At the onset of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, Joey Logano proclaimed himself as the favorite to win the championship.
On Sunday in the Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway, he fulfilled that prophecy by dominating the season finale to score not only the win but his second NASCAR Cup Series championship.
Logano started the day on the pole, won the first segment of the race, led 187 of 312 laps on the day and edged out teammate Ryan Blaney for the win and the title.
“We did it! We’re champions again, yes,” said a jubilant Logano after climbing out of his car in front of the fans on the fronstretch. “Oh, my God, I’m so excited. Thank you to everybody, my team. You guys are amazing. Gave me a good race car, good pit stop there at the end, got us up in front. Boy, that was just intense there at the end.”
It marks Logano’s second title, winning the championship for the first time in 2018. He spent only one lap not in position to win the title en route to his fourth win of the season and the 31st of his career.
“It’s all about championships,” Logano said. “That’s what it’s all about, and we worked so hard the last couple weeks trying to put ourselves in position. And everything that happened in 2020, I knew we just wanted to have a solid run and do this today.”
The win wrote a page of history for Team Penske, as the organization also won the NTT IndyCar Series championship earlier this year with Will Power. It also gave Team Penske the NASCAR Cup Series Owners Championship over Trackhouse Racing and Hendrick Motorsports.
“Joey did a great job,” said team owner Roger Penske. “You’ve seen what he’s been able to do as he’s come on the team, and for us to have two championships in the same year, that’s what we’re here for. That’s the goal we have every year.
“I think we’ve been close, but we got it this year.”
“I knew going into this thing that we’re going to win the championship,” said Logano. “I told the guys we were the favorite from Daytona, and we truly believed it, and that’s the difference.
“Man, it’s like I said, I had a good team with a bunch of confidence, and we had all the reason in the world to be confident. I’ve never been truly this ready for a championship race, and yeah, we did it, man. I can’t believe it.”
Logano won the first segment of the race, but fell back to second at the end of the second segment as he worked to save fuel.
From there, Logano would work within the top five, but only lost the Championship lead for one lap to Chase Elliott.
On the final restart on lap 280, Logano found himself in third to Chase Briscoe and Blaney. With 32 laps to go, Logano moved around Blaney to take second. Two laps later, he pulled alongside Briscoe to challenge for the lead.
With 29 laps left to go, Logano moved back to the point, and never looked back en route to history.
“Man, I can’t say enough about this race team,” Logano said. “They just grind it out. They’re so amazing, (Crew Chief) Paul Wolfe, everybody that puts so much time and effort into the last few weeks.
“And not just this 22 team, this goes so much deeper when you think of Roush Yates Engines and the motor that’s in this bad boy. You think of everyone at Ford, all the employees at Shell and Pennzoil, everyone that’s supported me. It’s been 10 years with Shell, and to get a couple championships and 31 wins is special.”
After starting the race deep in the field, Ross Chastain charged on the second half of the race, and on the final restart looked to be in position to make a run on Logano. In the end, he finished in third, giving him the runner-up spot in the title race.
“I think we did everything right there at the end,” said Chastain. “That was a heck of a drive by us. Who had the No. 1 car second in points on their bingo card on February 1? This is pretty wild. This is a continuation of a lot of people believing in me. To build everything together to come drive this car, there are so many team owners and so many crew members that have put in the work. It’s pretty wild to fight for a Cup Series championship and to have a car fast enough to chase them down to the end.”
The only bump in the road for Chastain came on a lap 200 restart, when fellow title contender Chase Elliott cut down in front of Chastain’s Chevy as the two raced down the front stretch. The two made contact, sending Elliott’s Chevy spinning down into the inside wall.
Chastain said the incident was “absolutely” a racing incident.
“I think I got a better start. I got to his left-rear and he tried to cover it late and I was already there,” said Chastain. “I feel like it was just hard racing and I had position. We could have raced down in the corner side-by-side if he had just kept going the way we were going.
“I had a really good run. It looked like William (Byron) didn’t get going quite as well as he wanted to. I got to the left of (Elliott) and saw an erratic move that he made to turn left to cover it but I was already there. It’s not how I want to race them or those guys. For everyone at GM, I needed other Chevys up there to fight those other guys. It’s not what I want to do, but I feel like I had position on him and he tried to cover it late.”
That crash left Elliott with suspension damage. The Dawsonville, Georgia racer limped home to a 29th place finish, last of the title four.
“Yeah, I’m not sure,” Elliott said. “I’m not sure. Looking forward to the off-season, and really proud of our team for the fight that we put in today. I felt like we just kind of peaked right there before we crashed, and I felt like we got our car driving pretty good, we just had our best pit stop of the day, so that was all really solid. And heck, we were right there next to the 22 (Logano).
“I thought we had a shot at it all the way up until we didn’t, and that’s unfortunately the way it goes sometimes.”
Christopher Bell saw his title hopes go away with a problem on his final pit stop, when a problem with a lug nut dropped him all the way to 16th on the restart. He would rebound to a 10th place finish.
“Ultimately today, the best car won the championship,” said Bell. “He was really strong. Proud of our 20 group though. We fought hard, and at the end of the race – the last pit stop, or what we thought was going to be the last pit stop, we were right there battling for it. I’m just proud to be in this position, proud to be at Joe Gibbs Racing and race this No. 20 car.”
Bell and the entire Joe Gibbs Racing organization were racing with heavy hearts after news broke just before race time on Sunday that team co-owner Coy Gibbs had passed away in his sleep the night before.
“Just from being out and then the wins at Charlotte and Martinsville and all of a sudden you wake up this morning and you are racing for a championship, and you are happy, you are elated and then your world comes crashing down,” Bell said. “Whenever you get news like that, it puts it in perspective that there is more to this than racing. The whole Gibbs family is in all of our prayers. I’m thinking of them.”
Blaney finished in second, coming up just short ending the season with his first win of the season.
“I wish we could have won one,” said Blaney. “We had a great car to do it and it just didn’t happen. I’m proud of the effort. We had a winning car and it just didn’t happen.”
Chase Briscoe, who won his first career series race at Phoenix in April, led late and looked to have a sweep of the speedway within his grasp, finished in day in fourth.
“I just didn’t fire off near as good,” Briscoe said. “I was kind of on top of the racetrack a little bit more than I really had been all day. Truthfully, the 22 (Logano) and the 12 (Blaney) were so good on the short run every time. I just had nothing for them. On the long run, I was typically a little bit better I just would give up so much on the short run. I just didn’t fire off very good there at the end.
Kevin Harvick finished in fifth, setting a record of 19 straight top 10 finishes at Phoenix.
“On the restarts I kept getting on the chip and getting hung in gear and we would get passed by a couple of cars,” Harvick said. “I just needed a whole run.”
William Byron, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, and Bell rounded out the top 10.
NASCAR Cup Series
Phoenix Raceway – Avondale, AZ
NCS Championship Race – November 6, 2022
1. (1) Joey Logano (P), Ford, 312.
2. (2) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 312.
3. (25) Ross Chastain (P), Chevrolet, 312.
4. (3) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 312.
5. (7) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 312.
6. (8) William Byron, Chevrolet, 312.
7. (22) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 312.
8. (21) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 312.
9. (4) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 312.
10. (17) Christopher Bell (P), Toyota, 312.
11. (14) Austin Cindric #, Ford, 312.
12. (16) A.J. Allmendinger(i), Chevrolet, 312.
13. (15) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 312.
14. (30) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 312.
15. (12) Martin Truex, Jr., Toyota, 312.
16. (9) Cole Custer, Ford, 312.
17. (10) Daniel Hemric(i), Toyota, 312.
18. (27) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 312.
19. (6) Harrison Burton #, Ford, 312.
20. (13) Aric Almirola, Ford, 312.
21. (19) Chris Buescher, Ford, 312.
22. (23) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 311.
23. (11) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 311.
24. (28) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 311.
25. (20) Michael McDowell, Ford, 311.
26. (32) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 311.
27. (26) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 311.
28. (5) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 310.
29. (31) Todd Gilliland #, Ford, 309.
30. (34) Cody Ware, Ford, 308.
31. (33) B.J. McLeod(i), Ford, 307.
32. (29) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Chevrolet, 307.
33. (35) Garrett Smithley(i), Ford, 304.
34. (24) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 304.
35. (18) Brad Keselowski, Ford, Electrical, 270.
36. (36) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 84.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 104.757 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 58 Mins, 42 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.301 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 6 for 39 laps.
Lead Changes: 11 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders: J. Logano (P) 1-87;C. Custer 88-90;J. Logano (P) 91-158;R. Blaney 159-187;J. Logano (P) 188;R. Blaney 189-251;A. Allmendinger(i) 252;A. Bowman 253;R. Blaney 254-270;J. Logano (P) 271;C. Briscoe 272-282;J. Logano (P) 283-312.
Leaders Summary: (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led) Joey Logano (P) 5 times for 187 laps; Ryan Blaney 3 times for 109 laps; Chase Briscoe 1 time for 11 laps; Cole Custer 1 time for 3 laps; Alex Bowman 1 time for 1 lap; AJ Allmendinger(i) 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 22,12,14,5,19,9,24,4,8,2
Stage #2 Top Ten: 12,22,19,14,4,20,24,5,8,2
Playoff Standings: 1. Joey Logano – 5040 (4 Wins); 2. Ross Chastain – 5034 (2 Wins); 3. Christopher Bell – 5027 (3 Wins); 4. Chase Elliott – 5009 (5 Wins).
(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (P) Playoff standings