PORT ROYAL, Pa. — Almost a month has passed since Logan Wagner’s weekend of a lifetime in the Juniata Valley.
On Friday, Sept. 10, Wagner joined National Sprint Car Hall of Famer Keith Kauffman as the second driver to win four straight Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway track titles.
One night later, he overturned the second-winningest driver in Port Royal history, Lance Dewease, for a Tuscarora 50 triumph that enthralled the standing-room-only crowd.
Wagner’s ecstasy radiated through the night, a party until 7 o’clock Sunday morning, with friends and family in the Port Royal campground.
“I feel like I’m living in an alternate universe,” Wagner said in his post-race interview.
Zemco Racing isn’t wide-ranging as it once was — the team seldom ventures beyond Port Royal — but Wagner is maintaining its high-profile image with his own signature moments.
He’s never lost a track championship since going full-time racing in 2018. And if he wins with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Sprint Car Series this weekend at Port Royal he’ll have won every big sprint car race at his stomping grounds.
The journey to this point, on the other hand, is a story Wagner rarely shares.
“The Zemco ride is a ride I’ve always wanted,” Wagner said. “Late 2017 … it was time to try and make a jump, a last-ditch effort, at something I’ve always wanted to do.”
It was late 2017, and Wagner tasted the stock car dream when he stepped into the dazzling race shop of JR Motorsports in Mooresville, N.C., the revered operation owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
He packed the essentials on a business trip to NASCAR’s heartland: clothes for a few days, the momentum of a noteworthy sprint car season and his winsome personality.
“I wanted to see what it would take to get a [NASCAR] developmental deal,” Wagner said. “I thought, ‘How do I get started with this process?’”
That summer, Wagner scored an impressive win with his modest family team versus the All Star Circuit of Champions at Lernerville (Pa.) Speedway. He started to generate headway at 27 years old and, with no plans for 2018, needed to make some moves.
His sponsor, All Things Automotive from McConnellsburg, Pa., was about to sign with Josh Berry at JR Motorsports.
Mark Thomas, the owner of the Pennsylvania-based company, brought Wagner along for a meeting.
Wagner had already known Berry’s crew chief, Brian Shaffer, who worked for his dad’s auto body shop, Wagner’s Auto Body, many years ago.
The framework to join the very operation that developed Cup Series winners Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott and William Byron was in place.
“They, [JR Motorsports], were all about it,” Wagner said. “Then they said, ‘We need another $100,000.’”
“They wanted the money,” Wagner added, “and I didn’t have it.”
Wagner tried gathering the funds, but as he counted the cost, the more insurmountable it became.
“We were close,” Wagner said of how much money he needed to strike a potential stock car developmental deal.
“At the end of the day, you have to have the money to do it,” Wagner added. “You see David Gravel, he’s friends with Jeff Gordon, and that doesn’t give him a free ride. You have a guy like Josh Berry who’s paid his dues 110 percent with JR Motorsprts, and even Junior can’t do it fund-wise, [out of his own pocket]. You have to have that backing, that sponsorship.
“Would it have been cool to have gotten a really big sponsor and do it? Absolutely,” Wagner continued. “It was my last-ditch effort. I always wanted to go and do that, and run at that level, supposedly. But never really had the opportunity to do so.”
When Dale Blaney departed Zemco Racing the opening weeks of 2018, Wagner drove to the team’s Tower City, Pa., shop, determined the job would be his this time.
The first applicant of John and Peewee Zemaitis’ No. 1z was hired on the spot.
Four years later, Berry is set to run for the 2022 Xfinity Series championship.
Wagner, meanwhile, wouldn’t change a thing.
“I never settled for the Zemco car … it’s my dream ride,” Wagner said.
“I feel like we’ve made the most of it,” Wagner added. “It’s pretty rewarding four years in to have four track championships, the Tuscarora 50 win, along with three or four All Star Circuit of Champions wins. The Dream race, the Weikert Memorial, and even win at Selinsgrove (Pa.) Speedway for the Jim Nace Memorial.
“Here we are four years later,” Wagner said, “and it’s really awesome to run for such a prestigious team.”