Could Joey Logano be NASCAR's next Dale Earnhardt, or is Kyle Petty making a mistake with that comparison?
Joey Logano conquered the Bristol dirt race on Monday afternoon, earning him the honor of being the first NASCAR Cup Series driver to win a dirt race in 51 years. Fending off Denny Hamlin during a wild restart near the end of the race, Logano motored away from the field as the laps wound down and greeted the checkered flag first, bagging a playoff spot in the process.
Following the race, Kyle Petty compared Joey Logano to Dale Earnhardt Sr.
"Beat you onto pit road, beat you off of pit road, beat you around to the start/finish line, beat you for 10th position, beat you for the sixth position, beat you for the win – beat you, beat you, beat you," Kyle Petty said during the NASCAR on NBC podcast. "When he takes that helmet off, you want Joey to come to your house every day and hang out with you. He’s such a good guy. But he puts that helmet on, and he’s the caliber of the race car driver like a Cale Yarborough, a Dale Earnhardt Sr., a Richard Petty and a David Pearson and a Bobby Allison – that golden era where people weren’t friends. They were acquaintances, but they weren’t friends."
Getting compared to Dale Earnhardt Sr. is pretty much the highest praise a NASCAR driver can receive, but it's also a polarizing statement, especially given how Logano is already a dividing figure in the sport.
However, much like Joey Logano today, Dale Earnhardt Sr. too was constantly booed during his early years. Of course, this narrative has subsequently been retconned after his death in an effort to portray him as a gentle giant, but the two drivers drew similar reactions from fans.
And much like Earnhardt Sr. did, Joey Logano didn't let the boos soften his stance. He continued to race hard, even paying the consequences at times. That earned him respect from his fanbase, which has been steadily growing, with many seeing him and Kyle Busch as the Earnhardts and Pettys of this generation.
"Joey Logano already has them beat as Earnhardt Sr. used to, in a certain way,” Kyle Petty said during the podcast. “You heard (Chris) Gabehart say, ‘He’s the most aggressive guy in the sport. When the crew chiefs and other teams are acknowledging that, I’ve gotta think those drivers, when they get in their helmets, they acknowledge it too.'”
Such high praise from a veteran of the sport and the son of NASCAR's "King" Richard Petty is validation of how far the Penske driver has come and how much respect he commands from the rest of the garage.