PORT ROYAL, Pa – Logan Wagner came into the 2019 season looking to build on his first career Port Royal Speedway track championship, earned last year.
With three career wins at the Juniata County oval entering the year and once again flying the legendary Zemco No. 1 colors for John and Pee Wee Zemaitis in weekly competition, Wagner felt confident about his chances.
While it took misfortune for Greg Hodnett in the final points race of the season and a dramatic drive through the field to narrowly claim the championship in 2018, Wagner was looking to make a statement this time and prove that he wasn’t just lucky.
On the strength of five victories, 15 top-five finishes, 20 top-10’s and only failing to qualify for one show, Wagner dominated 2019 and proved to be a force to reckon with for years to come.
“To get one championship is cool, but to build on that and get another is a special feeling,” said Wagner. “I felt like we were pretty good in 2018. But 2019 was something special and I don’t even think we knew how good we could be.”
To put his season in perspective, Wagner only finished lower than seventh twice all season.
One of them was a non-points event against the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series, where he finished 11th. The other was a 12th-place finish in the third race of the season that saw the team dealing with mechanical issues early in the night and driving through the field after qualifying via the B-main.
Wagner also became the first driver since Todd Shaffer in 2008 and 2009 to win back to back championships at Port Royal, not to mention in the 10 years since that no driver had been able to win multiple championships at all.
With the who’s who of Central Pennsylvania competing weekly at the speedway throughout the years, it’s an accomplishment that’s not lost on the Harrisonville, Pa., native.
“I honestly look back and it’s truly an honor to even be on the same list as some of the drivers who have won championships there,” said Wagner. “A few years ago, I was just trying to win races and show I could do this. Now I’m a back to back champion and that’s truly a special thing.”
Highlights in Wagner’s 2019 season included a win in April during Open Wheel Madness night, a $7,000 win during the Weikert Memorial finale and a sweep during the twin 20’s in early June. He last visited victory lane at Port Royal in a regular show in August.
While the wins were memorable, it was a race that saw Wagner finish second to Danny Dietrich in the Weikert Memorial opener that lit a fire under Wagner and his Zemco team.
With $10,000 on the line, Wagner led for 23 laps and looked to be in control before Dietrich capitalized on a late restart to claim the victory. Wagner had also been driving on three shocks, as one broke on the opening circuit and made the car tough to hold onto.
“I was really frustrated after that one, because I felt like we had the best car and a mechanical issue cost us,” said Wagner. “But then I also looked at it and told myself that if we can be this fast on three shocks, we can really do something special when the car is all together. It just made me want to be better and really was big for our confidence.”
With the 2020 racing season ahead of him, Wagner is looking to get even better. He points to the longevity of all-time Port Royal Speedway feature winner Keith Kauffman as something he strives for.
“It’s a cool accomplishment to win two in a row and such, but when I look back at Keith Kauffman, he was a guy that not only won, but he did it in multiple decades,” said Wagner. “It’s amazing to see championships in the 70’s, 80’s 90’s and 00’s from the same guy.
“That’s the kind of success we all strive for as drivers and I hope I can be half the driver he was.”
Wagner is also extremely proud to represent Port Royal Speedway as their champion as the track continues to grow and become one of the premier dirt tracks in the country. He points to the continued off-season improvements as a reason he loves the ‘The Speed Palace’.
But it’s the track’s dedication to safety and preventative maintenance that most impresses him.
“In the aviation world it’s really about preventing something before it’s too late and in that aspect, Port Royal Speedway is on top of their game like few others out there,” said Wagner, who is a pilot by trade in his day-to-day life. “Whether it’s a catch fence, new facilities, safety changes or just plain improving on the old, as a driver you have to appreciate that effort.
“They don’t have to do a lot of things they do. But to see them thinking ahead and thinking of us as drivers and the fans, it makes you want to support that. And because of that, I’m extremely proud to be their track champion.”