HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. -- Joey Logano, seemingly the closest thing to a child prodigy NASCAR has seen since Jeff Gordon made his Cup debut as a 21-year-old in 1992, may have to wait a few years to burst onto the scene at the sport's highest level.
Not surprisingly, the 17-year-old Logano isn't thrilled that NASCAR is considering a rule that would require drivers to be 21 before competing at the Cup level. There's already anticipation building for his May 31 Nationwide Series debut at Dover International Speedway, a race that comes just days after Logano turns 18.
"I like the way they have their system now, where you run short tracks [and are approved to advance to bigger tracks] by NASCAR officials," Logano said Tuesday night during the Sprint Cup Media Tour. "I feel it's a good way, but it's kind of out of my hands what we can do about it. Whatever happens, happens there."
Mark Martin has been saying Logano could win Cup races for several years, and it will surprise few at Joe Gibbs Racing if Logano wins one of his 18 to 20 Nationwide Series starts this year. The team has made no secret that it hopes Logano is on the fast track to stardom and few would be surprised if he's running in Cup races by 2009 if the rules don't change.
For now, though, Logano is playing the waiting game.
Much like the rule that requires college football or basketball players to have been out of high school for a given time period before turning pro, NASCAR is looking at whether or not drivers younger than 21 are mature enough to handle the demands that come with not only the racing but also dealing with multimillion dollar sponsors.
Logano believes he'd be up to the task following this season.
"It's different cases for different people," Logano said. "I feel I'm ready for it."
J.D. Gibbs, who runs the team founded by his father, knew NASCAR was considering such a rule but was thinking it would include a clause that would grandfather in the likes of Logano, Brad Coleman and others under 21 already aligned with Cup organizations.
"It's a big deal for us, we've invested tons in Marc [Davis, another 17-year-old] and Joey," Gibbs said. "Our feeling on it is there's a good system in place -- if a guy's not ready, he's not mature enough, you don't go to the next track, you don't [advance] to the next series.
"Selfishly, we've invested a ton in Joey and in Marc. Part of that is an investment in the Nationwide Series. If those guys aren't able to run [Cup], there's less reason to invest in the Nationwide Series. We've talked to NASCAR about it, we've got some good conversations going on and I think we'll have something at the end of the day that will make sense for everybody."
Gibbs says NASCAR has traditionally made sound decisions and says his team will keep working with NASCAR on the matter.
"We want what's best for the sport, period," he said. "So whatever that might be, we're open to it."
Logano won five of his 13 Busch East Series starts in 2007 to claim the title and has earned praise from a number of veterans he's raced against, including Kevin Harvick, whom he dueled with at Iowa Speedway last May.
"With everything he's done to date, unfortunately for him, it's [led to] pretty high expectations," Gibbs said. "He's done some testing for us on the Cup side and what he did in the Busch East Series, it's pretty phenomenal. We just want to let him do what he does."
He'll get to do that in the Nationwide Series in June -- the bigger question is when he'll get the opportunity to show if he's got what it takes on NASCAR's grandest stage.
Logano has been doing plenty of Sprint Cup testing for Joe Gibbs Racing, but he hasn't had the chance to test the Nationwide car that much as the team is busy converting from Chevrolets to Toyotas for this season.
Once he turns 18, he plans on making his presence felt quickly.
"I feel we can have some real good top-five runs," Logano said. "I feel confident in myself and real confident in the team. ... I'm really looking forward to it. I don't have any excuses -- it's time to live up to [the expectations]."
Mark Ashenfelter is an associate editor at ESPN.