MIKE O'HARA

NASCAR driver Joey Logano visits Lions’ OTA practice

Posted Jun 3, 2014

In a sport where it’s legal for drivers to nudge their competitors – sometimes harder than others – to gain an advantage, Joey Logano knows what it’s like to take a hit at speeds of 200 miles an hour.

Joey Logano has been around the NASCAR Sprint Cup tracks more times than he would care to count. At 24, he is a young veteran and a star at the highest level of his sport.

Logano has five career Sprint Cup wins, 67 top 10 finishes and he has won the pole position eight times.

In a sport where it’s legal for drivers to nudge their competitors – sometimes harder than others – to gain an advantage, Logano knows what it’s like to take a hit at speeds of 200 miles an hour.

Logano, who drives Fords for owner Roger Penske’s team, prefers a hit on the track to the hits football players take on the gridiron.

In a visit to the Lions’ OTA practice Tuesday, Logano said he prefers collisions on the track to those on the football field, even though contact in a stock car can be at speeds at least 10 times faster than in helmets and shoulder pads.

“I’m glad I’m in a race car.” Logano said, laughing. “These guys get hit a lot harder than a race car does. Obviously, we take some big hits in cars, but the safety in our sport has improved a lot.  Look at the seats, the helmets, the belts – it always keeps improving.

“Not that it doesn’t in football. I think it does, too. We take a hit maybe once in every 15 races or so on average. These guys are taking hits on every play. I feel my sport’s a lot safer.

Joey LoganoEric Ebron and Calvin Johnson talk with NASCAR driver Joey Logano (Photo: Michigan International Speedway)

“We may look crazy going 200 miles an hour and thinking that, but I’d much rather hit a wall at 200 than have a 300-pound linebacker coming at me.”

Reggie Bush is a racing fan and attended the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco in Monte Carlo two weeks ago. But Bush isn’t sure he’d rather crash at 200 m.p.h. than get tackled.

“That’s crazy,” Bush said, laughing. “I don’t know too many people who’d agree with that.”

Bush has an appreciation for the skill level drivers have.

“I respect them a lot,” he said. “It’s a completely different sport from what we do, but it’s not easy by any means. They’re driving 200 miles an hour plus, and that’s pretty scary when you think about it. A car crash can be life threatening for those guys. The margin for error is probably very slim.”

Logano played catch with Matthew Stafford. His left-handed delivery didn’t remind anyone of Kenny Stabler – or even Kellen Moore, the Lions’ No. 3 quarterback the last two years.

Logano saw similarities between his job and Stafford’s.

“The quarterback’s the driver,” he said. “To able to talk to him, kind of the stuff he goes through -- how they prepare for each event is really interesting. They might not have as many games as we do races, but they prepare a lot.”

For Team Penske, Logano drives the No. 22 Ford Fusion in the Sprint Cup series and the No. 22 Ford Mustang in the Nationwide series, which is one level below the prestigious Sprint Cup.

Logano was in town to promote the Sprint Cup event at Michigan International Speedway in the Irish Hills on June 15.

The Sprint Cup’s 10-event Race for the Cup is held every Sunday from Sept. 14 through Nov. 16, which keeps Logano from watching NFL games on Sunday until his season is over. Logano grew up in Middletown, Connecticut. His primary NFL rooting interest is for the New England Patriots, but he is familiar with some of the Lions.

“I recognize a few of the (Lions) names,” Logano said. “I don’t follow the game as close as I want. Really, it’s like any other professional sport. To make it to this level, you are the best of the best. I can imagine what that jump is from college to the NFL.

“It’s the same for us – from the Nationwide to the Sprint Cup.”

Penske is one of the iconic figures in auto racing, with success in both NASCAR and Indy cars. Penske’s attention to detail and meticulous management style is well known in racing and in his other business interests.

Penske’s work as chairman of the Host Committee for Super Bowl XL at Ford Field in 2006 has been cited as a major reason the event was such a success from an operational standpoint.

“I’m sure it was excellent, like everything else he does,” Logano said. “He’s an amazing person to me. Here’s a guy who’s got so many things going on.  He does a great job and wins at all of them. That’s impressive to me.

“It all starts at the top and works its way down.”