Joey Logano and his Team Penske mates celebrate clinching the NASCAR Cup Series title at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (HHP/Garry Eller photo)

NASCAR In 2018 — The 75 Years Edition

Editor’s Note: NASCAR is celebrating its 75th anniversary. SPEED SPORT was founded in 1934 and was already on its way to becoming America’s Motorsports Authority when NASCAR was formed. As a result, we will bring you Part 71 of a 75-part series on the history NASCAR.

Joey Logano wasn’t part of the so-called “Big Three” entering the championship-deciding Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway, yet he emerged from the fray with his first NASCAR Cup Series championship.

Much like Jeff Gordon, Ray Evernham and the Rainbow Warriors in the mid-1990s, Logano did so with an air of confidence and a simple motto — refuse to lose.

Logano first showcased that mantra during the first race of the Round of 8, bumping his way past Martin Truex Jr. in the final corner at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway to lock up a spot in the Championship 4.

He wasn’t content to sit behind Truex that day, and he wasn’t content to follow him on finale day, either.

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The NASCAR Cup Series competed for the first time on the ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway during the 2018 season. (NASCAR photo)

With 12 laps to go in the last race of the season, Logano drove his No. 22 Team Penske Ford deeper into turns one and two than anyone had all day long, allowing him to pass Truex and secure a career-defining victory.

The Championship Four drivers — Logano, Truex, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch — finished first through fourth in the event.

Logano climbed from his car jubilant, but he faced the media with grace and perspective that many doubted he possessed.

“When you put yourself in high‑pressure situations, you get more out of yourself than you ever knew was there and I think that move at the end of the race showed it,” said Logano. “It’s simple, you refuse to lose. You really do, because I know how much it hurts to finish second and I didn’t want to again.

“As far as I was concerned, we didn’t have a reason to not feel confident. We really didn’t,” he added. “We’ve executed under high pressure situations before, and we’ve been here before and done a great job. My pit crew was incredible. I had everyone around me. I just had to go do my job. The hard part was over.

“Plus, all you guys thought we were the underdog. I didn’t think that, but most everyone else did. Who knows? Maybe someone won some money in Vegas.”

Logano won only once during the regular season, but went on a tear when it mattered most.

He won twice during the playoffs, at Martinsville and Homestead, and posted the best average finish of the 16 drivers that made up this year’s playoff field at 8.6

“That’s what the playoffs are about, right?” said Logano. “It happens in all sports. You have to be able to race for wins when it’s most important. We had to. We didn’t have anything to fall back on. We had to go, and we did and look where we’re at now.”

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Kevin Harvick (4) and Kyle Busch (18) battle for the lead at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2018. (Dave Moulthrop photo)

Logano was the 33rd driver to win a Cup Series championship, with the title coming in NASCAR’s 70th season.

Truex won four races and finished second in the standings only to see his Furniture Row Racing team that won the title in 2017, shut down at the end of the season.

Harvick and Busch were the big winners with each driver winning eight races during the 36-race campaign. Busch earned the regular season trophy that was awarded for the first time.

Chase Elliott, the most popular driver in the series, and Brad Keselowski each won three races, while Clint Bowyer picked up a pair of victories. Single-race winners were Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones and Austin Dillon, who won the season-opening Daytona 500 for Richard Childress Racing.

Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron, who replaced Jeff Gordon in the iconic No. 24 Chevrolet, was named rookie of the year.

Harvick, Kyle Busch and Keselowski each had three-race winning streaks during the campaign