Mutual admiration: NASCAR’s Logano gets behind-the-scenes look at Dover Air Force Base

NASCAR driver Joey Logano smiles after receiving a small metal eagle given to him from the Fabrication Flight department at the Dover Air Force Base on Wednesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Usually when Joey Logano is thinking about coming to Dover, it’s the high speeds on the steep banks of Dover International Speedway, affectionately nicknamed the “Monster Mile,” that dominate his thoughts.

However, Mr. Logano, who drives in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, got a glimpse of some other monsters that reside in Dover on Wednesday — the massive C-5 Galaxies and C-17 Globemaster III cargo planes sitting along the flight line at Dover Air Force Base.

Mr. Logano, driver of the No. 22 Ford for Team Penske, got a behind-the-scenes tour of the air base in advance of the AAA 400 Drive for Autism Monster Energy Series race that will take place at Dover International Speedway on Sunday, May 6.

He got the chance to check out the 436th Maintenance Squadron Isochronal Maintenance Dock, where C-5s, the largest aircraft in the U.S. Air Force, are inspected.

Mr. Logano also had lunch with a couple of airmen who are NASCAR fans, watched a session with military working dogs and toured the Aerial Port and the Sheet Metal/Fabrication Flight Shop.

The wide-eyed Mr. Logano definitely didn’t take the experience for granted.

“It’s been incredible,” he said. “Anytime you get to go see these bases like this it’s special. I guess as a civilian sometimes I think we’re all kind of guilty of taking our safety for granted and some of the privileges that we have. That’s something we probably take for granted too often.

“I think these moments when you’re able to come and meet some of the individuals that are fighting for us and you see the back parts of their job and everything they do to prepare and be ready for combat at any moment it’s impressive. It’s the least we can do is to shake their hands and say, ‘Thank you.’”

Teamwork parallels

Mike Tatoian, president and CEO of Dover Motorsports Inc., knows a lot about the inner workings of Dover Air Force Base. After all, he is the chairman of USO Delaware’s Advisory Council and is a frequent visitor and avid supporter of the base.

He said that having Mr. Logano visit with the airmen was beneficial to both sides.

“First, I think it’s great for the airmen that are on the base that they realize that professional athletes are appreciative of what the young men and women are doing for our country,” Mr. Tatoian said. “What they do really allows a professional athlete to do what they do and live the kind of lifestyle they live and conversely, I think it’s important for Joey to be here and get a chance to meet them face-to-face.

Airman E2 Daniel Soto gets his photo taken with NASCAR driver Joey Logano at the Dover Air Force Base on Wednesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“When you go through what we’re visiting (at the base) there are a lot of parallels (with NASCAR). It is about teamwork and there is a lot of teamwork on this base and in the military and it does replicate what you see in a race team on race day and back at their shops. I think it’s great for both sides and I think they both appreciate what each other is doing.”

While visiting the Sheet Metal/Fabrication shop, Mr. Logano was presented with a handcrafted eagle perched atop the globe. He was taken aback by the unexpected gift.

He was also blown away by the detail and pride that every airman took in their jobs, whether it be in fabrication or in training airmen how to properly use their flight equipment.

“They’re a team all the way through and that’s probably the most impressive part is how they’re a huge team,” Mr. Logano said. “We have a hard enough time trying to keep 300 people on the same track, (I can’t) imagine having thousands of people on one base like they have here on the same track. That’s not easy to do.

“The details are another part to me that I see a lot of similarities. For us in racing we can’t afford to have a mistake, because you won’t win. Well, it’s the same thing, but it’s not winning here, it’s your life. The details, the small little things, that’s what really impresses me. All these little things have to work.”

Jordan Remington, a former airman who is now a civilian employee on base, along with his friend Staff Sgt. Chris Sharlow, got an opportunity to talk racing with Mr. Logano during lunch.

NASCAR driver Joey Logano autographs a metal eagle at the Fabrication Flight department at the Dover Air Force Base on Wednesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Mr. Remington and Mr. Sharlow have been friends since they were in kindergarten in Colton, New York, many years ago. They get together and watch NASCAR races whenever they’re on TV.

Mr. Remington, who has been watching NASCAR since he was 10 years old, admitted he was a fan of driver Brad Keselowski, but appreciated the chance to meet Mr. Logano, who is Mr. Keselowski’s teammate, face-to-face.

“It was actually really cool,” he said. “I’m a big Team Penske fan, so it was really cool to be able to sit down and have lunch with him, get to talk to him and we were able to ask him some questions and get answers from him directly.

“He was a very down-to-earth, awesome guy.”

Col. Ethan Griffin, commander of the 436th Airlift Wing, even swung by and shook Mr. Logano’s hand.

“It was fantastic to get to say hello to Joey,” the base commander said. “He’s visiting our airmen and getting to hear a little bit of what we do here at Dover Air Force Base. Our airmen got the opportunity, more importantly, to tell their story directly to him.

“I think that’s very important because we’re very proud of the mission that we do here.”

Revving up his engine

Mr. Logano, a 27-year-old driver from Middletown, Connecticut, has driven his way to 18 Cup Series victories during a career that has already spanned 10 years — but has yet to win a Cup race at Dover.

He has managed to finish in the top 10 in 10 of his 18 career Cup Series starts and has won four times in the Xfinity Series on Dover’s high-banked, one-mile oval.

This time around, Mr. Logano is aiming for that big Monster Trophy that will be awarded at the finish of the AAA 400 Drive for Autism on May 6.

“We’re second in points which is nice, but no wins, that’s not so nice. We’re consistent,” Mr. Logano said. “We’ve (finished) six out of seven races in the top 10 so we’ve been solid, our pit stops have been good and our team has been on point. That’s a big deal.”

Mr. Logano enters this Sunday’s race at Bristol (Tennessee) Motor Speedway in second place in the Monster Energy Cup points standings, 38 points behind leader Kyle Busch.

He is looking to break a winless streak of 34 races since he last took the checkered flag last spring in Richmond, Virginia.

“We have to get faster,” Mr. Logano said. “That’s another piece that we’re missing right now. The 18 (Kyle Busch), 78 (Martin Truex Jr.), 4 (Kevin Harvick), those cars are one step ahead of where we are. We’re kind of fourth through eighth.

“But we know how important wins are and we want to break through and get that win again.”

Maybe that breakthrough win will happen at Dover. If it does, he said he knows he will have earned it.

“Dover’s like Bristol on steroids,” Mr. Logano said. “It’s faster. It’s bigger. You’ve got the elevation changes as you go into the corners and it’s a physically demanding racetrack.

“Four hundred laps around here is one of the most physically demanding races that we go to as a driver. It’s a challenging, challenging racetrack and you’ve got to be focused all the time, especially if you expect to win.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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