Joey Logano’s Cup Series title caps incredible year for Penske

AP photo by Rick Scuteri / Team Penske driver Joey Logano and his family hold up two fingers to indicate his second NASCAR Cup Series title as they celebrate after after he won Sunday's season finale at Phoenix Raceway.

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Penske Perfect.

From the first race with NASCAR's Next Gen car, to the Daytona 500 in February, to the IndyCar championship and now the NASCAR Cup Series title, it's been about as close to a perfect season as possible for motorsports titan Roger Penske.

Joey Logano was one of the four Cup Series drivers eligible for the title in Sunday's season finale at Phoenix Raceway, where the highest finisher in the group would be crowned champion, and he left nothing to chance. Logano, 32, won the race to secure his second championship four years after his first, and in the process he gave team owner Penske the Cup Series and IndyCar titles in the same season for the first time in 31 attempts.

"It's about time," Penske said. "Joey did a great job, and 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. I think we've been close, but we got it this year."

It was the fourth win of the season for Logano, who opened the 2022 NASCAR calendar with a January triumph in the exhibition Clash at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as the Next Gen made its debut. Less than a month later, rookie teammate Austin Cindric won the Daytona 500 on Penske's 85th birthday.

Will Power added the IndyCar championship to the Team Penske trophy case in September, and Logano's dominating run Sunday closed out the banner year for the organization.

"I knew going into this thing that we're going to win the championship. I told the guys we were the favorite from Daytona, and we truly believed it, and that's the difference," said Logano, who now has 31 career wins in the Cup Series. "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, man. I can't believe it."

Logano was met after the win by his wife and 4-year-old son, Hudson, the oldest of his three children and the only one to make the trip to Phoenix. Logano took Hudson by the hand and ran up the banking to collect the checkered flag.

His son skipped back down the track, waving the flag and holding his champion father's hand. Logano had promised Hudson he'd win the title.

"We've had so many conversations over the last couple weeks before bedtime. First was 'Daddy is going to get a pole, and he's going to meet me out here and we're going to win the race,' and I couldn't be a liar to my son," Logano said.

Logano then drove Hudson inside the No. 22 Ford to the championship stage.

"I always wanted to do that with Hudson. He's such a little car guy," Logano said.

Logano was the oldest driver in the championship four, as well as the only one who is married with children. The Next Gen leveled the playing field this season as 19 drivers won at least one points race, including five first-timers and two drivers who made the championship final four for the first time.

Even with the parity, Logano never doubted this would be his season.

"Getting the bookends, the first and the last race, means a lot," Logano said. "It's just a really special year for us with our third baby, and 22 in '22, I told you so!"

It is the third Cup Series title for Penske, who won with Brad Keselowski in 2012 and Logano in 2018. Logano joined two-time winner Kyle Busch as the only active drivers with multiple Cup Series titles.

Logano indeed won the pole position during Saturday's qualifying session and was never really challenged Sunday as his Ford led 186 of the 312 laps. He's the first Ford driver to win two Cup Series titles since David Pearson in 1968-69.

It is the second championship for crew chief Paul Wolfe, who won with Keselowski in 2012 and admitted to asking rival Ford crew chief Rodney Childers for strategy advice.

"I was texting him throughout the race, 'What are you guys thinking? What would you do?'" Wolfe said. "I have thoughts, but all the other crew chiefs might think something different. It's good to have another perspective. There's guys in the garage you can trust, and there's guys you can't. I think Rodney and I have a great relationship, and I appreciate that."

Penske teammate Ryan Blaney crossed the finish line second, and title-eligible Ross Chastain finished third in the first bid for himself and Trackhouse Racing. The other first-timer in the championship four, Christopher Bell, finished 10th as he raced hours after Joe Gibbs Racing learned vice chairman Coy Gibbs, son of the NASCAR Hall of Fame team owner, died in his sleep at 49.

The death came after Coy's son, Ty Gibbs, won the Xfinity Series title and the second-tier circuit's season championship Saturday night at Phoenix.

"You wake up this morning and you're racing for a championship, you're happy, you're elated, and then your world comes crashing down," Bell said. "Whenever you get news like that, it definitely puts it in perspective that there's much more to this outside of racing."

Chase Elliott was spun by Chastain early in the final stage, his Chevrolet hit the wall and he was immediately out of contention. It snapped Hendrick Motorsports' streak of two consecutive titles after Elliott won in 2020 and Kyle Larson won last year.

"Just disappointed, obviously, ended our day and ended our chance at a win or a championship. Just disappointing," Elliott said.

NASCAR's most popular driver won a career-high five races this year and the regular-season championship, but Elliott lost his shot at a second overall title when he cut across the front of Chastain and the Trackhouse driver refused to lift. The contact sent Elliott spinning into the wall, and he dropped to 30th and went down a lap during the repairs before finishing 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 started his career with JGR and spent five seasons there before he was fired after the 2012 season.

"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."