How was Joey Logano’s historic first NASCAR Cup Championship for Roger Penske
- Since 1967, Team Penske has been multiple champions in seven years.
- In three of those seasons, Penske won three championships – either the IndyCar Championship, the NASCAR Xfinity Drivers’ and Owners’ Championship, the Australian Supercars Championship, or the NASCAR Cup Series.
- However, the IndyCar and Cup don’t launch at the same time, not until this year.
For more than three decades—beginning with Rusty Wallace in 1991—team owner Roger Penske has longed to hold both of America’s most cherished motorsport awards at the same time. During those years, leading up to 2022, Team Penske has won 16 IndyCar titles and two NASCAR Cup Series titles.
Sadly, but not in the same year… until last weekend at Phoenix Raceway. There, in a 312-mile race that was never in doubt, Joey Logano won his second NASCAR Cup Series title and third for Team Penske.
“I think we’ve tried it for 31 years, so it’s about time,” the multi-chain Hall of Fame owner said Sunday night. “Winning the championship, regardless of its content (in terms of the new next-generation car), is very special. Obviously winning the first race (with Logano) at the LA Coliseum and then coming out (in Phoenix) is very nice.”
NASCAR’s first captain’s title in a Dodge came with Brad Keselowski in 2012. Ryan Hunter-Reay won the IndyCar title of the year with Andretti Autosport. When Logano handed Pensci his second NASCAR title in 2018 in a Ford, Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon was the IndyCar champion.
This year, when Will Power gave Team Penske its 17th IndyCar title, Logano finally gave Penske its third NASCAR win.
Longtime Penske lieutenant Walt Czarnecki did his homework in the days leading up to Championship 4 weekend. He had enough stats to make the accountant faint.
“Since 1967, we’ve been multiple champions in seven years,” Czernicki noted. “In three of those seasons, we won three championships. It was either the IndyCar Championship, the NASCAR Xfinity Drivers’ and Owners’ Championship, the Australian Supercars Championship, or the NASCAR Cup Series. But the IndyCar and the Cup never launched at the same time, not until this year.”
Austin Cindric opened the season’s Rookie of the Year Cup to give Team Penske its third Daytona 500 win on its boss’s 85th birthday. Cindric never won again, but did make brief appearances in the playoffs. Teammate Ryan Blaney probably gave Penske plenty of sleepless nights by running well at the right time, but going unacceptably 0-for-36.
Logano wasn’t always great, but he was good enough to beat the playoffs and win the Championship 4 race in something of an escape over Blaney. He won the pre-season exhibition at the LA Coliseum, the points races in Darlington, St. Louis, and Las Vegas, and the finish in Phoenix. The victory at Phoenix marked the ninth consecutive year that a driver in the championship had won his fourth Cup by winning the final race.
Logano—now the second multi-time active NASCAR champion alongside teammate Kyle Busch—two really isn’t enough. He said, “I guess the greed in me looks like I should have four or five (cups) right now”. “I think that’s the feeling that the time has come. But I think that’s just the way I am, how I function. Once you win one of these things, you want to win another one that’s even worse.”
Team Penske now has 135 Cup Series victories (and, oddly enough, 135 poles) in his resume of 2,310 starts in NASCAR. It started modestly enough, a one-off in 1972 when Donnie Allison finished third at Riverside in a Matador. Since then, his motorsport program has always brought high-quality effort to the track.
“During the season we weren’t quite as competitive as we wanted to be as we got to know the new (next-generation) car,” he acknowledged. “That teamwork that we’re talking about made such a big difference. It’s definitely special, winning the first race in the car and winning the championship. So, that (wins in Los Angeles and Daytona Beach early in the season) was a good omen for us.
“Joey did an amazing job. You saw what he was capable of doing while he was on the team, and for us to have two championships in the same year…that’s what we’re here for. That’s our goal every year. We were close, but we got it. year.”
Wisely, he didn’t dare rank this long-awaited achievement against his company’s other accomplishments, even his unprecedented 18 Indy 500 victories. “I hate to say one is better than the other,” he said after Phoenix’s victory. “I must say, put them all together; they are all in first place in my view.
“What he does as a team, the momentum he gives not just to the race team, but the 70,000 people in our company. They all watch. We don’t win every day, but he teaches us how to win and how to stay in the game.”
Logano went to Team Penske in 2013 after five poor years at Joe Gibbs Racing. He came to NASCAR as “Sliced Bread,” as in “This kid from Connecticut is the greatest thing since…” He won two Cup Series races and 18 Xfinity Series races before Gibbs cut him off after 2012 to make room Matt Kenseth. Compare those two victories in Gibbs’ 121 starts (2008-2012) to three in his first 45 starts and 16 in his first five years with Penske.
“He came with us 10 years ago, and it’s hard to believe,” Penske said of the future Hall of Famer. “There was a lot of discussion about whether it was the right move. I thank (former Team Penske driver) Brad Keselowski who spoke to me about Joey and gave me the opportunity to meet him. He came. I saw his success. The number of races he’s won for us (31) ) It was amazing.
“I said to Joey at the beginning of the year that with Brad leaving and (Logano) being the big guy, he should get his arms around the whole team. We’re more transparent as a group. They definitely worked together on the trip to Phoenix this weekend. All the cars were competitive because they They were all on the same setup. They had training to find out what was best, and we loaded the same setup on the cars.”
Appropriately, Logano gets the last word, and it’s about the late Coy Gibbs: “(His death) just proves that you have to cherish every moment because you never know when your number gets called. We always say God has a plan and I agree with that…but this It doesn’t make it any easier.”
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