By Team Ford Performance Correspondent
Hundreds of Make-A-Wish Foundation children have visited NASCAR tracks and drivers over the years.
NASCAR drivers participate joyfully in this cause, one which grants wishes to children with life-threatening or chronic diseases.
But few of the driver-child relationships develop like that of Ford Performance driver Joey Logano and Gavin Grubbs, a 14-year-old from Harrisburg, Arkansas.
Grubbs, who has muscular dystrophy, was granted his wish – to attend the Daytona 500 – six years ago, and it came with a bonus. Grubbs met Logano, his favorite driver, and they have been close friends for the past six years.
Logano was only 19 years old when he received the request to participate in Gavin’s wish. Logano readily accepted, and he made the occasion even more special for Gavin by making a surprise visit to Harrisburg.
Logano flew into the small town Jan. 22, 2010 and surprised Gavin as the highlight of an event at Harrisburg High School. Gavin attended the Daytona 500 the next month, and the two have continued to stay in touch since then via phone calls, texting and visits.
The relationship advanced to the point that Gavin served as a groomsman at Logano’s wedding.
The Gavin-Logano story has been featured on CBS News’ 60 Minutes program, one of the most widely viewed hours on television.
“Sometimes you meet people and you just instantly connect,” Logano said. “You have that feeling of being comfortable with someone. We just hit it off, and we’ve kept that relationship going over the years.
“We talk on the phone a lot. He’s a good kid. He’s inspirational not only to me but to a lot of people in how he does things. For a young kid, he’s very knowledgeable about what life is all about and the bigger picture. I think it’s a blessing to have him in my life in that way.”
Gavin said he chose Logano as his favorite driver because of his youth.
“When he was young he was the youngest driver to win a race, and that really stuck with me,” Gavin said. “I decided to become a fan.”
Logano says Gavin is “the most brutally honest person you’ll ever meet. He’ll tell you how he feels.”
This includes some friendly criticism of Logano’s race performances.
“Normally after a race I’ll congratulate him if he does good, but if he does bad I’ll tell him to step it up,” Gavin said. “If he’s having a bad day I’ll text him and see what he’s doing. Normally he just laughs about it.”
Logano said Gavin has helpful criticism “for everybody and everything, not just me. I hear it about everybody. It’s hilarious, like ‘What were you thinking out there?’ ”
Gavin is in a wheelchair, “but he’s a silver-linings-type person, and that’s what I want to be,” Logano said. “He’s been dealt a pretty tough hand, obviously, but he makes the most out of life.
“When you look at someone who has the world by the horns and isn’t as happy as Gavin is, it makes you think twice. I’m not sure what he gets out of me being his friend, but I get a lot out of him being my friend.”
Mindy Grubbs, Gavin’s mother, said her son became attracted to NASCAR very early in life when he watched races with his father.
“He would be in his daddy’s arms as an infant watching races,” he said. “By the time he was 2, he could tell you about every driver and their number. By the time he was 5, he knew where all the drivers were from and their sponsors. He just soaked it all in.”
She said Gavin and Logano “are good for each other. When Gavin is having a bad week or something, he’ll hear from Joey. They talk a lot. I think they both benefit from the relationship.”