarter midgets for their kids to pursue their own racing careers.

As for the 7-year-old Logano who dreamt of being Jeff Gordon‘s worst nightmare?

“I don’t think I ever actually became his worst nightmare, but that was my goal,” the 32-year-old Logano said.

He did, however, beat him head-to-head on a green-white-checkered restart in 2014 at Texas Motor Speedway, charging from third to first and powering around Gordon‘s famed No. 24 Chevrolet for the victory on the final lap.

WATCH: Logano bests Gordon in last-lap thriller

“That was just the coolest, full-circle thing for me,” Logano said. “It doesn’t mean as much to Jeff, right? But for me, that was a huge deal, and having that whole full-circle thing. […]

“At least I beat him once. So that part was cool. I told him that story. He got a kick out of that.”

Now, Logano prepares to defend his second Cup Series championship starting with the exhibition Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM). And oh, by the way, Logano enters as the defending winner at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum too.