Joey Logano’s win in Sunday’s race at the Kansas Speedway puts him into the Championship 4 for the fourth time of his NASCAR Cup Series career. He made the final round in the new playoff format’s inception in 2014. He did it again two years later (2016). He won at Martinsville (VA) in this very Round of 8 opening race in 2018 en route to his first and only championship that year. Now, he’s back again. This time, I think he’s the favorite to hoist this year’s championship trophy again.
Think about it. Logano hadn’t won a race at all during this pandemic. They struggled to adapt to the new changes but that’s because he and Paul Wolfe had to learn each other on the fly.
Team Penske swapped crew chiefs on all three teams during this past offseason. It meant everyone was relearning each other again. But, to start the season, they had the luxury of practice and qualifying.
Wolfe and Logano started out great. They won their Duel. They won the second race of the season in Vegas. They won the last race before the pandemic at…Phoenix — the site of this year’s championship.
Logano, has maintained all season that their strength is on 750 horsepower tracks. His teammate Brad Keselowski agreed too. But, it was the 550 horsepower tracks to where it would be difficult to adapt.
As Logano put it to me this past summer in the middle of his struggles, he and Wolfe have seen these tracks before, it’s just that they haven’t seen them together. Without the luxury of practice anymore, they were going into race weekend’s guessing.
After two wins in the first four points paying races together, they had one top five over the first 13 races run during the pandemic. They only had four top 10’s in that span too. Then, Texas came around and they finished third in late July. That started the turn around. Logano, had three top five finishes over the next five races and seven top 10’s over the next eight races.
The No. 22 Ford was back.
Over the last 16 races now, Logano has scored 11 top 10’s. Over the last seven races, he has four top three finishes including a runner-up last Sunday and a win this week.
With the finals being in Phoenix, a track he won at back in March, doesn’t that make Logano the favorite now?