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Logan Wagner at speed. - JACK KROMER PHOTO

LOGAN WAGNER Wide Open

Even though he was 36 hours removed from the birth of his second child, Logan Wagner had no thoughts of slowing down.

“We’re still rolling,” he noted with a laugh, “When you’re living the lifestyle we’re living you just go, go, go, and now the little guy is going to tag along. We’re very busy, but we just go with the flow.” Christmas was just days away, but baby Otto and Wagner’s wife, Kim, were doing well, while three-year-old Amelia was adjusting to the presence of a new face in the household.

In this family the agenda is always cramped. There are careers to manage, children to raise and a racing habit that still has a strong heartbeat. In addition to a new arrival, the Wagners had plenty to celebrate last year. By nailing down his fourth straight Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway sprint car championship, he join Keith Kauffman as the only driver in track history to pull off this feat. That alone was plenty to savor, but holding off Lance Dewease to win the Tuscarora 50 put a bow on the season.

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Logan Wagner celebrates winning the Tuscarora 50. – Dan Demarco photo

Wagner unquestionably benefitted from being born into a racing family, but while that nudged him toward the track, the steps he took from there have been largely up to him. In the end, his journey has provided perspective.

There are few racers alive who don’t dream of devoting every moment to the sport and crisscrossing the country with a premier traveling series. Much can still be accomplished within parameters and a mark can be made in the madcap world of sprint car racing even if you don’t stray too far from home. Wagner serves as a textbook example of this assertion.

Logan Wagner’s father, Mike, owns a body shop and knows what it takes to try to put food on the table and while also racing. It has always been easy to find action within reach of his Harrisonville, Pa., home, but he has also hit the road chasing the All Star tour.

Almost from the minute they were born, Ellen Wagner was bundling up her boys Michael and Logan for trips to Pennsylvania race tracks. On those evenings, she dutifully sat in the stands and kept one eye on her husband and another on her children.

“My mom would put a blanket down between the bleachers so we wouldn’t fall,” Logan recalled. “My brother would fall asleep, but I would stay up as long as I could.”

Soon Michael and Logan were tooling around on karts and they briefly raced quarter midgets. Logan Wagner eventually turned his attention to motocross racing but may have been prompted to return to four wheels when his older brother made the move to 305 sprint cars.

Mike Wagner was not going to be pushy. While he was prepared to support his boys interest in racing, he needed to assess if the necessary drive was present.

“It didn’t matter to me,” the elder Wagner said. “If they wanted to do it, fine. If they didn’t, that was fine too. When they were young they didn’t know anything different.

They just went to the races. But they didn’t take it too seriously early on. They didn’t come up to the garage or body shop and they weren’t into the mechanical stuff.”
For an old school guy, these were key considerations. Still, he sensed Logan had potential.

“I knew pretty early that he was going to be a good driver. One time we were down in Hanover picking up parts for the race car, so I stopped by Bobby Allen’s shop,” Mike Wagner explained. “Logan wasn’t very old and I asked Bobby if he could sit on my lap and drive one of his go-karts around his track. Bobby said sure. There wasn’t anybody there, but as soon as we got going fast and the car got sideways he counter steered to keep it from spinning out.” After a brief pause, he added with a touch of amazement, “I wondered how he knew to do that.”

When Michael and Logan dove into 305 sprint racing everything changed. From the start one thing was for certain, if this program was going to go forward, a hands-on approach was required.

“Dad bought a frame at a flea market for $400, sat it on the floor and said, ‘Here it is,” Logan Wagner said, “we are going to build it together. I’m going to show you how to operate this deal.”

At first the boys relied primarily on dad’s used pieces, but Logan recalls they were constantly buying and selling parts in order to put a competitive car together. Once it was clear that they were serious about the project, one of Mike’s longtime supporters Curtis Hershey of Hershey Auto Machine also lent a hand. “He helped us get the most bang for our buck,” Logan said, “and he also helped me when I started my 410 program.”

The role Mike Wagner played in launching Logan’s sprint car career cannot be minimized, but he still had his own team to attend to as well.

“Dad went out and raced his 410 on Saturdays,” Logan explained, “so it was often just me and my brother.

Sometimes I asked Michael to go out and warmup before me and then I would ask him if it was a wide open race track. If it was I knew I could put my foot flat on the floor and go as fast as it could go. I didn’t know lines. I didn’t know where the slick spots were on the track. I just wanted to know if the place was wide open are not. I got to test the waters with him and try to learn what to do. He helped me progress more than anybody in my early career.”

Eventually the brothers raced against one another.

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