ROCKINGHAM - It's easy to describe what happened Sunday at Rockingham Speedway.
Racing returned to the track after a four-year absence and Joey Logano beat a field of Automobile Racing Club of America cars like rented mules in the Carolina 500.
It's harder, though, to figure out what it all means.
Certainly, Logano did nothing to damage his reputation as the next big thing in stock-car racing. Driving a Chevrolet that Denny Hamlin once drove in Sprint Cup competition, the 17-year-old Logano nearly lapped the field in his ARCA debut.
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Logano's team saved a set of tires in case there was a late caution on the track's notoriously abrasive racing surface. That's what happened, and Logano gave up the lead to get those tires for a restart with five laps to go.
But it took Logano about half a lap to came from fifth back to first and get the victory.
"I had a big smile on my face the whole time," said Logano, who after turning 18 later this month will make his Nationwide Series debut with the Gibbs team at Dover on May 31. "It was great to get back in the race car again."
NASCAR veteran Ken Schrader finished second with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., a driver in Roush Fenway Racing's developmental program, third.
Asked how much of Logano's dominance – he led 257 of 312 laps – was car and how much was driver, Schrader recalled an interview with Jeff Gordon early in Gordon's NASCAR career.
Schrader said Gordon was asked about being in top-level equipment and how much that helped.
"Jeff said, 'All I know is that every time I drive these cars into Turn 3 I am the only one who's in there,' " Schrader said. "That kid (Logano) can drive. He's for real. We're going to be watching him on television for a long time."
Logano will climb into Gibbs-owned cars that have been exceptional in the Nationwide Series and says he sees no reason he can't win there, too.
"I think I can go out there and run up front with those guys," he said. "I have no excuses, that's for sure."
As for the first race since NASCAR left this track in 2004, new track owner Andy Hillenburg said he was proud to successfully stage an event just six months after completing the purchase from Speedway Motorsports Inc.
"We put Rockingham Speedway back on the racing map," Hillenburg said. "We did this kind of the way I've always worked my way through racing. We just jumped in and did our best."
Hillenburg said he sold out more than 4,000 seats in the track's suites and estimated grandstand ticket sales in the 12,000 range.
"We had enough people here to pay a record purse for ARCA and pay the bills," he said. "We're going to try harder the next time. I know some things I can do better and we'll start trying to fill those seats one fan at a time.
"I think we can do this, I really do."