Logano scores his 2nd career Cup championship Sunday in Phoenix, recap with my top 5 takeaways

AVONDALE, AZ — Joey Logano called his shot earlier in the week, maintained his favorite status to take this year’s NASCAR Cup Series championship on Sunday in Phoenix, then spanked the field to score his 31st career Cup win but most importantly, second career title in the process.

“We did it!” an ecstatic Logano yelled in front of a sold-out capacity crowd at the Phoenix Raceway on Sunday. “We’re champions again, yes! 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’s all about championships. 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.

I can’t thank Ford and Shell-Pennzoil enough for supporting me over the last 10 years, getting us a couple championships today. All our partners at Team Penske, everybody that works on these cars. It’s such a big deal to win these championships. It impacts so many people’s lives.

“I knew going into this thing that we’re going to win the championship. 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.”

A day after sending a shot to the field with a pole run, Logano led the opening 89 laps of the season finale. He actually led 156 of the opening 158 laps. Then, his teammate Ryan Blaney’s car came on and while Logano was in fuel save mode, he didn’t fight him. Blaney would lead 92 of the next 93 laps while Logano fought his No. 22 Ford in dirty air.

Still, he was only seriously threatened once and that came via Chase Elliott on the Lap 192 restart when Logano was 5th and Elliott in 6th. A quick caution flew. On the next restart, Elliott was spun by Ross Chastain. That was basically it. Other than a brief moment late in the race where Christopher Bell was behind Logano on track, Logano still pulled away and never was seriously threatened by the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.

Bell threw a Hail Mary by pitting on Lap 249 for what he thought was his final time. Logano countered and pit two laps later. While he lost a spot on track and Bell gained two, Logano was still ahead. Then came the final caution on Lap 267. It was the money stop.

Logano would exit pit road in third, Ross Chastain now in 6th but Bell down to 16th after a slow stop. When Chastain moved by William Byron for 3rd, Logano was passing Blaney for 2nd on the very same lap. With 29 to go, Logano got by Briscoe for the lead.

He’d never look back and top Blaney by .301-seconds to win the race in emotional fashion.

Logano led a race-high 187 laps. The other Championship 4 combined to lead no laps. It was redemption for Logano for how that 2020 championship ended. He had a chance to win it too. He came off pit road as the leader following the final stop. Then a tire vibration over the course of the final stint dropped him from first and a 2nd title, to third or fourth.

“I’m hoping that this is redemption for 2020,” Logano said three weeks ago after his Las Vegas win in the Round of 8 opener to seal his berth to the Championship 4.

Redemption was made.

He’s now the first driver to win a championship at two different tracks under this format as his 2018 title was won at Homestead.

He also joins Kyle Busch now as the only two drivers in the NASCAR garage that have won a Cup championship multiple times. Penske has also won 3 championships, 2 of them by Logano. The Team Penske driver also bookended the season in scoring a win in the opening race at the LA Coliseum for the Busch Light Clash and ending the year in victory lane in Phoenix.

Joey Logano celebrates in front of the fans on Sunday afternoon in Phoenix

Different Kind OF Championship 4 Race

Since this Championship 4 format was added in 2014, all nine years have seen the race winner win the championship too. It’s 9-for-9 in this format but 2-for-42 prior. However, to where this race was different than the other 8, it wasn’t dominated up front by the four cars vying for the title.

The Championship 4 drivers were only 1st, 6th, 11th and 13th at the Stage 1 break then 2nd, 6th, 11th and 12th at Stage 2. They’d finish 1st, 3rd, 10th and 28th respectively. It’s a far cry from what it used to be prior. They’ve finished 1-2-3 in 3 of the last 4 years entering this season.

2021: 1-2-3-5 (2nd year at Phoenix)

2020: 1-2-3-4 (1st year at Phoenix)

2019: 1-2-4-10 (last year at Homestead)

2018: 1-2-3-4 (Homestead)

2017: 1-2-4-7 (Homestead)

2016: 1-4-6-34 (Homestead)

2015: 1-2-6-12 (Homestead)

2014: 1-2-7-16 (Homestead)

If there was ever a year for this to happen though, this was it.

“These things are equal, and if you hit it right, you’re fast,” Ross Chastain said earlier in this year’s playoffs “We saw both RFK cars (were) just better than everybody tonight. Either one of them could have won. I don’t think they do that last year.”

Kyle Larson agreed. The defending NASCAR Cup Series champion said this is all a byproduct of everyone having the same parts on their cars. There’s no innovation anymore.

Another factor is that in the past, the teams that had already won a race would save their best equipment for the end to when it mattered the most. Why waste it on regular season races that don’t matter as much to them.

“When we used to build our own cars and design our own cars, we would just save the best stuff for the end of the season,” Denny Hamlin said. “Everyone would front-load a lot of their best people, best parts, best bodies, best cars for the playoffs. There’s no secret the ones who kept advancing, the cars just got faster. They started pushing tech a little bit more. It wasn’t a coincidence the final four is always 1-2-3-4 (in the race).”

AVONDALE, ARIZONA – NOVEMBER 06: Ross Chastain, driver of the #1 Worldwide Express/Advent Health Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 06, 2022 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

No One Tried Chastain’s Martinsville Move

This was one of the more debated things this week leading up to the Championship 4. Who would try to mimic Ross Chastain’s move at Phoenix? Would the leader dare try it? After three races and all three coming down to the wire, no one dared make an attempt at Chastain’s move that he pulled a week prior.

Chastain says that this track doesn’t lend to a possibility to do it which is why he didn’t.

“I did not,” Chastain said when asked if he thought about trying it. “With five to go, I looked at it going into Turn 3, and I knew Daniel tried it and other guys, and I just didn’t think that it worked. I thought that the Martinsville scenario was the perfect scenario for it, and my gut told me to do it at Martinsville and my gut told me not to do it here.

“Ultimately that’s all I can do. Yeah, I don’t think it’s — everybody thought everybody would be doing it here, and they think they’re going to do it there. Look, it’s scary as heck to commit to that and to put your car and your body through that.

“That was the longest wreck of my life. It was a successful wreck for a long time through the corner.”

Chastain says that he’s glad that despite calls for change by his peers this week, that NASCAR didn’t act out of irrational fear.

“I’m glad that NASCAR dug their heels in a bit this weekend and said, look, we’re not going to overreact to this, we’re just going to let it play out, and we’ll continue to talk about it in the off-season, even though there was a lot of push for a rule today,” he contineud. “And super proud of the group at NASCAR and everybody in charge for taking charge and making their own decision and not letting the pressure of the driver group steer them too far.

“They took a big leap of faith with this car, the France family and NASCAR did. Obviously I’m really thankful for that because it put Trackhouse into existence, and it gave us kind of the reason that we’ve been able to be successful.

“And I think that, as we keep going and the sport evolves, it’s important for them to — they run the show, and sometimes they need to — you tell us what to do, you tell us what the rule book is, and then let us go race. That’s what makes NASCAR so great, I think.”

Kyle Larson said last week that it was embarrassing. Some said it make NASCAR looked amateurish. Others warned that what would stop other drivers from doing this again in the future?

“I think all of us have done it on some video games, whatnot. He executed it well. Curious to see what kind worm hole that opens up at the end of these races going forward,” Chase Briscoe said.

Joey Logano was even more critical of the maneuver.

“As spectacular as it was, as much as it worked, the problem is now the box is open, right?” said Joey Logano “Now every Xfinity race, every Truck race, every Cup race, no matter the track, this wall riding is going to be a play. That’s not good. That’s not good.

“I mean, it was awesome, it was cool. It happened for the first time. There’s no rule against it. There needs to be a rule against this one because I don’t know if you want the whole field riding the wall coming to the checkered flag.

“I don’t know if it’s the safest thing for the driver or the fans when you have a car right up at the wall hauling the mail like that. What if that fence, gate, wasn’t closed all the way? What if it was bent and caught his car? That’s a big risk that Ross was willing to take. God bless him, that’s awesome.

“I don’t think we need to do that every week.”

His teammate Ryan Blaney noted that he saw the move and said why not do that every week?

“I just saw it and I guess I wish I should have done it.  I guess we’ll all start doing it now coming down to the end of the race,” he says.

“That’s why I’m saying we probably need to do something about it before next week,” Logano said last Sunday. “Like I said, the box is open now. It’s going to continue to happen until we do something about it.

“Yeah, I mean, Phoenix presents the opportunity for it, too. A little different entry point and all that. But, yeah, when you’re going for a championship, you’re probably going to do it.

“You’re leading going into the last corner, you’re going to put it in the wall? Geez. It’s cool, it happened once, we don’t need to make this a thing.

“We can’t make it a thing. I mean, hey, the first time it happens, that’s pretty awesome. I mean, if that don’t make SportsCenter’s top 10 plays, I don’t know what does. Race into a championship, that’s crazy.

“I haven’t really talked to Ross. I don’t know how he feels about it. You think about getting bounced off the wall like that, your head is bouncing around like crazy. You touch the fence, there’s no suspension between the car and the fence. You know what I mean? It’s really rough if you start riding the wall like that.

“Like I said, we need to do something about it. It was awesome. If we did it every week, it wouldn’t be very professional at all. But since this is the first time, hey, more power to him.”

NASCAR however talked about the move on Tuesday and said that they’re not going to take any action against future use of it and that it was perfectly legal in their eyes.

“As with anything you see for a first time, you’ve got to take a look,” O’Donnell said. “We’ve had a number of discussions internally about that move and what-ifs. That’s within the rules, and believe that is where we’ll be for Phoenix, as well, and then something we can evaluate in the offseason.”

“At this point in looking at it, it was a move within the bounds of the rule book and really don’t think it’s right to adjust the rules when for 35 points races we’ve been one way and throw a wrinkle in it for the 36th (race).”

No one dared to try it again. The only move now is, does someone do so the next time we go to Richmond or Martinsville as they’re the only tracks that drivers say that kind of move will work on.

AVONDALE, ARIZONA – NOVEMBER 06: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, crosses the finish line to win the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 06, 2022 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Best Car Won Today And All Weekend

No one would deny the fact that the best car won this race. That’s not been entirely the case in year’s past because you could get a late race caution to alter the entire complexity of the event. Even with one this year, Joey Logano was untouchable.

“Somebody could dominate a race and not end up winning the race or the championship,” said Chase Elliott on Saturday. “I think it all has to go your way, right? Yes, you want to have pace. Having pace in your car and being fast gives you a lot of opportunities in different ways. But there are other ways to win, and there are other ways to lose, too.

“I think it all has to go your way — good timing, good people. Not only in the sport, but everything I’ve ever seen.”

Logano wouldn’t be denied on Sunday. He led a race-high 187 laps while none of the other four even led a lap. Logano was never behind any of the other three on track all day and wouldn’t leave this one in doubt.

“Mr. Penske’s group had us covered all day, and Joey was the best car until the final run, then we had a real shot to race with him,” Ross Chastain said. “But we didn’t have the balance in our car and the grip in our car all day to be that way.”

Christopher Bell agreed.

“There were a couple things that we definitely could have done different today, but ultimately the 22 was lights out all weekend, winning the pole and being super strong in practice. We were just kind of playing catch-up, the rest of us were playing catch-up to him. The best car won the championship for sure.”

It was similar to the other two races this weekend. Zane Smith was on the pole in the Truck Series race on Friday night, turned that into a stage sweep and in turn scored a race win and a championship. Ty Gibbs did the same a day later. He was untouchable from the pole, getting a stage sweep and a win in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series season finale while leading 125 of the 200 laps.

Logano won the pole, won the first stage and won in the end.

AVONDALE, ARIZONA – NOVEMBER 06: Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 DeWalt Toyota, pits during the NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 06, 2022 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Pit Calls Got Bell Here, Bad Final Pit Stop Stopped His Championship Hopes

There’s no reason to believe anyone was going to beat Joey Logano in the end and while we’ll never know if Christopher Bell had anything in his No. 20 Toyota to top Logano’s No. 22 Ford in the end. In a playoffs that saw Adam Stevens call Bell down pit road while running sixth during a late caution on the Charlotte ROVAL, he restarted 11th and won in overtime to advance to the Round of 8. In the third round, Bell facing a must-win, gave up the lead with 29 to go to pit for the final time. He’d restart 6th. He’d win and stamp his name to come here this weekend with a shot at a title.

Bell was chasing his car all weekend. He was terrible in practice on Friday. Their improvements only landed him 17th in qualifying on Saturday. They made a great pit call to pit first among the Championship 4 drivers for what they thought would be the final time on Lap 249. Joey Logano pit two laps later. Bell gained two spots and was right on Logano’s tail for the final stretch. Then came the Lap 267 final caution. One more pit stop This one the money stop.

Bell’s crew had an issue and he lost 9 spots in going from 5th to 16th. His championship hopes were over then.

“Yeah, you know that that’s pretty much taking your chance away from competing for it,” Bell said of that stop.

“But I think from what they told me, Caleb, our jack man, got his finger smashed or something, so the last thing we want is an injury on the last race of the year, so I hope he’s okay. It just wasn’t meant to be, and that’s about all you can say.”

AVONDALE, ARIZONA – NOVEMBER 06: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, Harrison Burton, driver of the #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford, and William Byron, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 06, 2022 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Track Position Key

Unfortunately, the race on Sunday wasn’t much better than it was here in March. 11 lead changes among 6 drivers and just two of them were on track and the other 9 on pit sequences. That wasn’t surprising though as the drivers felt like it would be a difficult day to pass.

“Yeah, it’s just tough. It’s unbelievable how much your pace is better just getting — you take the same cars that are running 10th, 15th and put them in the front, and their pace is always going to be better,” he says.

Chase Elliott agreed and wondered if he could ever get the track position that Logano had, if he could have utilized it as well to stay ahead.

“Yeah, maybe,” he questions. “I feel like we had gotten it driving about as good as it had been all weekend, honestly. When we split the stage and some of those guys stayed out and ran long and we went a lap down and made our lap back up there under green, that run, I thought our car was driving pretty good.

“We had been adjusting to that point, and I thought we had gotten into a decent spot. It’s hard to tell. We were out there on fresher tires, and other guys were on old stuff.

“I was looking forward to seeing if that held true, but from where I sat, obviously it’s difficult because you don’t have a lot to gauge off of pace-wise. But I felt like our balance was getting pretty close. That was good.

“But until you kind of get back in the mix and reset there, it is tough to say. Would have loved to see what it looked like on the front couple of rows. I felt like we just had, like I said a second ago, our best pit stop of the day, guys were rolling there on pit road. And yeah, would have loved a shot there at the end, but that’s the way it works.”

Of Note

It was a near perfect season for Ford in NASCAR. The first win for the Next Gen in the Clash in the LA Coliseum. They then won the Daytona 500. They took the Truck Series title on Friday and the Cup championshp on Sunday.

“Yeah, the truck race on Friday and the championship and Zane Smith and what Front Row Motorsports has done in starting that truck program and Zane being as strong as he was and, again, a dominant race that he had, as well, so he’s got a really strong future in the sport,” said Ford’s Mark Rushbrook.

“And that means so much to us because the Truck Series is important to us. It’s a great place for talent, for us to develop that at all elements of the team, and especially in the drivers. So that was an important day for us. And then to cap it off today with the Cup Series and Joey and the championship, it’s been a great weekend.

“At the end of the day, at the end of the season, it’s the championship that matters. So to get the truck championship and the Cup championship, that means so much. Great to see our young drivers excelling as well.

“So with Austin Cindric as a rookie to come in at the Daytona 500 and to win and Chase Briscoe getting a win here in Phoenix early in the season, strength across our different teams and our drivers, really happy with where our program is right now.”

NASCAR Cup Series Race – 35th Annual NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race

Phoenix Raceway

Avondale, Arizona

Sunday, 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)  AJ 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)  BJ 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 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s