It has been as near to a perfect a season as Roger Penske could hope for, starting with the inaugural NASCAR race with the new Next Gen vehicle, the Daytona 500, the IndyCar championship, and now the NASCAR Cup championship.
Joey Logano won the winner-take-all championship race on Sunday at Phoenix Raceway, earning Penske its first Cup and IndyCar titles in 31 attempts. This was Logano’s second NASCAR championship.
Penske remarked, “It’s about time. “Joey performed a fantastic job, and that’s why we’re here: to win two championships in one year. We aim to accomplish that each year. Although I believe we were close, we succeeded this year.”
It was Logano’s fourth win of the season, having taken his first win of the new season in an exhibition race at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in January. Less than a month later, rookie teammate Austin Cindrick won the Daytona 500 on Penske’s 85th birthday.
Will Ball added the IndyCar Championship to Team Penske’s trophy showcase in September, while Logano’s dominance on Sunday ended a banner year for the organization.
“When it comes to it, I know we’re going to win the championship. I tell the guys we’re the favorites at Daytona and we really believe that and that’s the difference,” Logano said. “I have a good team with a lot of confidence and we have every reason to be confident. I’ve never been prepared for a championship game like this, yes we did. I don’t believe it.”
Logano met his wife and 4-year-old son Hudson, the eldest of his three children and the only one to travel to Phoenix after the win. Logano took Hudson’s hand and ran to the bench for the checkered flag.
His son jumped back to the track, waving a flag and holding the champion father’s hand. Logano had assured Hudson that he would win the championship.
“We’ve had a lot of bedtime conversations over the past few weeks. The first one was ‘Dad will get pole, he’s going to meet me here, we’re going to win the race’ and I was able to ‘I’m not going to be right’ My son lied,'” Logano said.
Logano then took Hudson to the championship stage in the No. 22 Ford.
“I’ve always wanted to do this with Hudson. He’s a little Autobot,” Logano said.
Logano, 32, is the oldest driver in Championship 4 and the only one who is married and has children. The next generation raced this season, and the Cup Series celebrated 19 different winners, including five rookies and two first-time Championship drivers.
Even at par, Logano never doubted it would be his season.
“Getting the bookends, the first game and the last game, means a lot,” Logano said. “This is a very special year for us, we have our third child, 22, 22, I told you!”
It was Penske’s third cup win, which he won with Brad Keselowski in 2012, and Logano’s first in 2018. Logano is the only active driver to win multiple cups with Kyle Busch.
Logano won pole and was never really challenged on Sunday as his Ford led 186 out of 312 laps and he was more than a lap title contender. He is the first Ford driver to win two Cups since David Pearson in 1968 and 1969
It was the second Cup win for Crew Chief Paul Wolf, who won the title with Keselowski in 2012 and admitted to giving rival Ford Crew Chief Rodney Childers a shot during the race. Text messages provide strategic advice.
“I texted him during the game, ‘What do you think? What would you do?'” Wolff said. “I have ideas, but all the other crew members probably don’t. It’s good to have a different point of view. There are people in the garage you can trust and some you can’t trust. I think Rodney and I have a great relationship. Well, I appreciate it.”
Ross Chastain finished third in his championship debut and Christopher Bell finished 10th in his debut. Bell was driving for hours after Joe Gibbs Racing learned that Coy Gibbs, the son of the Hall of Fame team owner and vice-chairman, had died in his sleep at the age of 49.
“You wake up this morning, you’re fighting for a championship, you’re happy, you’re excited, and then your world falls apart,” Bell said. “Whenever you get a message like this, it definitely makes people see that there’s a lot more than just racing.”
Chase Elliott was shot by Chastain early in the closing period, his Chevy slammed into the wall, and he was immediately out of the race. It broke Hendrick Motorsports’ record for two consecutive cup wins.
“Of course, just disappointing, ending our day, ending our chances of winning or a championship. Just disappointing,” Elliott said.
The NASCAR favorite won a career-high five races and a regular-season title that year, but Elliott lost his chance for a second title when he passed in front of Chastain, who refused to take off. The contact knocked Elliott against the wall and he dropped to 30th, dropping a lap during the pits to finish 28th.
“I feel like it was just hard racing and I had position,” Chastain said. “I got to the left of [Elliott] and saw an erratic move that he made to turn left to cover it, but I was already there. It’s not how I want to race them or those guys.”
Logano, who started his career with JGR and spent five seasons there before he was fired after the 2012 season, gave his regards to the Gibbs family after the win.
“I don’t know what to think, but obviously my condolences go to the Gibbs family,” Logano said. “But just an incredible day for us, and kind of mixed emotions at the moment.”