Logano flying high as No. 1 Cup rookie

Joey Logano could be pulling up to nine Gs this morning and zipping along at up to 1,500 mph while strapped in the cockpit of a U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds jet.

That ride poses less risk than had he spent this afternoon across the road from Nellis Air Force Base in the infield of Las Vegas Motor Speedway taking verbal shots at a four-time Sprint Cup champion.

"Flying with the Thunderbirds will be a lot more fun," the 19-year-old Cup driver and 2009 rookie of the year said Tuesday.

No doubt he wanted to be among the top 12 drivers in the Cup series and one of the 11 drivers roasting champion Jimmie Johnson today in the speedway’s Neon Garage during the Chasers for Charity Fanfest from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

(Go to lvrj.com/motorsports for more details on Champion’s Week events.)

Logano, who finished the Cup season 20th in points with one win, said he wouldn’t have felt comfortable throwing jabs at Johnson.

"Anyway, going up with the Thunderbirds is something I’ve wanted to do my whole life," he said. "It’s an opportunity I probably never would have gotten if it wasn’t for racing."

He will be feted Thursday afternoon as this season’s Raybestos Rookie of the Year at the Venetian along with other special award winners during the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards luncheon.

He’s the youngest driver to earn the award and became the youngest Cup winner when he finished first in the rain-shortened June 28 race in Loudon, N.H., which is 180 miles from his hometown of Middletown, Conn.

"It’s really cool to get the Raybestos award. That’s something you only get one shot at," he said with a laugh as big as he is thin. He will share a $114,000 top rookie bonus with his team along with the $5.3 million he won in Cup races.

He beat out veteran open-wheel and sports car racer Max Papis and former Formula One driver Scott Speed for the honor.

"Sweet. I didn’t know the rookie of the year award paid that much," Logano said, adding, "Wow, maybe I can buy the car I’ve been wanting."

He’s a tough driver on the track and remains a wide-eyed teenager off it.

He has been modest throughout his first full Cup season after being elevated to replace Tony Stewart in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota when Stewart announced his plans late last year to start his own team.

"If Tony hadn’t left, I probably would have run a full (NASCAR) Nationwide series this season with maybe some Cup races at the end of the year," said Logano, who won five of the 22 Nationwide races he entered this year.

And he probably wouldn’t be soaring above Southern Nevada today.

Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at jwolf@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0247.

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