AVONDALE, Ariz. — Joey Logano can remember 10 years ago when he was a young driver with a bad Cup experience.
As the replacement for Tony Stewart, Logano was, well, not two-time Cup champion Tony Stewart. Over four years, Logano had posted two wins at Joe Gibbs Racing and struggled, never finishing in the top 15 in the standings.
He needed a Cup ride for 2013, and he found one at the most unlikely place: Team Penske.
The organization was not 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 choose, but he knew he needed someone who wouldn’t cause any turmoil — and hopefully win races.
Brad Keselowski advocated for the young driver struggling at JGR. Logano started Cup racing at 18 years old trying to make a name for himself and while he had shown potential in the Xfinity Series, his Cup performance was not championship-caliber.
Penske opted to take a chance. And now 10 years later, Logano has delivered two Cup titles to the organization in addition to 29 Cup wins.
The 32-year-old driver dominated the championship race Sunday as he led 187 of the 312 laps on his way to the victory at Phoenix Raceway.
“There was a lot of discussion, was that the right move,” Penske said. “I have to thank Brad who talked to me about Joey and really made the opportunity for me to meet with him.
“He’s come on. You’ve seen his success. The number of races he’s won for us has been amazing.”
Fast Thoughts with Bob Pockrass
NASCAR on FOX insider Bob Pockrass breaks down how Joey Logano and his team ended up spraying champagne as Cup champions at Phoenix Raceway.
All week leading into the championship race, Logano had an air of confidence that bordered on arrogance. He said there was a good reason — he won three weeks earlier at Las Vegas to earn a berth to be one of the four drivers vying for the title.
That gave him extra time to prepare and he outlasted his championship opponents as he won while the other championship competitors left disappointed: Ross Chastain was third, Christopher Bell was 10th and Chase Elliott finished 28th.
“We had the attitude all week and really, ever since Vegas,” Logano said. “We knew what we had to do to win this thing.
“We just had to prepare and go through every detail and we did that.”
Logano won his first Cup title in 2018 and didn’t make the championship round in 2019. He advanced to the championship round in 2020, but an ill-handling car at the end of the race doomed his hopes.
He didn’t make the championship round in 2021 but made it this year for the fifth time.
All that experience, all those highs and lows, culminated in another title and solidified his career as a Hall of Fame-worthy.
“It’s been an incredible ride and what Roger and … the whole [management] team — they put a lot of faith in me as a driver,” Logano said. “And it was an amazing opportunity for me, and I was so close from my career being over or taking a step back and maybe not ever getting a ride like this.
“Fast forward 10 years and being part of the family is what it feels like at this point.”
Logano is more than part of the family. With Keselowski leading after last year, Logano became the veteran driver of the group. He had to take more of a leadership role starting this year.
And it wasn’t 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 hard conversations have to happen,” Logano said. “That’s good to have. As a leader together, that’s OK with me. I’m fine with the tough conversations.
“I love the tough conversations. It’s what you always need. That’s where growth comes from. It doesn’t come from shoving things underneath the rug.”
The team appreciates his leadership.
“He’s obviously a great fit for Team Penske and the ambassador the person that he is,” said his teammate, Austin Cindric. “Some people are probably perplexed about how hard he drives or how competitive he is.
“That’s just his character.”
Joey Logano wins the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Championship
Joey Logano dominates at 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 capable of winning, he often wins with it.
“He’s very determined and a very talented guy,” Logano crew chief Paul Wolfe said. “And when he sets his mind to it, it’s hard to hold him back.”
That was obvious Sunday. But it has been obvious to Wolfe ever since he saw Logano join Team Penske 10 years ago.
Wolfe started 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 that I’ve noticed from 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 likely at least another four years. The foundation 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 means a lot as well. So having that brand continuity means a big deal for me.”
If Logano can repeat another 10 years as he did the first 10 years, that would be an amazing feat. But his boss expects more — and in a shorter period of time.
While Penske might not have envisioned two Cup titles out of Logano, he knows what to expect now.
“I don’t want to wait 10 years again, though,” Penske said about Logano’s two titles. “I want to go again next year.
“We’ve got a great guy there. And with Paul and the whole team — think about the continuity that we’ll have going into next year.”
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.
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