GRR

Four talking points from NASCAR at Phoenix

07th November 2022
Damien Smith

Joey Logano became a two-time NASCAR Cup series champion on Sunday with a dominant victory at Phoenix Raceway to complete a famous double for Team Penske. For the first time, Roger Penske’s squad has won both the IndyCar and NASCAR titles in the same season, to cap another fantastic year for the Captain and America’s best-known racing organisation.

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Logano in a league of his own

Logano’s second title, to add to his first won in 2018, was claimed in emphatic fashion. The Ford driver started from pole position, claimed the points for winning the first stage of the race and led a total of 187 of the 312 laps. The victory was his fourth of the season, his third in Phoenix and the 31st of his career. Of the current NASCAR drivers, he joins fellow two-time champion Kyle Busch as the only ace with multiple titles.

“We did it!” said Logano, 32. “We’re champions again – yes! Oh, my God, I’m so excited. Thank you to everybody, my team. You guys are amazing. Gave me a good race car, good pit stop there at the end, got us up in front. Boy, that was just intense there at the end. It’s all about championships. That’s what it’s all about, and we worked so hard the last couple weeks trying to put ourselves in position.”

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Title rivals come up short

Three other drivers entered the final race with a shot at the crown, having qualified as part of NASACAR’s ‘Championship 4’ play-off system. Ross Chastain, hero of a great wall-rubbing pass on the final lap at Martinsville a week earlier, was best of the rest. Chastain finished third in Phoenix, as Penske claimed a 1-2 with Logano and Ryan Blaney.

Logano was third at the final restart on lap 280, after a clash between Alex Bowman and Michael McDowell had triggered the sixth caution period of the race. But he wasted little time passing Chase Briscoe to hit the front. Chastain appeared to have the faster car in the closing stages, but ran out of time to make the crucial pass and win the title.

Of the other contenders, 2020 champion Chase Elliott lost his bid on lap 205 when contact with Chastain led him into a spin and a clash with the barrier. He lost a lap in the pits for repairs and was eventually classified a lowly 28th, but refrained from blaming Chastain publicly for the incident.

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Tragedy for Joe Gibbs Racing

There was also disappointment and far greater tragedy for the other Championship 4 contender Christopher Bell, who could only finish 10th in his Toyota after a slow final pitstop. His Joe Gibbs Racing team had been rocked to its core after Coy Gibbs, son of team owner Joe, died in his sleep the night before the race. His death followed just hours after his son Ty Gibbs had claimed the second-tier Xfinity Series title.

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Penske’s famous double

Logano’s achievement capped another remarkable year for Roger Penske, who at 85 has yet another landmark to add to his incredible tally as American motorsport’s most famous team owner. Will Power won his second IndyCar crown for Team Penske this year, and now this.

“I think we’ve tried it for 31 years, so it’s about time,” said Penske of the team double. “What a special weekend for us.

“Joey did a great job. 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. I hate to say one is better than the other, but put them all together, they’re all first place as far as I’m concerned. The momentum it gives not only the race team, but the 70,000 people that are in our company… because they’re all watching.”

The two championships complete an unforgettable 2022 for the Penske organisation. It began with Logano’s victory in the inaugural Busch Light Clash at LA’s Roman-esque Coliseum and was followed in short order by rookie Austin Cindric’s Daytona 500 victory. In all, Penske’s three NASCAR drivers scored five wins across the season, with nine victories shared by three drivers in IndyCar.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.

  • NASCAR

  • Phoenix

  • Joey Logano

  • Penske

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