AVONDALE – Entering the NASCAR Cup Series Championship, Joey Logano expressed a quiet but strong confidence in his team’s chances. “For one, we’re not (just) happy to be here,” Logano said before Sunday’s finale at Phoenix Raceway.
Logano and the Roger Penske team wanted more – the ultimate Cup Series prize – and backed words with action in a dominant win that etched Logano’s name in an exclusive group of multi-time Cup Series champions. He beat out fellow contenders Chase Elliott, Ross Chastain and Christopher Bell to join Kyle Busch as the only current full-time, multi-time champion on the series.
“I said it all week – we weren’t satisfied with being in the Championship 4. There was nothing to celebrate for us,” Logano said Sunday after the win. “We’ve been here before, we know what it feels like to lose, and it’s the worst feeling in the world. Winning is the best feeling in the world, so it’s great to be able to accomplish it. I said this revenge for 2020.”
Logano nearly won his second title in Phoenix in 2020, but Elliott instead took home his first Bill France Cup. A four-time winner in 2022, Logano gleamed while discussing the importance of Sunday’s win for him and his family.
His son, Hudson, joined him in the winning car for post-race victory doughnuts.
“Celebrating together and really taking a moment to really enjoy that, even more so than last time,” Logano said. “I was conscious about that because it’s the best moment. The first 10 minutes are the best, there’s just nothing like it. It’s so hard to achieve it, and you just hope to have that feeling again, so I took my time and I’m glad I did.”
Sunday’s win meant even more for the entire Penske team. In 2022, Penske won the Daytona 500 with Austin Cindric, the IndyCar championship with Will Power, and now the Cup Series title with Logano.
“I think we’ve tried it for 31 years, so it’s about time,” Penske said about winning the IndyCar and Cup Series titles simultaneously. “What a special weekend it was for us.
“Joey did a great job. You’ve seen what he’s been able to do since he’s come on the team, for us to have two championships in the same year, that’s what we’re here for, that’s the goal we have every year, and I think we’ve been close but we got it this year.”
The No. 22 team was one of the strongest teams in the field throughout the season. Logano was the only winner from team Penske following the Daytona 500, winning four points races while teammates Cindric and Ryan Blaney were winless the rest of the way.
Ryan played a major role Sunday, consistently running in front or behind of Logano’s lead. The No. 22 car passed Ryan for the lead with 28 laps left to set up Team Penske for the win.
Logano led 183 laps, but the stat only begins to tell the story of this race.
After Logano led every lap of stage one, stage two forced the championship drivers into a fuel-strategy decision due to an early timed caution. While running out of fuel at the end of stage two wasn’t an automatic death blow, drivers had to weigh going a lap or two down, which is less than ideal for any driver.
Elliott and his team ultimately decided to go a lap down to pit, while Logano, Bell and Chastain all finished on fuel. All four championship drivers restarted 11th or better to begin stage three.
After a caution on lap one of stage three, the field lined up for another restart. When the race restarted, Elliott got turned immediately heading into turn one, sending him into the wall and effectively ending his title hopes for a disappointing end to the season.
Midway through stage three, a cycle of green flag pit stops allowed Bell to close the 2.5-second gap between him and Logano. He exited pit road right on the Penske Ford’s bumper but couldn’t find his way around the 22 car.
In the same cycle, a long pit stop essentially took Chastain out of contention. He eventually made his way up to third, where he would finish, but could never get within 1.5 seconds of Logano.
Chastain could only be proud after coming up just short.
“The emotions are surprisingly good, I’m not sad,” Chastain said. “I thought if I lost by a little bit that I would be really upset, and I’m not. I’m so proud and so happy to get our first shot at these playoffs and racing in the Cup Series with Trackhouse.”
In the end, the 2022 season marked “The Year of Joey Logano.” His ability to adapt to the new car and shoulder the load for Team Penske showed NASCAR crowned a rightful, deserving champion this season.