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NASCAR fans walk away with winner's autograph

Steven Hanser of Sanbornton was all smiles as he posed for a photo with NASCAR rookie Joey Logano. Logano, driver of the Number 20 Home Depot car, was at the Tilton Home Depot last Thursday to meet fans prior to winning the race Sunday at N.H. Motor Speedway. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
July 01, 2009
TILTON — Joey Logano, the 19-year old Sprint Cup driver of the Number 20 Home Depot Toyota, calls New Hampshire Motor Speedway "home."

NHMS is the closest track to his hometown of Middleton, Conn., and he won here in the Campers World RV race when he was younger. On Sunday, the rookie out- strategized top drivers like Jeff Gordon by waiting for a weather caution before a necessary stop for fuel and tires.

Before Sunday's successful venture for the young driver, NASCAR fans lined up on Thursday afternoon to meet him at an autograph session. A long line wrapped around the store in Tilton as the crowd wound their way to the platform where Logano awaited them. He took time with each fan for photos, signing his name on a variety of racing memorabilia. Seated beside him was his famed crew chief, Greg Zipadelli, who drew a lot of attention as well.

Logano had to leave his seat to autograph one item- the hood from a car he wrecked during a race once at Connecticut's Lyme Rock Speedway. Gary Trombley of Hartford, Conn., explained to Logano he obtained the unusual souvenir from a friend who had been a crew chief at Lyme Rock. Logano laughed, "Oh wow- I remember that wreck. I try to forget about that night!"

Steven Hanser of Sanbornton was patiently waiting for his time with Logano. Hanser was there with his mother, who works at Home Depot. He arrived with a bold number 20 painted on his cheek in Logano's familiar orange, white and black paint scheme. Hanser was impressed that, unlike other drivers he had met in the past, Logano was not only on time, he was actually early.

"I like that," Hanser said. "Most driver's are late showing up. He's not my favorite driver, but he's a new driver and I'm going to wish him well."

Hanser said meeting a driver in person is a great experience. "People just look more real in life than in the magazines and on TV," he said after posing for photos with the driver. "This was very good. We only had to wait about 30 minutes."

Store manager Lisa Cornish was kept busy making sure everything ran smoothly for the autograph session. Cornish had the chance to meet with Logano when he arrived and was happy to have him at the Tilton store.

"This is very exciting," she said. "Joey and his family are very personable."

Well-wishes were called out as, one by one, people walked away with prized autographs. The Lanciani family from Westborough, Mass., had driven all the way to Tilton that day just for the chance to meet their son Nick's favorite driver.

"We couldn't miss this. We're going home tonight but we'll be back on Sunday for the race," they said.

Another out-of-town group were the Fletchers and Vales from Ontario, Canada. It was the family's first trip to NHMS, said mom Brenda Vale, and the family was enjoying the sights and especially the chance to meet a driver. Nine-year-olds Brock Vale and Brayden Fletcher were all smiles as they held up their autographs from Logano. Meeting the driver, they said, was a highlight for their trip to New Hampshire.

Each year Home Depot tries to give race fans an opportunity to get up close and personal with the driver of the Home Depot-sponsored race team. In the past, Tony Stewart has appeared at Home Depot stores throughout the area. Logano, new to the number 20 car this year, enjoyed his first trip to the Tilton store, thanking all of the fans for taking the time to drop in and meet him.

"This is my second time racing (Sprint Cup) in New Hampshire," Logano said. "I made my debut at this track last year. It's a great place to come to and I want to thank all the fans who came out today to say hello."

Those happy fans can now say they met the winner of the 2009 Lennox Industrial Tools 301 race.

Martin Lord Osman
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