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(Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

Pace Laps: Joey Logano Slays The Big Three

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series: Joey Logano Slays The Big Three

The NASCAR playoff format, five years in, can be a series of small moments that determine the champion. One mistake may be all it takes to change the course of history.

Joey Logano knows that all too well. At Martinsville, one bump of Martin Truex Jr. earned him an automatic bid to the Championship 4. If not for that or Denny Hamlin’s bid for victory that fell just short, he wouldn’t have even been a title contender at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

But Sunday (Nov. 18) at the NASCAR season finale, Logano made the most of his opportunity. Driving a car with short-run speed, he stayed at or near the front all day. Running third, behind Kevin Harvick and Truex, he caught a break when the caution came out for a spin by Daniel Suarez. That set up a short run, perfect for the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, and Logano breezed to the front to win his first championship with ease.

It was a surprising upset for a 28-year-old once labeled the star of his generation by Mark Martin. But since moving to Penske in 2013, Logano’s started to live up to the hype. Slaying the sport’s Big Three, a trio who had a combined 20 wins on the year, is easily the biggest mountain he’s climbed to date.

“It’s incredible, what goes through your mind,” he said after taking the title. “My foot kept shaking, it’s been so hard and such a long road to get here. Been so close and had that feeling of defeat, the last thing you want is to have that feeling again. I felt so confident going into this week we were the car to beat. After winning Martinsville, it put us in this spot to focus on this race, and we did. It wasn’t a long-run racecar, that’s for sure. But it was a 20-lap racecar. I just had to do my job and everything was going to be fine. I felt confident and relaxed that today was going to be a good day.

“We went up against the best of the best. No one was up there by accident. To beat the best is what makes this championship feel so good.”

Not bad for a driver from a northeastern state (Connecticut) that isn’t exactly a NASCAR hotbed. Logano also becomes the first Ford driver to win a title since 2004 on a day they won their first manufacturer’s championship since 2002. – Tom Bowles

Xfinity Series: Tyler Reddick Upsets Championship Field, Earns JR Motorsports the Title

Tyler Reddick, who is leaving JR Motorsports now that the 2018 season has come to a close, came into Homestead as the proverbial lame duck. He’s headed to pursue opportunities at Richard Childress Racing. However, the No. 9 had some business to take care of.

For most of the opening two stages, Reddick was the worst of the Championship 4 drivers, as it looked to be Cole Custer’s race to lose by leading the first 93 laps. But once the No. 9 started to rim-ride the absolute top of the track, Reddick charged forward.

It was a crucial pit call by Reddick’s crew chief David Elenz that gave the No. 9 team the upper-hand. During a cycle of green flag pit stops, Reddick pitted early, though Jeff Meendering left Custer out for a handful of more laps. Ultimately, it cost the No. 00 team upward of 10 seconds.

Reddick cruised to the victory by nearly seven seconds. It’s the No. 9 team’s third championship in five years, as both William Byron and Chase Elliott led the organization to titles in 2014 and 2017, respectively. Despite book-ending the season with victories, Reddick had the worst year of the Championship 4 on paper. But in the current format, it’s all about Homestead, and he can wheel a car around the top on a no-grip, work-out track.

Custer finished a distant second in the race and the championship. Daniel Hemric finished the season third in points, while Christopher Bell – who won a series-high seven times in 2018 – was the worst of the four, getting into the wall late in the race. – Dustin Albino

Camping World Truck Series: Brett Moffitt, Hattori Cap off Roller Coaster Season with Championship

Brett Moffitt and Hattori Racing Enterprises went from the little engine that could to the championship-winning team that did.

Moffitt wheeled his No. 16 Toyota Tundra to Victory Lane at Homestead-Miami Speedway for his sixth win of the season, resulting in the organization’s first-ever NASCAR national series championship.

Compared by some to Furniture Row Racing, the small team, which has under 10 full-time employees, beat the juggernauts of the Truck Series in GMS Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports.  And they did it all with the future in doubt, in a couple of ways.

Throughout the season, the team’s immediate future of competing in the next race was up in the air multiple times. But they persevered, found sponsorship, made it to the track, and won.

They won when it counted, and when it all was on the line. Case and point: Friday night.

But Moffitt’s future is also in limbo, as he doesn’t have a ride for next season lined up. Toyota was non-committal on their affiliation with Moffitt for 2019, too. But he’s lost rides before. Michael Waltrip Racing, Red Horse Racing and BK Racing among others.

Although Moffitt doesn’t have a seat for next season yet, you can bet that wherever he ends up, whenever he does, he’s not done winning. – Davey Segal

Sports Cars: Dempsey-Proton Racing Stripped of All Points Due to Illegally Modified Data Logger

On Sunday, Dempsey-Proton Racing’s No. 77 Porsche 911 RSR won the GTE-Am class in the very wet 6 Hours of Shanghai.  Winning earned the trio of Julien Andlauer, Matt Campbell and team co-owner Christian Ried 25 points towards the GTE Am Drivers Championship.  Unfortunately for the No. 77, that only brought their points haul for the weekend up to -76.

On Saturday, FIA World Endurance Championship stewards announced that the No. 77 Porsche had been found to have an illegal data logger in post-race scrutineering (inspection) after winning the GTE-Am class at the 6 Hours of Fuji.  An investigation found that a line of code had been modified in the team’s data logger.  The result of that modification was that the logger would add two seconds to the amount of time noted for refueling. Such a modification could allow the team to skirt minimum refueling time rules.

According to the Stewards’ report, Ried claimed that the modification was made by a consultant who has since been sacked, then refused to identify this person repeatedly.  As a result, the FIA disqualified the No. 77 from their class victory at Fuji and took away all of their driver and team points for the entire 2018-19 WEC Superseason.  The report indicates that this is a “grave offense” and could result in additional penalties at the national level for Ried.  At the time of the penalty, they were leading the GTE Am points by more than a full race. – Phil Allaway

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About Tom Bowles

Tom Bowles
The author of Bowles-Eye View (Mondays) and Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 30 staff members as its majority owner. Based in Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild.

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