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In the Hot Seat with Logan Misuraca (Part I)

Logan Misuraca means serious business with her pursuit of racing full-time in the stock car ranks. (Photo: Logan Misuraca via Facebook)

Logan Misuraca means serious business with her pursuit of racing full-time in the stock car ranks. (Photo: Logan Misuraca via Facebook)

If Logan Misuraca had a theme song about her racing career, perhaps Elton John’s 1983 hit tune, “I’m Still Standing,” fits perfectly.

At age 22, the Sanford, Florida native continually fights hard as she realizes her dreams as a NASCAR competitor. Presently, Misuraca focuses on securing a full-time effort in the ARCA Menards Series East with the hopes of reaching the top three divisions of NASCAR.

Growing up, Misuraca was gifted and blessed with athletic skills. At age four, the Floridian got her first experience behind in a racecar, continuing a family legacy while beating to her own drum.

During her childhood, Misuraca took up dancing, excelling with the sport before being smitten by racing. With lessons learned from her father beyond the nuances of the driver’s seat, she learned to believe in herself and her decisions, even when the choices weren’t so clear.

As Misuraca works diligently on securing a quality opportunity on the track, she recently had a hectic but ultimately rewarding experience leading to the ARCA Menards Series East season opener at New Smyrna Speedway in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

Getting the tab to drive JW Motorsports’ No. 60 Chevrolet for the Race to Stop Suicide 200 on Feb. 15, the energetic, good natured racer qualified sixth and placed seventh. Most impressively, Misuraca, who hoped to compete in the race, fulfilled her original goal which seemed bleak in the days leading up to the season opener.

Make no mistake that Misuraca loves racing as she does her family, friends, fans and support system. Beyond being around it during her childhood, she has that competitor’s spirit while embracing any quality opportunity to the maximum.

Off the track, she’s the first to make someone smile, laugh and forget their troubles. She’s up for a game of axe throwing as much as she is taking fans around Daytona International Speedway in a NASCAR Racing Experience stock car.

Once she’s got the helmet and firesuit on, Misuraca becomes “The Warrior,” a racer who doesn’t leave anything on the table while fighting hard for those she holds dear to her heart. She’s relentless, passionate and determined not only for those who believe in her, but for that little girl who started racing in the early 2000s.

Recently, I interviewed Misuraca with a very authentic, conversational focus on her ambitions, origins and the days leading up to that fateful Tuesday night at New Smyrna. As we covered plentiful talking points, this will be the first of two parts of Misuraca’s interview series.

So, let’s jump right into our racecar as we get “In the Hot Seat with Logan Misuraca” now on The Podium Finish!

Rob Tiongson : Logan, thank you for taking the time today to talk to me for The Podium Finish and The Podium Finish Live! podcast. Really do appreciate that. And I just wanted to say how cool it is that you have a great finish to start off this year in the ARCA East series. But first of all, let’s talk about yourself. First and foremost, how did you get your start in racing, and what made you interested in motorsports?

Misuraca loves being in the driver's seat. (Photo: Logan Misuraca via Facebook)

Misuraca loves being in the driver’s seat. (Photo: Logan Misuraca via Facebook)

Logan Misuraca : Yeah. First, thanks for having me. Love to do this for you. I actually started racing when I was four years old. I started racing quarter midgets. And I started because my dad raced, my dad’s dad raced, my dad’s dad’s dad raced.

So it’s been a long line of the male generation in my family racing the 360 sprints, Sportsman, late models, everything. So, it was my turn.

Tiongson : That’s really cool that you’re the next generation in your family to race, and that’s a question I often ask drivers like yourself. Does it become a little bit easier to approach your parents and say, “You know, I think I want to be a racecar driver,” versus if you had parents who… they’ve watched the races with you, but didn’t have any experience in the sport?

Misuraca : Yeah, it was definitely much easier. I mean, I danced. I was a dancer until I was 18. And then I just turned around to Mom and Dad and I was like, “I’d rather race. Sorry.” And of course, my Dad was like, “Oh, my God. Yay.” My mom was like, “No, no, no, no.”

Tiongson : Of course, for the moms, it’s probably a little tough. But she probably got over it.

Misuraca : Yeah, she got over it quick. But she still gets super nervous. I’ll have her holding an iPad to video the races, and she’s like this. I’m like, “Oh, okay.”

Tiongson : Oh, poor moms. Logan, I’ve got to say, unfortunately, I don’t think that goes away, even when you get to NASCAR.

Misuraca : Actually, I do the ride-alongs in NASCAR Racing Experience, and I told her she had to get in the car with me. So I took her for a few laps around Daytona. So ever since then, she’s had a whole new respect for it and like, “OK, my daughter’s going to be safe. It’s okay.” But still, my first ARCA race, she was over there like, “I’m going to be sick! I’m going to be sick!”

Tiongson : It’s probably a little different, because I’m sure with you being from a racing family, I imagine that y’all had your favorites or inspirations when you watched races from home or at the racetrack. But was there a certain driver or drivers that you looked up to?

Misuraca continues her family's focus with racing. (Photo: Logan Misuraca via Facebook)

Misuraca continues her family’s focus with racing. (Photo: Logan Misuraca via Facebook)

Misuraca : Well, I looked up to my dad, of course, and he would love me for saying that, but it’s true. As much as I don’t want to admit it, it’s him. But he always looked up to Dale. There’s 3’s around my house. I can just look around and count like six right now. So that was his main mentor, and my grandfather’s main mentor, growing up in a racing house.

And then I was introduced… I didn’t really watch races when I was younger. I was kind of like, “I’ve got to go do dance practice. I don’t want to sit here and watch this race right now.” So I had to learn it from him. So that was the one that I looked up to, and then I started getting into it.

By the time I was six or seven, I’m like, every Sunday, like clockwork, had to sit and watch the race, sit and watch the race, sit and watch the race. So he brought me into that world, definitely.

Tiongson : I think your dad’s going to love hearing that, for sure. And that’s so cool, because that’s pretty similar to my experience, although I don’t race cars. I’m a journalist. But that’s so cool, just because I think that’s what makes motorsports such a unique sport compared to its counterparts in the stick and ball arenas where you have a parent that loves it, whether they competed or not, and they can pass that on. It’s almost like a story from the past, and you can continue that legacy. And you’re doing so right now.

I mean, let’s actually talk about your race a few weeks ago at New Smyrna, because I understand the circumstances were quite unique, but you still came home with a really great top 10 finish. How did everything come together for that?

From possibly sitting out to being in that racecar, Misuraca had an action packed time before her ARCA Menards Series East debut. (Photo: Logan Misuraca via Facebook)

From possibly sitting out to being in that racecar, Misuraca had an action packed time before her ARCA Menards Series East debut. (Photo: Logan Misuraca via Facebook)

Misuraca : So, I was planning on doing it all along, and then we just fell short with sponsorship, so I wasn’t able to do it. So somebody else was in the seat, and I was so bummed all week. I was like, “Oh, my gosh.” I wanted to make this ARCA start. I wanted to get this out there, and just couldn’t get it all together monetary-wise, because you know the racing world.

And then two days prior, I got a phone call at like 11 o’clock at night. And it’s like, “Hey, the driver can’t race. Can you race?” And I’m like, “Is that a question?” I’m like, “Yes, yes, yes. I got it. That’s fine.” So then I’m freaking out, because I’m like, “Okay, tomorrow morning is the morning before the race.” So I had to put everything together as quick as I could before I could let it all sink in. And even till the moment showing up to the race track, I was like, “It’s not actually happening. It’s not really going down, is it?”

And no time to prepare. No time to make sure… that was bad on my part, because I stopped going to the gym for that week because I was super upset that I wasn’t going to be racing. And then it was like, “Uh-oh. I’m going to be racing.” And I stopped going to the gym. Oh, my gosh.

And I had only done like 50-lap races at New Smyrna. I’d never done a 200-lap race before. So it was like, “I don’t know how this is going to end. I don’t know if I’m going to fall out of the seat,” or whatever. But I think Daytona, the NASCAR Racing Experience, definitely helped me, because I’ll run there, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, nonstop. So definitely, that gave me some training and some confidence to go into it. And I didn’t really know what to expect.

I mean, I knew the track, but it’s a totally different car, with a totally different weight-to-tire ratio. I don’t really know what’s going to happen. So we only had an hour and a half practice before green flag dropped. So it was definitely a huge learning experience, but we pulled it off good. Halfway through the race, I was like, “Okay, we’re actually doing this.”

And that’s when it started kicking in. I’m like, “Okay, and we’re actually doing good.” We’re doing better than I expected. We’re doing good. We got this. So it was definitely a big height and then lift off my chest once that night was going.

Tiongson : That had to be such an adrenaline rush. I mean, you talked about being in dance competitions, and I know dancers often feel, not stage fright, but that jitter in their stomach, the butterflies in your stomach, before a performance. But to be called into a race in a car that it’s not even your seat, it’s someone else’s seat. It’s not even molded for you.

And like you said, you didn’t even go to the gym for a week, because, understandably, you were bummed about what happened. And it was like a total 360. That’s just incredible. And I would probably have to imagine, did it kind of teach you to expect the unexpected when it comes to motorsports?

Misuraca : Oh, yeah, definitely. Especially in motorsports, I feel like things always almost happen, and then don’t, in my favor. And this was once where something crazy happened in my favor. So I was like, “Okay, there’s hope. This is going to happen. It’s going to be a great year, and we’re going to get this done.” But especially what you said about the dance thing.

Dance is a chaotic sport, and as much as people don’t want to look at it like that, it is. Especially the competition side, because I was like, every single weekend, at a different competition.

So I learned to work well under pressure, because it’s two and a half minutes, as opposed to a two and a half hour race. But there’s so much going into just that two and a half minutes that you have to account for. So I was always used to being thrown out there for anything, because we would have someone break their leg, or sprain their ankle or something, and like, “Logan, we need you to jump in their spot.” So it would be like, five minutes before going on stage, I’ve got to learn this whole routine, and then go out there and execute it to win.

So I’ve had scenarios like that in the past. I was like, “Okay, just take it like a dance competition. You’re just being thrown in. You’re good.”

Tiongson : That’s really cool, and I think that kind of answers my question about how dancing and racing may have some co-related aspects to the competition side and the intensity side. Which, just based on what you talked about with New Smyrna, I didn’t even drive the car, and I felt exactly the emotions you went through, and that’s so cool, to say the least.

Now, I understand also, before you really were able to focus more fully on racing, and you were still probably a dancer at this time, I think you also were going about a crew chief career? Is that correct?

In case you wondered about Misuraca's focus...(Photo: Logan Misuraca via Facebook)

In case you wondered about Misuraca’s focus…(Photo: Logan Misuraca via Facebook)

Misuraca : Well, I would just… I started helping my dad. My dad started teaching me the crew chief side of things for sprint car, and just managing all that at a young age, because I don’t think he knew I was ever going to pick up to want to become a driver.

So he was just trying to push me in the door however I could to be in the racing industry. So he’s like, “If you’re going to take this role, you have to do this, this, this, and this. Are you sure you want to make that call?” And then he would second guess my call. And I’m like, “Yeah.” And he goes, “Always stay confident about your call.”

So he would just teach me that, especially for sprint cars, because it was a family-owned sprint car. We all went racing with it every single weekend. So he would just always teach me that side and that aspect of it, and how to do everything else, except drive the car. And then I was like, “Okay, I want to get back in the seat. I want to drive the car again.” So he’s like, “Are you sure?” “Yeah, yeah.”

Tiongson : I think that’s valuable experience that you cannot be taught in the classroom of racing, or even someone mentoring you. You have to be kind of going through a baptism by fire, and I think that’s so cool that you also have that background. Because I think, with a lot of younger drivers, their sole job is just to race the car. They don’t really have to focus on the nuances of what goes on, or understand why you have to preserve your equipment.

But with that background experience that you did as a crew chief, or kind of being able to think like a crew chief in your sprint car experiences, and now stock car experiences, how much of an asset do you think that’s going to play off for you, especially with this coming season?

Misuraca : I think it’ll play a lot. And I’ve even talked to my team about it, because I like to be involved with everything, which is kind of bad, because my dad always says, “Don’t drop your tortellinis,” which is pasta. But it was such a weird saying, because I’d always try to pick up so much things at the same time, and I actually dropped my pasta once. So he always says, “In life, don’t pick up so many things to where you’re going to drop something.” But that’s always me.

I like to take everything. It’s not just I race. But Monday through Friday, I’m working on sponsorships, and sponsorship work, and promotional ads, and all that stuff, as well as wanting to go to the shop and learn what they’re doing behind the scenes. So I feel like learning that side from Dad, he just showed me there’s a lot more to racing than just the left turn. So now I just want to learn the entire industry.

So that helps me in that aspect. It’s always nice to know more. Knowledge wins.

Tiongson : Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think that when you’re in your field, it’s like you’re in a grad school for life, in terms of experiences, because you’re going to be thrown into situations that not even your parents or your grandfather went through. It’s only what you’ve gone through that you’re going to apply in the future. And I think one of the neat things about being a younger driver in this generation is, you’ve kind of touched upon the marketing aspects, but you’re almost kind of having to be very social media savvy and marketing savvy.

So how much do you think that… racing can be challenging on an economic standpoint. But for a young driver like yourself, how much more challenging is it to balance social media and marketing with being you, the racecar driver?

As her dad once told her, "Don’t drop your tortellinis." (Photo: Logan Misuraca via Facebook)

As her dad once told her, “Don’t drop your tortellinis.” (Photo: Logan Misuraca via Facebook)

Misuraca : Yeah, and I definitely… I mean, the whole industry has just changed since social media has gotten so big right now. And TikTok is crazy big. But I’ve always loved that stuff. I’ve always loved social media. Ever since I was super young, just figuring out what I could post to get the most likes.

How do I get more followers? So I knew that before racing became needing that. So I was like, “Okay, I have the fundamentals and the basics of learning this.” So then I just had to apply that to the marketing aspect of it of like, “Hey, my page can do this for you, and then also my racing industry, and just the decal on the car could also do all these other things for you.”

So, it’s like two separate marketing aspects that you can pair together from it. So that’s how I like to approach things. And the social media is my thing. I mean, you can post any time you want. Doesn’t matter.

Tiongson : That’s true, and I think that’s the one thing that really fascinates me, because I grew up in the generation where… I grew up watching Dale Earnhardt, Sr., Jeff Gordon, and all those guys. And I can almost promise you, if you had to have Dale Earnhardt, Sr., use Twitter, he’d probably be like, “What’s this all about?”

Misuraca : And I’m horrible at Twitter. That’s the one thing that I just… I can’t think of things on top of my head. I’m like, “What do I write?” And people are like, “Just write anything.” And I came at one point where I literally just wrote A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G, and pushed send, and it got like 20 likes. I’m like, this is so weird. I don’t understand this whole world. I don’t understand Twitter. But TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, I got those down to a T.

Tiongson : That’s amazing, because I want to get better with my TikTok efforts as a journalist, and the only thing I know how to do is just inserting music and trying to make a short clip. I’m always fascinated by folks who know how to do those transformations. Like, they’re in their pajamas, and all of a sudden, they cover the camera, and then boom, they’re in their firesuit. And I’m just like…

Misuraca : That’s me!

Tiongson : Yeah, I was that. That takes a lot of time and dedication. I don’t know if I just don’t have the patience to do it. But for someone like you, it just comes naturally.

@loganmisuraca1

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Misuraca : Yeah, that was actually one of my easier TikToks. And that’s how TikTok is. You work so hard on one TikTok. The algorithm will hit, and people don’t like it. But then the things that you spend maybe just 5, 10 seconds on to make is the one that will blow up with millions of views. I’m like, “But I just spent an hour trying to edit this one, and you’re not going to like it? I don’t get it!”

Tiongson : Maybe that’s a good euphemism for life. Just do, don’t try too hard. I think that’s been my biggest thing with social media is I’m trying to project who I am as a person, and I think people just want to hear the facts, not get too deep into things. But let’s take it back to the track, because I understand you have a full season of ARCA East action coming up this year. Is that what I’m understanding?

Misuraca : So we’re aiming to run the full season. We’re still a little slim on sponsorship right now, so hopefully we’ll be able to get there. I mean, this sport’s always about marketing and sponsoring. So we’re working towards that to be able to run the full season so we can run for some kind of points championship, and then Rookie of the Year this year. So that’s been my behind-the-scenes, Monday through Sunday.

Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to Logan for taking the time for our great, heartfelt conversation for TPF! Also, special thanks to Michael Lira for the great story recommendation! Stay tuned for Part II of Logan’s “Hot Seat” interview.

In the meantime, look for more content about Logan on TPF and follow her social media channels on FacebookTwitterTikTok, Snapchat and Instagram! Also, if you are interested in assisting Logan’s racing efforts, donate today via PayPal!

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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