AVONDALE, AZ — Mic drop. Joey Logano looked among the best cars in practice on Friday night here at the Phoenix Raceway and made a further statement to the other three Championship 4 members on Saturday afternoon during qualifying to earn his 26th career NASCAR Cup Series pole.
Logano circled the 1-mile Arizona oval with a speed of 134.389 mph in his No. 22 Ford for his 6th top 10 starting spot in his last 7 Phoenix tries. The last time he was on the front row here?
2020. However, that season we didn’t qualify as the lineup was set on metrics. This time, it’s on merit.
“It puts pressure on them,” said Logano of his pole run on Saturday. “That’s the goal when you get here, keep the pressure on the competition. This team does an amazing job under pressure and that’s why we thrive in the playoffs and Championship 4 type moments. I love it. It makes me better and I think it makes my whole race team better. It’s a good place to start, a better place to finish. The first pit stall will be helpful. We’ve got a good pit crew but when you can add that with the best pit stall, the camera line is right there in front of it so that’s a big advantage.”
Logano felt like coming into this weekend that he should be the favorite. Heck, he felt that way coming into the season he feels. He won the Busch Light Clash and as one of the two drivers that have won a title among the Championship 4 members, he’s been doing the right things and saying the right things all week.
“Yeah, I feel great about our chances,” the Team Penske driver said earlier this week. “Honestly, I don’t really care who else is in. It’s about the 22 team winning a second title. That’s what it’s about.
“We just got to do our job and stay focused on us. Racing for a championship, it’s bigger than any other race. You have to learn to handle that pressure. The only way you know how to do that is going through it multiple times.
“I feel like that gives not just myself but my whole race team a clear advantage going into this race on top of some of the other things we already know.
“I feel great about where we’re at. I feel great that we’ve been here so many times and we can focus on doing our jobs.
“I’m in a different position than I’ve been here in the past. I like this position a lot more. It’s a lot more comfortable, I can promise you that. Just being here over and over again, right?
“I was saying earlier, you just know what’s coming around the corner next. You know how today goes. You know how the week before this is, then the weekend itself, race day. Race day is just chaotic the whole time.
“It’s not just another race. It’s not that. Everyone likes to say that. Everyone comes to championship Media Day, says it’s just another race, just act like it’s another race. That’s a bunch of BS. It’s not just another race. It’s bigger than any race you’ve ever been in, and it changes the way you approach it, for sure.”
He’ll be joined on the front row by teammate Ryan Blaney (134.373 mph). Blaney scored his fifth top 5 starting spot in the last six Phoenix tries which includes a pole here in March. This is also his fourth top six starting spot in the last five weeks at that.
Chase Briscoe (134.203 mph) gave Ford’s a clean 1-2-3 sweep of the starting lineup. He qualified third last week too and came from sixth to win here in the spring.
The Hendrick Motorsports teammates of Kyle Larson (133.844 mph) and Chase Elliott (133.437 mph) rounded out the top five of the starting lineup. Both are also going for separate championships this weekend with Larson going for the owners title in his No. 5 Chevrolet and Elliott on the drivers side in his No. 9 Chevrolet.
Larson has 5 top 5 starting spots in his last six Phoenix tries. For Elliott, this is his 12 start in the top 4 Rows here in the last 13 tries.
Christopher Bell (133.924 mph) starts 17th while Ross Chastain (133.018 mph) rolls off 25th. These two have a lot of work to do in a sense that the drivers have said that this track is going to be hard to pass on. To be behind the eight ball already, doesn’t bode well.
Bell was at the bottom of every metric in practice on Friday and now isn’t much better on Saturday. Chastain had great short run speed on Friday but that changed on Saturday with them having a good longer run car he now feels which compromised their qualifying speed.
Last year’s Championship 4 started: Kyle Larson (1st), Chase Elliott (2nd), Denny Hamlin (6th) and Martin Truex Jr. (12th). For Bell and Chastain, what they’re after now would be unprecedented.
The thing is, the Toyota’s have looked off so far this weekend with them starting P10-P12-P-17-P21-P22-P23
Row 1: Joey Logano (P), Ryan Blaney
Row 2: Chase Briscoe, Kyle Larson
Row 3: Chase Elliott (P), Harrison Burton R
Row 4: Kevin Harvick, William Byron
Row 5: Cole Custer, Ty Gibbs
Row 6: Tyler Reddick, Martin Truex Jr.
Row 7: Aric Almirola, Austin Cindric R
Row 8: Austin Dillon, AJ Allmendinger
Row 9: Christopher Bell (P), Brad Keselowski
Row 10: Chris Buescher, Michael McDowell
Row 11: Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch
Row 12: Bubba Wallace, Alex Bowman
Row 13: Ross Chastain (P), Justin Haley
Row 14: Corey LaJoie, Daniel Suarez
Row 15: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Erik Jones
Row 16: Todd Gilliland R, Ty Dillon
Row 17: BJ McLeod, Cody Ware
Row 18: Garrett Smithley, Landon Cassill