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Joey Logano after his victory at Phoenix. (Ivan Veldhuizen Photo)

The ‘Twenty-Two In ’22’: Logano’s Powerful Title Drive

There was really never any doubt that Joey Logano was in command of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race.

He started on the pole, led five times for 187 laps and trailed one of the other three Championship Four competitors for just two laps in Sunday’s 312-lap NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway.

None of the other drivers on the track could pass Logano’s perfectly prepared No. 22 Ford Thunderbird for Team Penske.

And that is why the 32-year-old Logano is the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series champion, the first two-time Cup Series champion for team owner Roger Penske and the first multiple Cup Series champion for Ford since David Pearson in 1966, 1968 and 1969.

In Logano’s mind, there was never any doubt.

“Yeah, we had a good car, and I told the guys, after we put it on the pole the other day – ‘We got them down; now we put our foot on them,’” Logano said.

That’s exactly what he did in the race.

“That’s the attitude you’ve got to have,” Logano continued. “It’s just what it is when it comes to this level. Your feelings are checked at the door, and it’s all about winning and nothing less than that.

“When you get this far, I said it all week, we weren’t satisfied with being in the Championship Four. There was nothing to celebrate for us. We’ve been here before. We know what it feels like to lose. It’s the worst feeling in the world, if I’m being honest, and winning is the best feeling in the world.

“It’s great to be able to accomplish it. I said that this was revenge for 2020. It certainly was. Something that’s going to stick with me for a while.”

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Joey Logano in victory lane at Phoenix. (Ivan Veldhuizen Photo)

It’s the first time in Team Penske history that team owner Roger Penske has won the NASCAR Cup Series Champion and the NTT IndyCar Series Championship in the same season. Will Power won his second IndyCar Series title for Team Penske on September 11 at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca.

It’s Team Penske’s third NASCAR Cup Series title. Brad Keselowski won the Cup Series championship in 2012 and Logano won his first in 2018.

Logano’s 2022 Cup Series title gives Penske 43 Championships since 1966.

He becomes Ford’s first two-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion since David Pearson in 1966, 1968 and 1969.

In a season when a record 19 drivers won races during the NASCAR season with the NextGen car, Logano was able to figure it out at the right time.

“This year was an adventure,” Logano said of the new car. “There were times when I felt lost.

“But I looked around and everyone else was lost with me so that gave me confidence.”

This was also the first season where Logano was cast into the role of senior driver on a racing team. He was just a teenager when he moved up to the Cup Series at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2009.

When he moved over to Team Penske in 2013, he was still the youngest driver on the team.

When Brad Keselowski left Team Penske at the end of last season to join team owner Jack Roush at what is now RFK Racing, at 32, it was time for Logano to become the team leader.

“He came to us 10 years ago and it’s hard to believe that,” team owner Roger Penske said. “There was a lot of discussion if that was the right move. 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.

“I said to him at the beginning of the year, with Brad leaving and Joey being the senior guy, to really put his arms around the whole team.”

Logano accepted the role and embraced it. He worked with the team’s other two drivers, Ryan Blaney, and young Austin Cindric.

It proved to be a cohesive collection of drivers.

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Logano crosses the start/finish line to win at Phoenix. (HHP/Tim Parks)

“I think we’re a lot more transparent as a group,” Penske said. “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 (his wife) 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.”

He proved that in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. When he drove to victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 16, he was the first of the four drivers to make it into the Championship Four.

That allowed him to work with crew chief Paul Wolfe and get a head start on taking a Ford Mustang to Phoenix that was the best on the race track.

There was no doubt about that as Logano won the pole Saturday and led the field for much of Sunday’s race.

He drove that Ford Mustang all the way to Victory Lane and to the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Championship.

“Amazing,” Logano said. “It felt like it took too long to get back to this point, but it’s so special to win championships. It’s what you want. It’s the only thing I race for. 

“Race wins are nice, but championships are what it’s all about,” Logano said. “We worked so hard the last couple weeks trying to put ourselves in position. And everything that happened in 2020, I knew we just wanted to have a solid run and do this today.  I can’t thank Ford and Shell-Pennzoil enough for supporting me over the last 10 years and getting us a couple championships.”

The championship is the second for Logano, who claimed the 2018 title after winning the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“I knew going into this thing that we were going to win the championship,” Logano said. “I told the guys we were the favorite from Daytona, and we truly believed it, and that’s the difference.

“I had a good team with a bunch of confidence, and we had all the reason in the world to be confident. I’ve never been truly this ready for a championship race, and yeah, we did it.

“I can’t believe it.”

November 4, 2022: at Phoenix Raceway in Phoenix, AZ  (HHP/Jim Fluharty)
Joey Logano (HHP/Jim Fluharty)

It was the first time a Ford Mustang has won the Cup Series championship.

“Joey is a racer who pays attention to every single detail and especially getting locked in early like he did,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “That’s all he’s been focused on the last three weeks, with (crew chief) Paul Wolfe and the entire team.  He’s just so committed and so strong and executed every lap today.

“At the end of the day and at the end of the season it’s the championship that matters, so to get the Truck championship and the Cup championship means so much.”

Logano’s drive to the championship was never really in danger, at least not on Sunday.

“I’m just super proud of this race team, super proud of everybody on it, not just the 22 team but everybody that puts a bunch of effort into this,” Logano said. “You think of everyone at Team Penske, everyone at Roush Yates, everyone at Shell and Pennzoil and Ford and everybody that really supports us and not just them but their families.

“You’re gone and you’re on the road all year long, it’s a grind. If you have kids, your spouse is pretty much raising your kids alone. It’s hard. It’s not just for me that way, it’s everybody that’s on this whole series all year long, in hopes that you win a championship.

“I found out in 2018 — I say it all the time. I found out in 2018 how big the team really is, and I carry that weight with me now, knowing how big it is and the impact it makes on their families.

“A lot more gifts under the Christmas tree now, so I’m excited about this.”

Logano started the season by winning The Clash at the Los Angeles Coliseum. He finished 2022 by driving the No. 22 to the NASCAR Cup Series Championship with a victory in the championship race.

“Getting the bookends, the first and the last race, means a lot, as well,” Logano said. “It’s just a really special year for us with our third baby even.

“Twenty-two in ’22, I told you so.”

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