Joey Logano was in his element.
Helmet strapped on, hands on the wheel, the Middletown native and NASCAR driver whipped around the corners of Foxwoods Resort Casino’s On Track go-karting facility.
Sure, the kart was a tiny bit smaller than the Ford Fusion he drives for Team Penske in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, but when the engine fired up and rubber hit the track, it was all the same.
“It’s a race,” he said with a smile. “It’s something about that helmet. You put that helmet on, and it cuts off the blood circulation or something, and your mindset changes completely.”
Logano was back in Connecticut for his fifth annual charity event, Driving Hope Home, at Foxwoods. Thursday’s events gave those in attendance a chance to test out the brand-new On Track go-karting facility, which opens to the public on Aug. 3.
Logano admitted he doesn’t get to come back to his home state as often as he’d like due to scheduling. So with his next stop in Loudon, N.H., this Sunday at the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, a stop in Connecticut for his charity event worked well.
“Connecticut is where I’m from,” he said. “It’s my home, it will always be my home. It’s not necessarily because of the location, but because of the people. That’s what I think home is all about. It’s nice to see everybody here.”
Logano was joined by two of his Team Penske teammates, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney. He explained that NASCAR is unique in the sense that on the track, it’s all about beating the other drivers. But off the track, there’s a sense of camaraderie.
“It’s pretty neat to see,” he said. “Brad and Blaney, we all support each other’s foundations. It’s neat because we get on the race track, we’re all cutthroat, we all want to win. But at the same time, we’re able to take our helmets off and do something really big with the platform that God has given us.”
Since 2013, the Joey Logano Foundation has donated $2.7 million to worthy charities. In 2017 alone, the foundation raised $930,788.60. This year’s installment of Logano’s event will raise money for both his foundation and the Ronald McDonald House of Connecticut.
“I think we can all appreciate what everyone does to support the community,” Keselowski said. “Being a race car driver is a privilege. There’s a lot of talented people out there. We’re one of the few who get to do it at the professional level. With that comes a lot of privilege, and with that comes a great responsibility to give back to the community.”
Keselowski has his own charity, the Checkered Flag Foundation. But an opportunity to work for the greater good and race at the same time never presented itself in the past.
Until Thursday, that is.
“It’s better than golf, that’s for sure,” Keselowski said. “Everyone wants us to play golf. We’re not golf drivers. We want to race something.”
Keselowoski turned to his right and beckoned Blaney.
“Blaney, can you golf?”
“Hell no,” Blaney responded.
The course at On Track carting was more than just the usual oval the drivers are used to. It featured sharp turns, elevated surfaces and several more challenges than the drivers were expecting.
The karts just got in this weekend, and the crew spent Thursday morning putting the final touches on the track.
“They did a really good job, the facility is really, really nice,” Blaney said. “The track is a lot of fun.”
Added Logano, “The race track is fast. Some areas are really fast, some areas are really technical. I think that’s kind of a cool mix between the two.”
Thursday was split into two sections — the junior and senior grand prix. Practice rounds were held in the morning, while the actual races were held in the afternoon. The teams were broken up by driver (Team Logano, Team Blaney and Team Keselowski).
As Blaney explained, it was a unique experience to give the participants an inside look at their careers.
“People who support Joey’s charity, they want to know what he does. He’s a race car driver,” Blaney said. “They can drive against him tonight. I think that’s a really cool thing. [Being a driver] isn’t really a job, it’s a privilege. To give other people a glimpse into it is just a bonus.”
That bonus was received well by participants. Steve Klucik, from Newtown, was on Team Keselowski, and is a NASCAR fan. His weekends are spent at car shows, watching races and hitting the go-kart tracks himself.
For him, a chance to race alongside some of NASCAR’s best was the opportunity of a lifetime.
“Couldn’t be more excited,” he said. “I’ll be on the team, but racing against [Keselowski]. Hopefully I’ll be able to run side-by-side with Brad or something. That will be a pretty epic memory.”