The kid who started racing because Santa Claus brought him a go-kart when he was a 5-year-old has come of age. Joey Logano was touted as a teenager by Hall of Famer Mark Martin as “the greatest thing since sliced bread.” The “Sliced Bread” nickname stuck, and Logano has lived up to it, winning the 2018 Cup title in tenacious fashion, taking out Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and defending champion Martin Truex Jr., the drivers dubbed the Big 3 for their dominant year in the wins column.
Logano moved one of the Big 3 out of the way to guarantee himself a shot at the championship, and then he beat them all at Homestead-Miami Speedway. While his aggressive driving style has made enemies on the track on several occasions, Logano doesn’t back down with a race on the line. That’s a trait owner Roger Penske has coveted in drivers for his Cup organization, and it paid off with Team Penske’s second title since 2012. It’s also why the organization has been successful with sponsors. Shell-Pennzoil will return for the lion’s share of races on the 22 this year.
When Team Penske was forced into making some big changes a few years ago, Roger Penske, who hadn’t been known for having drivers or teams that worked well together, changed that perception. He gave Brad Keselowski, who was in the process of winning Penske his first title, input on his next teammate.
Keselowski wanted Logano, who had struggled to live up to the early hype at Joe Gibbs Racing, winning just twice in four seasons. When Gibbs opted to replace Logano, Penske followed Keselowski’s advice and took a shot on the youngster. Twenty-one wins and a championship later, it’s paid off handsomely.
Penske equipment can match any in the game, as can the Roush Yates engines that power the cars. There’s no question they’re a championship threat every year on that front. And really, Logano, while a dark horse in the wins category, had as solid a season as anyone last year, and a great playoff run. His average finish in the final 10 races was a stellar 8.6 with eight top 10s, the only black mark being a crash at Phoenix. None of the other three title contenders matched that in the last 10 races.
Logano can be streaky. Last year, he happened to hit a hot streak at the perfect time. Timing is everything, and Logano has had his share of slumps as well. He will have to put an end to that if he has designs on another championship this year.
Another weapon in Logano’s arsenal is crew chief Todd Gordon. They’ve been together for all of Logano’s run at Team Penske, and they make each other better. Gordon had been a bit of a journeyman prior to teaming with Logano, with a handful of Xfinity wins, also with Penske. But the level-headed Gordon is a good match for the often-volatile Logano. In fact, the stability of both Logano’s and Keselowski’s teams has been key to the organization as it added a third team (Ryan Blaney) in 2018. All three finished in the top 10 in points thanks to the excellent relationships built in the Team Penske shop.
For Logano, the keys to more future titles are already in his pocket: top equipment, tenacity, durability. He finished all but three races last year, best among the Penske stable. That’s a major piece of a championship season.
It’s easy to forget that Logano, a 10-year Cup veteran, will be only 28 as the season opens. Kyle Busch was 30 when he won his first championship. So was seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Logano is one of just 11 drivers ever to cart home the big trophy before the age of 30. He has a lot of years ahead, and now he knows how to close the deal.
Vegas Betting Odds to win 2019 Cup Championship: 10/1 (per Sportsbook.ag)