Joey Logano entered the race weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway claiming to be “the favorite” to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship. Meanwhile, the NASCAR media was focused on if he could beat his competitors, “The Big Three,” who have dominated the season. Logano proved just that at Homestead by winning both the race and his competition to score the title.
The 2018 championship marks the first of his career, and makes him the 33rd different driver to win a championship in NASCAR’s premier series after 70 years.
“We did it! We won the championship. I can’t believe it,” Logano told NBC after the race. “I don’t even know what to say. This team, Roger Penske, (crew chief) Todd Gordon, the pit crew, oh my God. Those guys are amazing. They gave me the car I needed at the end to do my job. Put me in position to do my job. Couldn’t be more proud of them.”
It wasn’t an easy trip to celebrating, though, for Logano. He had to pass Martin Truex, Jr. late in the race, the driver who vowed vengeance against the Connecticut driver following an incident at Martinsville Speedway in October.
Truex said post-race that his No. 78 Toyota just didn’t have the speed to fend of the No. 22.
“We were able to get the lead, I just couldn’t do anything. I was just slow [for the last] 15 laps,” the second-place finisher said in his TV interview. “Wouldn’t turn. I tried to go as fast as those guys and I’d be dead sideways. I just couldn’t do it. I don’t know what else I could’ve done.
“He passed me so fast I didn’t get a chance to do anything. We needed more laps. We needed more time.”
Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch each had their own struggles trying to catch their faster competitors. Busch, who finished fourth, the worst of the title contenders, lost the handling late in the race and employed an alternate pit strategy that almost paid off when a late-race caution for teammate Daniel Suarez forced the entire field to the pits while Busch was in the lead.
“Adam (Stevens, crew chief) gave a great call for strategy there. I didn’t think it was going to work,” Busch said. “I thought we were going to finish about 12th of 13th and the pit stop fell in our lap. I didn’t get the best of restarts, but it didn’t matter, they were gone.”
Todd Gordon, crew chief for Logano, employed his own successful strategy by intentionally setting his No. 22 car up to run best once the track cooled down and the sun began to set. The No. 22 car didn’t get a sniff of the lead until the second stage of the race, the third of the four playoff drivers to do so. It was later in the race that the car continued to drive on rails.
“I’ve spent 10 seasons fighting for this. Wasn’t sure we were going to get it, but man, Todd made a great adjustment there at the end. He has a no quit attitude and I was going to pass (Truex) no matter what.”
While Logano scored his first championship as a driver, he also handed team owner Roger Penske his second championship with the first coming in 2012 with Brad Keselowski as driver. Ford won the manufacturers championship for the first time since 2002.