Logano flew under the radar for 2018 Cup title
Joey greatest Logano seasons had one as a NASCARof the Cup Series driver and, for the most part, flew under the radar until late in the game. While the “Big 3” of Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. combined for 20 victories and most of the media limelight, Logano quietly was putting together a solid season.
Those three drivers gave Logano a standing ovation when the 28-year-old driver was officially
crowned 2018 Cup Series champion last Thursday in Las Vegas at the NASCAR Awards Ceremony.
“This is what we’ve worked for our whole life,” Logano said before the ceremony. “Not just 10 years
that we’ve been trying at the Cup level, but it started in ’95 when I first got behind the wheel of a go-kart. That’s when this goal started.”
If it seems like Logano has been around stock-car racing forever, you are right. He got a Cup Series ride at the tender age of 18 from Joe Gibbs Racing, when Tony Stewart left to join ranks with Gene Haas.
Logano was on the leading edge of NASCAR’s current youth movement, which placed four millennial drivers among the top 10 in season-ending points.
But unlike his young counterparts Chase Elliott (23), Ryan Blaney (24) and Kyle Larson (26), he went
into the 2018 campaign with nine full seasons of Cup competition and 18 victories under his belt.
Logano scored a toss-of-the-dice victory at Talladega Superspeedway in the spring, then went winless for 22 races … but was compiling top-five and top-10 finishes nearly every weekend.
The ’Dega win was important because it guaranteed Logano a playoff berth.
A look back at the stat sheet shows Logano led in Cup points after Race 2 and Race 3, before he drifted down to sixth place after crashing out at Watkins Glen International on Aug. 5.
His No. 22 Team Penske Ford started to get hot right as the playoffs began; not win-a-bunch-of-races hot, but score-enough-points-to-advance hot.
He made it to the Round of 12 and Round of 8 on points.
His signature moment was at Martinsville Speedway when he pulled the last-lap bump-and-run on Truex to win the First Data 500 and earn a ticket to the Championship Round.
That win gave him an immediate advantage, allowing crew chief Todd Gordon and his team more time to concentrate on massaging the car he would run at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“This win allowed everyone at Team Penske to focus on Homestead for three weeks,” Gordon said. “It was awesome to see all 550 Mooresville
employees pulling in the same direction, getting us as prepared as we’d ever been for the championship race.”
On the final restart in the Ford EcoBoost 400, Logano simply
motored away from the “Big 3” and everybody else. He had the right car at the right time, and when he crossed the finish line, the Cup Series championship was won.
“It’s just how it kind of unfolds, but there’s typically one (caution) somewhere late in the race,” Gordon said. “And when it came up, there it was, our opportunity, and Joey’s,
and you give him that opportunity of ‘here it is, it’s right in front of you,’ he steps up to another level.”
After wrestling the lead from Truex, Logano would not be denied at Homestead. He led the last 12 laps for the win and title.
“There was never a second thing that I was going to try to do,” Logano said. “This was it — NASCAR champion.”
Logano becomes the seventh different champion over the past eight years. The only driver to nab two titles since 2011 was Jimmie Johnson (2013, 2016).
Logano’s championship is a childhood dream fulfilled by the lanky driver from Middletown, Connecticut.
“You’re a kid, and it’s a dream,” Logano said. “Maybe a goal is a little different. It’s a dream at that point.
A lot of kids want to be NASCAR champion, and I’m here to say it can happen, as long as you keep working hard and taking advantage of the opportunities in front of you.
“When I went to elementary school, and they said, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ it was always race car driver.”
New NASCAR champion Joey Logano did the customary photo op at the Vegas strip gateway during NASCAR Champion’s Week.