Early Monday morning, Dale Earnhardt Jr. released a lighthearted tweet saying he would be “disappointed” if his Twitter timeline wasn’t soon bombarded with photos of Joey Logano “smiling widely and squinting harder than any human has ever squinted.”
Junior was referring to the traditional whirlwind media blitz Logano will take part in after capturing his first Daytona 500 victory in Sunday’s 57th running of The Great American Race.
On Sunday afternoon, Logano held off Earnhardt, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and a host of other cagy veterans to take home the coveted Harley J. Earl Trophy that every driver dreams of winning but most never do.
Logano, whose media tour will include various stops in New York City, including a visit to the “Late Show with David Letterman,” along with numerous radio and TV interviews, will no doubt be smiling quite a lot along the way.
As he should be. Winning the Daytona 500 doesn’t happen often or to everyone. The accomplishment is one to be savored and treasured forever.
But here’s the thing about Logano, a gregarious 24-year-old Connecticut native whose short but once promising career had stalled before he joined team owner Roger Penske’s organization in 2013: If he hadn’t won Sunday’s Daytona 500, he would still be smiling — and yes, squinting — a lot.
It’s simply who he is.
How often does he smile?
“All the time,” Brittany, his wife of a little more than two months, said at Monday morning’s Daytona 500 champion’s breakfast at Daytona International Speedway.
“He does that sometimes when we fight, too, and it drives me insane. He’s like, ‘I’m really sorry,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, it drives me crazy.’ But I do love it.”
Even if there is the occasional playful ribbing involved.
“Brittany says she hopes I don’t smile in the race car because I won’t be able to see where I’m going,” said Joey, referring to his tendency to squint every time he smiles.
All jokes aside, Brittany admires the fact that her husband, who struggled for awhile to find his way after joining NASCAR’s top series with high expectations in 2009, almost always manages to keep a positive attitude in both the good times and the bad.
Is Logano always happy?
“He is,” Brittany said. “He really is. That’s not a facade, either. He’s always like that. Just easy-going.”
But what makes him that way?
“I don’t know,” Brittany said. “I guess the way he was raised. And I think all the pressure on him with racing and stuff, I think that’s the only way he can deal with that pressure, you know? Just getting his mind off of it.”
To help cope with the enormous pressure that comes with Daytona Speedweeks, the Loganos slipped away to nearby Disney World on one of the days when cars weren’t on track.
On the morning of the Daytona 500, Logano didn’t seem overly anxious or confident about his chances.
“He just went into it like it was another day, just another race,” Brittany said. “He went to Disney World a few days before and got his mind off of it, and went out to dinner and just talked like normal. That day of the race I was like, ‘Do you want bacon? Do you want eggs? What do you want for breakfast?’ So we just acted like it was a regular day. I think that’s how you have to be.”
But as the laps in the Daytona 500 began winding down with Logano in the lead, Brittany — watching her first race as his wife — was a ball of nerves. So much so that she couldn’t decide if she wanted to watch the race from Logano’s pit box or on a TV inside the couple’s motorhome.
“That way, instead of being a psycho on the pit box, I could be a psycho on the bus by myself,” she said with a laugh.
What began as an ordinary day ended in extraordinary fashion with Logano taking the checkered flag and the caution flag at the same time, and then later spending the evening and night basking in the glow of an accomplishment that ranks as by far the biggest of his young career.
And now, no matter what else he does or doesn’t accomplish in racing, Logano will forever be a Daytona 500 champion.
But to Brittany, he’s so much more.
“That doesn’t matter,” she said. “He’s just Joey.”
This article was originally published at FOXSports.com on February 23, 2015.