Winning a NASCAR championship is hard. Repeating is even more difficult. That’s a lesson Joey Logano learned in 2019 after taking home the 2018 championship. He had a strong 2019 season but narrowly missed making the title race despite an average finish of eighth in the Round of 8 — that’s how difficult it is to win a title these days.
Logano picked up a pair of wins, 12 top 5s and 21 top 10s. His consistency through the year kept him near the top of the standings (without playoff resets calculated, he topped the points through the penultimate race at ISM Raceway). He simply didn’t have the numbers the top four ended up with, though he easily finished fifth in points.
Logano finished on the lead lap 29 times and had an impressive average finish of 10.8, but his most impressive feat last year was finishing all 36 races. He was the only playoff driver to finish the season running at the end of every race. No crashes and no mechanical failures is a formidable accomplishment.
Logano, who turns 30 this year, has 11 full-time Cup Series seasons under his belt. He’s a veteran driver at a deceptively young age. After being dubbed “sliced bread” (as in the best thing since…) when he joined Joe Gibbs Racing’s Cup stable full-time at 18, Logano struggled and was let go by JGR after his fourth disappointing year. Many times, that type of start leads to a label of damaged goods, but Logano found new life at Team Penske. Teammate Brad Keselowski went to bat for the young driver, seeing his potential value as a member of the Penske stable.
Paired with crew chief Todd Gordon, Logano proved his worth in his first year with Penske in 2013, posting career-best numbers in virtually every category and finishing eighth in points as a 23-year-old. Since then, he’s finished lower than that only once, and he brought Team Penske its second Cup title in 2018.
Gordon has been a big piece of the puzzle for Logano as well. The pair communicates effectively during races and with the other Penske teams during the week. As an organization, Penske has grown into a group whose teamwork makes all three drivers a threat on Sundays. Logano has been a large part of that; before he and Keselowski became the team’s drivers, there was some division between teams under the Penske roof, but Keselowski in particular recognized the importance of teamwork and pitched Logano to the team as a driver who could make it happen. He was right, and Ryan Blaney has fit into the mold as well. As an organization, there might not be anyone better than Penske right now in terms of everyone working toward a common goal.
Logano is one of just a handful of drivers who has one sponsor cover the lion’s share of races. Shell/Pennzoil takes on the majority of the season and gets a good return, as Logano is more often than not in the mix on the track and sometimes off it. He’s been in a few well-publicized confrontations over the years. He hasn’t made so many enemies that it’s affected his racing, but he has occasionally let his temper get the better of him. It hasn’t cost him in terms of performance, and Logano needs to be careful not to let it.
Logano enters 2020 with some momentum, finishing last season strong despite narrowly missing the title race. His consistency is becoming his trademark and his greatest strength, and look for that to continue this year. He’s just now entering his prime as a driver, and he enters it as a veteran who knows how to win races and compete for a title. His best years are still ahead of him. Don’t be surprised to see him win several more titles over the next few years.
Vegas Betting Odds to win 2020 Cup Championship: 8/1 (per Sportsbook.ag)
(Top photo courtesy of ASP, Inc.)