FOX NASCAR Insider
AVONDALE, Ariz. — Joey Logano remembers 10 years ago when he was a young driver with a bad Cup experience.
As Tony Stewart’s replacement, Logano was, well, not the two-time Tony Stewart Cup champion. In four years, Logano had two wins at Joe Gibbs Racing and struggled, never finishing in the top 15 in the standings.
He needed a trip to the Cup for 2013 and found one in the most unlikely place: Team Penske.
The organization wasn’t expected to have an opening, but AJ Allmendinger ended up failing a drug test, leaving an opening. Team owner Roger Penske didn’t know who to pick, but he knew he needed someone who wouldn’t cause any trouble and hopefully win races.
Brad Keselowski defended the struggling young driver at JGR. Logano started racing Cup at 18 years old trying to make a name for himself, and while he had shown potential in the Xfinity Series, his performance in Cup was not championship caliber.
Penske chose to take a chance. And now 10 years later, Logano has delivered two Cup titles to the organization on top of 29 Cup wins.
The 32-year-old driver dominated the championship race on Sunday as he led 187 of 312 laps on his way to victory at Phoenix Raceway.
“There was a lot of discussion, it was the right step,” Penske said. “I have to thank Brad for telling me about Joey and really giving me the opportunity to meet him.
“He’s come on. You’ve seen his success. The number of runs he’s scored for us has been unbelievable.”
Quick Thoughts with Bob Pockrass
FOX’s NASCAR expert Bob Pockrass explains how Joey Logano and his team ended up spraying champagne as Cup champions at Phoenix Raceway.
Throughout the week leading up to the championship race, Logano had an air of confidence that bordered on arrogance. He said there was good reason: He won three weeks earlier in Las Vegas to earn a spot to be one of four drivers competing for the title.
This gave him extra time to prepare and he passed his championship rivals as he won while the other championship contenders left disappointed: Ross Chastain was third, Christopher Bell was 10th and Chase Elliott finished 28th.
“We had the attitude all week and really, since Vegas,” Logano said. “We knew what we had to do to win this thing.
“We just had to prepare and go over every detail and we did.”
Logano won his first Cup title in 2018 and didn’t make the championship round in 2019. He made it to the championship round in 2020, but a mishandled car late in the race doomed his hopes.
He didn’t make the championship round in 2021, but he did this year for the fifth time.
All that experience, all those ups and downs, culminated in another title and cemented his Hall of Fame career.
“It’s been an amazing journey and what Roger and … everything [management] “Team – they trusted me as a driver,” Logano said. “And it was an incredible opportunity for me, and I was so close to finishing my career or taking a step back and maybe never making it. like that.
“Fast forward 10 years and being part of the family is what it feels like right now.”
Logano is more than part of the family. With Keselowski leading after last year, Logano became the veteran driver of the group. He was to take on more of a leadership role starting this year.
And it was not an easy year with the introduction of the Next Gen car. Penske, like most teams, had its ups and downs, and especially early in the season, the organization had some struggles.
“That means tough conversations have to happen,” Logano said. “It’s good to have that. As a leader together, it’s good for me. I’m good with difficult conversations.
“I love difficult conversations. It’s what you always need. That’s where growth comes from. It doesn’t come from sweeping things under the rug.”
The team values his leadership.
“Obviously, he’s a great fit for Team Penske and the ambassador that he is,” said teammate Austin Cindric. “Some people are probably perplexed about how long he drives or how competitive he is.
“That’s just his character.”
Joey Logano wins the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series championship
Joey Logano dominates Phoenix Raceway to win the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series championship.
The Penske family sees Logano as a driver who, when he has a car even close to winning, often wins with it.
“He’s very determined and a very talented guy,” Logano’s crew chief Paul Wolfe said. “And when he sets his mind to it, it’s hard to contain him.”
That was evident on Sunday. But Wolfe has been obvious since he saw Logano join Team Penske 10 years ago.
Wolfe began working with Logano three years ago, and they took their championship experience — Logano with crew chief Todd Gordon and Wolfe with Keselowski in winning the 2012 title — and used it to bring the best car to the championship race.
“Something I’ve noticed about him since he came to Penske was just his determination and his work ethic,” Wolfe said.
“You know you’re getting 100 percent from him. And that’s the kind of guy you want to work with.”
Logano signed another long-term extension earlier this year keeping him, Penske and sponsor Shell together for at least four more years. The base is there for another 10.
“It says a lot, not just about me as a driver, Team Penske, it shows that continuity together and that it works,” Logano said.
“It works for Shell, it works for Penske and to have their faith in me also means a lot. So to have that brand continuity means a lot to me.”
If Logano can repeat 10 more years like he did the first 10 years, it would be an incredible feat. But his boss expects more, and in a shorter period of time.
While Penske might not have envisioned two Cup titles outside of Logano, he now knows what to expect.
“I don’t want to wait 10 years again, though,” Penske said of Logano’s two titles. “I want to come back next year.
“We’ve got a great guy there. And with Paul and the whole team, think about the continuity we’re going to have next year.”
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the last 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrassand register at FOX Sports NASCAR Newscast with Bob Pockrass.
Get more from the NASCAR Cup Series Follow your favorites for information on games, news and more