Feb 23, 2020; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Joey Logano (22) celebrates winning the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Joey Logano has stayed busy over the past month.

The NASCAR champion had a great start to his 2020 Cup Series season but things have gotten more serious over the past month. The COVID-19 pandemic has altered how we all live our lives and sports has taken an understandable back seat to more important things taking place every day.

Since the NASCAR season stopped last month, Logano has pivoted his work more toward his foundation and helping as many people has he can through the pandemic. Partnering with Elevation Church, the Joey Logano Foundation has raised a million dollar “Response and Recovery Fund” and they have been providing meals as well as internet access for kids who might not have had the access that’s now needed in order to continue their education.

As a NASCAR star, Logano has been very much involved with philanthropy with his foundation over the years. Logano formed his foundation in 2013, which “provides aid to children and young adults during times of crisis offering them a second chance.” In those seven years, Logano’s foundation has invested $4 million across 28 states in areas that help young people in a time of need. In addition, the “JL Kids Crew” is an opportunity for kids “going through tough situations” to spend race day with Logano as they experience an unforgettable day as an honorary pit crew member.

In addition to his charitable efforts, Logano has also taken part in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series. Online racing has been a rare form of competitive entertainment that’s also safe in these quarantine times. While iRacing has been a fun escape at times, there have been some real-life consequences that have taken place as a result, namely Kyle Larson’s use of a racial slur in an online race for which he has been suspended from NASCAR and fired from Chip Ganassi Racing. Logano was recently on with Mike Tirico to give his thoughts on what happened. Logano is set to take part in this Sunday’s virtual race at Richmond at 1 pm et on Fox and FS1.

I got to talk to Joey about his charitable efforts and what he has been doing to help those in need. We also took a look at how the relationship between drivers and fans might change as we enter a time where we try to be more hygienic than ever.

Phillip Bupp: Before the season stopped, you had a great start winning two of four races. It’s unknown when the season might begin again, but with that uncertainty, does having those wins and being in the playoffs help in terms of having one less thing to worry about, especially when there’s more serious things happening right now?

Joey Logano: Yeah. I guess it does a little bit. I’m always going to worry about some things, but it’s nice to know that you do have a couple of wins in the bank and those playoff points that come along with it. What that means, we’re not sure [laughter] as the season goes along, what’s going to be in the future for our sport and our country and our world. I guess you kind of have that part in the back pocket, which is great, but right now, the focus is just how do we get back to the race track racing in a safe way? That’s the goal right now to try and figure that out.

Joey Logano in practice at Dover International Speedway. Photo: Phillip Bupp

PB: You’ve been a busy man in the past month, raising a million dollars through your foundation and the Elevation Church. In what way is the money going toward to helping those in need?

Logano: Yeah. Right now, when this whole idea kind of came up, at first I was with my wife and my team at Clutch Management just kind of talking about how do we come up with a way to impact in something in a big way and help people out? And we came up with all of these ideas and then we thought, “Why are we coming up with ideas where it takes time to come up with a plan? Why don’t we find an organization that has a plan in place because the need is right now? It’s right now. It’s not in three months from now. So let’s figure out a way to try to just pour fuel on the fire that someone else has already built.”

And so we teamed up with Elevation Outreach here in Charlotte, which is part of the Elevation Church and a place that my wife and I have gone to for many years and really believe in what they’re doing in our Charlotte region and across the country and across the world. So we wanted to team up with them and they have some great plans to help, whether it’s from education, to feeding people.

With food, we’ve given a thousand meals a day away for a week straight already. We’ve helped with a lot of different educational points. If you think of a lot of schooling may give computers and whatnot, but if you don’t have internet it makes it very tough to continue your schooling, continue your education. There’s just so many different areas to be honest with you. There’s just so many different areas that need help.

So we’re just kind of working together as one big team and be united and work through ways that we can make the biggest impact and get the biggest bang for the buck. We want to make sure that the money that we’re donating is going to the place that it’s needed the most. Whether it’s our money or people who have donated to the Joey Logano Foundation or Elevation Outreach, it’s our responsibility to make sure it goes to the right place.

PB: Well, you make a great point too about even people who mean well and want to do something, this can be overwhelming in terms of who do I help, what do I do and all this. And what you’re saying, and I agree, sometimes it’s just best to, “Let’s just do this now because people are in need, so much in need that we’ll help who we can and go from there.”

Logano: Yeah, I mean, we have other agendas that we continue to work on for when life goes back to normal in the areas that we typically work with our foundation. And those plans are all coming together still, but the need that’s here right now, we wanted to make an impact. Our foundation was able to save enough money to make a big moment here. And like I said, being united together as one right now across our country, that’s what it’s about right now. It’s not about trying to separate yourself and being the best at something. We need to be the best together right now.

PB: I got to talk to you a couple of years ago when you won the [NASCAR Cup Series] Championship and you also won the Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award, and you told me that winning the Community Champion of the Year was “as big as winning the driver’s championship.” And that’s not a line. I saw you. You were serious and you seemed more excited to have that opportunity to talk about helping others than winning the championship. What inspired you to have that kind of mindset about philanthropy?

Logano: Well, I guess the people you surround yourself with have a big influence on you. And I still honestly feel that way. That Community Champion Award sits right next to my championship trophy. They sit side-by-side. And I guess my wife probably honestly has the biggest impact on me. Obviously, probably does for most people. And she’s the one that kind of drove me this way to really fill the cup up. That was kind of what we talked about it. The championship trophy is cool, but it’s an empty cup at the bottom of the day. And how do we fill that up by helping people and making an impact with that trophy? So they go together.

God’s given me an amazing platform to go out there and be able to raise awareness for certain problems in our world or raise a lot of money for certain things and then blessed us with money to be able to help a lot as well. So those things is kind of what drives me now to race. It’s my reason why. I wake up and go to work in the morning to become a better race car driver, to do any part of my job better, is because I see the impact that we can make. So you end up taking a more of a selfless approach, which I think in ways has made me better.

PB: How do you balance the publicity aspect of it? It’s a catch-22 because you’re not trying to make it look like you’re doing it for the publicity, but at the same time, it’s important to reach out and show what you’re doing because you might be inspiring others to do what they can in their own communities.

Logano: It’s exactly right. It’s been something I’ve struggled with for years is that, well, you’re not supposed to boast about what you’re doing to help others, but in my position, as someone that’s more in the public eye, not as much as others, but quite a bit, you have the ability to influence others to live a life of generosity by showing what we’ve done, or to try to raise more money for the causes that we’re supporting. And to do that, a lot of times you have to be out there showing everyone what we’re doing.

I’m a true believer in when I see someone else doing something good, it inspires me to do something. A little bit of that competitive atmosphere comes out and be like, “I want to do that. I want to be in on it, and I want to keep going.” I get fired up about that stuff. So I hope that by someone else watching what we’re doing, we’re able to spark a little bit of a interest in helping each other.

My mission, a lot of times, is just get people to smile at each other and be happy. And right now, that’s hard, right? I mean, just looking for that silver lining in this whole dilemma that we’re in and pandemic, I mean, the goal right now is to say, “Well, what’s the bright side to this?” And it’s hard to find one. I’m going to be honest with you, it is hard to find a silver lining right now. But for me, I’m spending more time with my kid and my wife. She’s 37 weeks pregnant now, so I’m able to help out around the house a lot more than what I was going to be able to do. So there’s a lot of silver linings to this whole thing. Obviously, there’s plenty of tough sides, but where it’s tough, we need to be united and where it’s not, we need to have a positive attitude and try to breed off of that.

PB: Well, it also gives me a chance to write about something positive for once. For the reader and writer, we all kind of need that once in a while. [laughter]

Logano: Yes [laughter]. I could only imagine.

Photo: Joey Logano Foundation

PB: Oh yeah. Now, fan interaction is important and it’s a positive for NASCAR that drivers meet hundreds and thousands of fans on a race weekend. But this pandemic has taken a bit of a shock in terms of how we interact with everyone in everyday life. Whenever the time comes that cars will be back on the track and fans are in the stands, do you think things will change in terms of how drivers interact with fans of the track?

Logano: That’s a tough question to answer right now [laughter]. I think in the short-term, yes. It has to. For everybody’s safety, we have to be conscious of just what we’ve done in the past. Maybe we don’t shake as many hands [laughter] and maybe it goes to the fist bump or the elbow bump, whatever we’re doing now, when it gets back normal. Right now, we’re not even getting close to each other obviously. But I’m sure there’ll be a little bit of change there, but I think also we’ll stay true to our roots of what built our sport and fans have built our sport. And a lot of the ways we’ve done that is that we’ve been the most accessible sport out there. There’s nowhere else that you can go to your local Jiffy Lube and meet your favorite driver or wherever that may be and get to do an autograph session at this Discount Tire or whatever.

You don’t see NFL players, NBA players doing that very often. We do that every weekend. So, we definitely have a lot of contact with our fans and we don’t want to get away from that, but we might have to change a little bit the way we do it, especially here for the short amount of time when we get back going. So like I said, right now, the goal is just how do we get back on the race track and put a show on for our race fans?

There’s obviously a really big want to see live sports. You look at what’s going on right now with iRacing in the sim world, the ratings that it’s getting is unbelievable. I mean, over a million people are watching this. Imagine if we had real race cars on the race track right now [laughter], what that would be like. So it’s just a different world that we’re in right now. And the sooner we can get back, the better, but we also don’t want it to be too soon and affect people from a health standpoint. So there’s a very hard balance there to try to figure out.

PB: For sure. Well, I’ll let you go and keep doing what you’re doing. It’s great. And wishing all the best to you, Brittany and Hudson on the impending birth.

Logano: All right. Appreciate it. We could use all the luck we can get.

About Phillip Bupp

Producer/editor of the Awful Announcing Podcast and Short and to the Point. News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. Highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @phillipbupp