DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) – Before this year, Joey Logano was barely old enough to drive, let alone drive at Darlington Raceway. So it didn’t hurt having one of NASCAR’s all-time greats in Cale Yarborough show him around.

Logano is the 18-year-old phenom settling into the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing seat given up this season by Tony Stewart. On Wednesday, Logano toured the track “Too Tough To Tame” with five-time Southern 500 winner Yarborough.

“This is one of the track’s where I wonder what’s going to happen,” Logano said. “So to have one of the greats in Cale show me is really neat.”

The 70-year-old Yarborough has certainly mastered NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway, succeeding when the Southern 500 was among the sport’s crown jewels.

Only David Pearson (10), the late Dale Earnhardt (9) and Jeff Gordon (7) own more Darlington victories than Yarborough (5).

That’s one reason Logano was all ears listening to Yarborough.

“This is one of my secrets,” Yarborough told Logano. “You got to get as much power as fast as you can coming out of turn two. Now, I don’t tell that to everybody.”

Yarborough drove a Jeff Gordon racing school car with Logano in the passenger seat as the car edged closer and closer to Darlington’s famed wall.

“There were a couple of times I was hanging out there, thinking this is something,” Logano said.

Logano’s has struggled in his inaugural Sprint Cup season. He stands 33rd among points leaders. His best finish – and only time in the top 20 – was a 13th place at Las Vegas nearly two months ago.

“It’s been the biggest jump we’ve ever made,” said Logano, with a wide grin on his face. “These Cup cars are so different. It’s just going to take time.”

Just as it did at Darlington for Yarborough. He first raced here as a 17-year-old – “You’re an old man here now,” Yarborough joked Logano – in 1956 with a teenager’s drive but cars that couldn’t hold up to the rough, tire-chewing surface.

Yarborough’s car once famously flew the fence at Darlington in 1965 in what had been a string of frustrating races at his home state track.

As Yarborough matured, he said his equipment, teams and skill improved. The South Carolina native grew up only a few miles from Darlington, and felt few thrills as big as when he took the checkered flag for his first Southern 500 in 1968.

He added four more Darlington trophies to his Hall of Fame career and became the first to win three straight NASCAR championships (1976-78), a feat matched last season by Jimmie Johnson.

The Logano ride-along won’t be the last time Yarborough drives Darlington this year. The track announced later Wednesday that he would serve as the honorary pace car driver for the Southern 500 on May 9.

Logano knows what he’ll be up against next month.

Darlington has never been kind to rookies, especially those whose only seat time came as a passenger.

At a tire test here last month, Logano jumped into rental car as JGR teammate Denny Hamlin drove the track. Did that give Logano a good feel for the 60-year-old track? “It was a rental,” Logano joked.

Yarborough retired from NASCAR in 1988, two years before Lagono was born, so Logano’s only exposure to the racing great were replays and stories passed down by NASCAR drivers.

Logano, though, is eager for as much counsel as he can get. He worked with Yarborough’s contemporary, Donnie Allison, before last month’s Atlanta race. Logano’s bounced things off of former Gibbs’ Nationwide racer Mike McLaughlin.

“About anybody I can ask, I will,” he said.

Logano expects to take much more away from his time with Yarborough. The youngster knows, however, that nothing will replace him finally getting to pilot his Toyota at Darlington.

“It’s going to be one of the toughest places we’re going to go. It’s going to be one of the hardest,” Logano said. “Who knows? Maybe we’re going to go fast.”


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