AVONDALE, AZ — Joey Logano was looking for redemption on Sunday afternoon and got it in the form of a championship. It’s his 2nd of his NASCAR career as he now joins Kyle Busch as the only drivers walking through that NASCAR Cup Series garage with multiple championships to their names.
With that said, does this make Logano a first ballot Hall of Famer?
In this new era, ones with a new playoff format and stages, he’s the only driver to win multiple championships and he’s the only one to do so at 2 different tracks with the other coming in 2018 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
His 31 wins rank him tied with Martin Truex Jr. for 28th all-time. Dale Jarrett is one spot ahead of them in career wins but has 1 fewer championship now, but is in the Hall. Matt Kenseth has 39 wins, 1 championship and is in the Hall of Fame.
Why wouldn’t Logano?
I think we’re witnessing a future legend of this sport in the now and one that maybe we’ve taken for granted for all these years. 1 championship is one thing. But to have 2? That puts you in a different category.
“I feel like I’ve never been a better race car driver than I am today,” says Logano. “I’ve never been more committed about it, even with more — I don’t want to call it distractions, but more things going on in my life. I’ve never had more going on in my life than I do right now with three crazy kids at home and other businesses and just stuff.
“To be able to juggle all that and prioritize all that has been the difference for me. And I honestly feel like all of it’s made me a better person altogether. Long ways to go, though. I’m not there yet; I can promise you that.”
It’s an elite fraternity to have won multiple Cup championships. Only 17 people in the history of this planet can say that they’ve done so. Logano is among them.
He’s a Daytona 500 champion. He’s the youngest winner ever in the Xfinity and Cup Series. He won the inaugural Bristol Dirt Race. He won the inaugural race in Gateway. He also won the inaugural Busch Light Clash in the LA Coliseum.
Yes, 2 of his 5 trips to victory lane (counting the Clash) were in 1st time events this year alone as he won the first race and last of the season.
That’s a far cry from what we were saying about him when he was struggling with Joe Gibbs Racing. It’s a long way from 2009 when he entered his rookie season cocky and expecting great success.
13 years later he has 31 trips to victory lane and a multi-time champion. He said earlier this playoffs at Bristol when he was making his 500th career start that he came into the rookie season expecting way more but left that year worried he may not even have a job.
It was an eye opening experience in NASCAR’s top level. He was taking over a ride that future Tony Stewart left. Mark Martin dubbed him the greatest thing since sliced bread. The anticipation was high and success was already a given. Except that the success was few a far between in his early years.
Logano had just 1 win in his first 126 career starts. It wasn’t until the 15th race of the 2012 season that he finally went back. He had just 3 top 5’s in 2009. Then 7 more in 2010. He had just 4 in 2011.
That left Logano directly on the hot seat entering that pivotal 2012 season. In a ride at Joe Gibbs Racing, it doesn’t matter your age, they expect you to win right away. He wasn’t.
JGR had to turn their focus on finding a replacement for him if he couldn’t’ perform. He didn’t. While he did win in 2012, that was 50% of his top 5 finishes that season. So JGR had to let him walk.
2 wins, 16 top 5 finishes, 60 top 10’s, 5 poles and 337 laps led. That’s not good enough. It was time for a change of scenery for him. His career was at a fast cross roads. At just 23 years old, he was facing free agency already.
But that’s exactly what he needed. In just 1 year at Team Penske, he had led almost as many laps in 36 races (323) than he did in 4 seasons (337) at JGR.
Logano had 1 win, 11 top 5 finishes and 19 top 10’s in his first season in 2013 with Team Penske. A year later, he won 5 times, had 16 top 5 finishes and 22 top 10’s. He’d march all the way to the Championship 4 in the first season of this new format’s inception.
It gave him the confidence that he can perform at the highest level in the highest level of stock car racing. Gibbs brought him up too quickly and Penske gave him a lifeline when he needed it.
Now, 10 seasons in at Penske, Logano has 31 wins, 132 top 5 finishes, 196 top 10’s, 20 poles and 7,648 laps led in the No. 22 Ford. That’s a far cry from 4 seasons at JGR.
“Well, I think he came with us, what, 10 years ago. It’s hard to believe that. There was a lot of discussion was that the right move,” Roger Penske said after Logano won the championship on Sunday in Phoenix. “I have to thank Brad (Keselowski) who talked to me about Joey and really made the opportunity for me to meet with him.
“He’s come on, you’ve seen his success. The number of races he’s won for us has been amazing.
“He really — I said to him at the beginning of the year, with Brad leaving and he being the senior guy, to really put his arms around the whole team.
“And I think we’re a lot more transparent as a group. They certainly worked together coming here this weekend. You could see all the cars were very competitive, and that’s because they all went on the same step, and they had a practice to see what was best, and we loaded that on the cars.
“I think he’s been a big advocate for that. And then not just what he’s doing on the track; our relationship with Shell-Pennzoil couldn’t be better, and it’s because of the job that he’s done and what he does off the track.
“And then he and Brittany, from a philanthropy standpoint, I see another part of Joey you don’t see when he puts his helmet on. But once he puts that helmet on, you want to be sure he’s on your team.”
His crew chief, Paul Wolfe, agreed.
“That’s a lot of what I saw out of Joey and his teammates when he joined us at Team Penske was that drive he had and the effort he put in over the years,” he said. “You always know what you’re going to get with him, and that’s 100 percent focus and doing the best he’s capable of.
“Those are the kind of people you want to work with. You never doubt his work ethic and what he’s putting into being the best he can be. That’s what makes you want to — motivates you to work hard.
“I knew he was capable of winning this race and championship today, and just didn’t want to let him down. We’ve got a great group of guys on our team and supporting us, and we were able to give him what he needed to do his job, and then we got the results we deserved.”
9 of his 10 seasons at Penske have seen him finish in the top 8 in points. Penske has won 3 Cup titles, 2 of which coming from Logano.
At just 32 years old, he still has at least a decade to up these stats even further.