Logano’s ability to adapt a big reason as to why he won this year’s championship in Phoenix

AVONDALE, AZ — The writing was on the wall the entire time. It was right in front of our faces. Joey Logano is among the best there is in this sport in winning inaugural races, so why wouldn’t we assume the driver to make the Championship 4 in every even numbered year would win the title in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season in the first year of this new Next Gen race car?

“Yeah, I think everyone can probably agree it’s the most challenging year and unexpected year from a lot of ways,” Logano said. “So many different winners, for one. I didn’t see that one coming.

“The lack of consistency throughout the field, hard to really click off a bunch of top 5s and a bunch of wins. The teams that were strong weren’t strong for super long before someone else would figure something out, and just the unexpected pieces that come along with it, whether it’s the pit stops, the strategy, the way the races play out.

“Boy, this year was an adventure, to say the least amount.

“To think about how many things have changed from Phoenix in the spring to now, boy, we’re so much smarter with this race car now. It’s just kind of crazy to think about it all.

“Yeah, it was a tough grind of a year, and a lot of times you just felt lost. A lot of times. The only thing that helped me is I realized that everyone else was lost with me. That’s one way to stay confident is when you know everyone else is lost, too.”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 06: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on February 06, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Logano started the year off with a win in the first ever Next Gen race and did so in the inaugural Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. His second win came in the inaugural race at the World Wide Technology Raceway. A highlight of his 2021 season was winning the inaugural Bristol Dirt Race.

See a theme?

Logano’s ability to adjust and adapt is a quality that’s vastly underrated in this sport today. In a season to where everyone had to alter their driving styles to learn this new car that would handle, brake and steer entirely different than before, Logano adapted the best.

“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.”

Wolfe notes that since 2020 really started in COVID, there’s been very limited practice as weekend’s have greatly shortened. Throw in a new car and just 20 minutes of practice each weekend, it’s a new era.

“I mean, I think it’s a steep learning curve this year with this car,” Wolfe says. “It’s something totally different than what we’ve obviously used in the past and with the whole underbody and the aero side of it, understanding some of the trade-offs of the mechanical setups versus aero, and a lot of the things we did in the past really don’t work with this car.

“Being open minded and continuing to have guys come up with different ideas, things to try and just being smart about every week trying to take something out of it and learn something, and then very limited opportunities to test and practice with a 20-minute practice session and very limited changes, it makes it really hard to try to advance and get better.

“So when you have those opportunities, you really have to make sure you’re prepared to get the most out of them. And that’s where I feel like having a great group of guys on this team and within Team Penske, we’re able to make the most of that.

“It’s obviously made the difference for us.”

Wolfe and Logano joined forces for that 2020 season. They’ve made the final round in 2 of those 3 years.

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