(Photo: Christian Koelle)

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Joey Logano Emerges as 2018 Cup Champion

Who’s in the headline

It took 10 years to fulfill the predictions but Joey Logano is your 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion. Logano took advantage of a quick, short-run car and passed Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. on a late race restart to take command of the race and run off into the night with his first Cup Series title. The four championship finalists finished in the top four positions.

What happened

Denny Hamlin won the pole but his team started controversy immediately by picking the fourth pit stall instead of the first so their teammate and title contender, Kyle Busch, could have the most desired pit box. Hamlin led the initial 36 laps of the race. He pitted giving the lead to Truex for three laps before he pitted and handed the top spot to Michael McDowell for two laps. After McDowell pitted Hamlin resumed the lead for a lap before Kevin Harvick grabbed the lead and held it for 40 laps until the end of stage one.

To begin the second stage it was Harvick on point for the restart but Kyle Larson took over the top spot after the first green flag lap. Larson led for four laps before Logano asserted himself at the point for 14 circuits. Logano’s short run car caught up to him and Larson retook the lead on lap 105. Larson led for 13 circuits before the green flag pit stop dance began. During those stops, it was Harvick, Truex and Hamlin who took turns up front until Larson reassumed the lead. One more round of pit stops during a caution saw Harvick grab the lead yet again but it was Larson wrestling the lead away and holding on until the end of stage two.

The final stage began with Harvick leading back to green but Logano quickly took the top spot. He led the race through a caution for Larson who lost a tire while rim riding. Lap 218 was the final lap of this round of laps led for a car which brought about the next round of caution stops. Truex took the spot when Logano went in. 12 laps later was when Truex chose to pit and Kyle Busch chose to ride it out to the end. Fortunately for Busch, the caution flew for Suarez being caught up with Brad Keselowski. When the race went back green, Busch had the lead but could not hang on and Truex grabbed the top spot. He held on a minute but it was no contest as Truex grabbed the point. Logano quickly got rid of Truex and put enough distance between himself and the No. 78 that the final laps were just a formality.

There were 35 other cars on the track but we only saw them on restarts or when they were being lapped so it is hard to say what anyone else did during the event.

Why you should care

Team Penske has two of the most talented young drivers in the sport. They also have some of the best talent on pit boxes in the sport and their pit crews are exceptional. Do not be surprised to see the Penske cars in the playoff finals for years to come.

What your friends are talking about

Tyler Reddick took advantage of a late race decision to short pit and stole the Xfinity championship from Cole Custer who had the superior car but lost by pitting too late. As for Trucks, it was Brett Moffitt who broke from his typical, late-race rush to a win by leading the most laps. Moffitt took the lead with 29 laps to go and never looked back. As was the case in the Xfinity race as well, the only cautions were for the end of stages.

Steve Phelps, the President of NASCAR says that exciting times are ahead for the sport. He believes that selling tickets is a high priority and will be a point of emphasis going forward. Might be a good idea to make sure that the product is exciting to keep those folks coming back for more.

Goodyear anticipates similar tire combinations in 2019. Apparently, that means we are still treating tires like rocket science instead of simplifying them and putting tire management in the hands of the drivers. The negative PR of blown tires is more of a worry to the official tire supplier and the sanctioning body than putting a product on the track where drivers make a difference and you end up with the majority of the races featuring less than five on-track passes for the lead.

The man who many believe is the greatest stock car driver ever passed away this week. David Pearson, The Silver Fox, is second on the all-time win list. He won the only three titles that he ever attempted to race for. He smoked under caution, he didn’t care about leading laps and he generally only ran big money races. If he’d valued titles like Richard Petty, the King might very well be the Prince.

Who is mad

If you had the most dominant car of the season in the sport you would expect to win the title. The thing that killed Harvick all season was pit road miscues. Ironically this was a perfect night with no pit road issues for Harvick’s team, but he could only manage a third-place finish. He told Parker Kligerman he was not upset about losing the title and even managed a smile. If he doesn’t go home and sulk a little, there is total confusion about what Harvick genuinely wants from the sport.

Another disappointing evening for Larson. He was riding the rim and heading to a win that all four of the title contenders had already conceded when he caught a small piece of the outside wall and knocked the air out of his rear tire. They patched up his car but it was nowhere close to right for the remainder of the race. This entire season was filled with disappointments for Larson. If Chip Ganassi Racing would give him a complete effort every week they would be a contender for the title every year.

Who is happy

Mark Martin can finally say “I told you so.” 14 years ago he saw Logano race and declared he was the best thing since sliced bread. The name stuck and has hung over Logano’s head ever since. Well, the racer has made Martin finally look like a genius by living up to the hype and winning a title. He’s still got a long way to go to earn that title legitimately. It is still a long way to seven titles but we’ll see.

Keselowski famously went to bat for Logano when he was available. He stuck his neck out for a driver he barely knew and has now seen two championships in six years at Team Penske when they went decades without them before that. While Keselowski would have obviously enjoyed winning the title, it has to feel good to see someone who he helped recruit hoisting the ultimate prize in the sport.

When the checkered flag flew

Joey Logano is the 33rd different driver to win a Cup series title.

The victory at Homestead-Miami for Logano is his 21st career win in 363 starts.

That ranks him tied for 36th with Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte, Benny Parsons and Jack Smith.

This is Logano’s first win at Homestead.

The triumph was Logano’s third of 2018

Second place went to Martin Truex Jr.

This is Truex’s ninth top-two finish of 2018.

All-time at Homestead, Truex has finished in the top two three times.

For his career, Truex has come home second 17 times.

That includes Ryan Newman, Geoffrey Bodine and Sterling Marlin.

Third place was filled by Kevin Harvick.

Harvick has 14 podium finishes in 2018.

For his career Harvick has finished top three eight times at Homestead.

On his resume he has run in the top three 130 times which puts him in 13th on the all-time list.

Darrell Wallace Jr. was the Rookie of the Race with his 21st place race finish.

For the year, Byron’s 22 awards are eight ahead of Darrell Wallace Jr.’s 14.

The season is over. The final point standings of the 16 playoff eligible drivers are listed below.

1) Joey Logano – 5040

2) Martin Truex Jr. – 5035

3) Kevin Harvick – 5034

4) Kyle Busch – 5033

5) Aric Almirola – 2354

6) Kurt Busch- 2350

7) Chase Elliott – 2350

8) Brad Keselowski – 2343

9) Kyle Larson – 2299

10) Ryan Blaney – 2298

11) Denny Hamlin – 2285

12) Clint Bowyer- 2272

13) Austin Dillon – 2245

14) Jimmie Johnson – 2242

15) Erik Jones – 2220

16) Alex Bowman – 2204

What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic)

There was plenty of some kind of moonshine. The title was on the line and, in the end, the four contenders were in the top four spots. When it was all said and done, Logano had the car and no one else did so he is the series champion for 2018. Not sure it was that exciting when the only passes were between two drivers who were covering for each other. With the lack of excitement shown for the rest of the teams, it just isn’t that high on the list. We’ll give it three cold Budweisers because Logano is a first-time winner.

Where do you point your DVR for next week

The off-season is upon us. Get out and enjoy the gifts God has given us. Buy the streams of the big off-season races. Reconnect with your families and friends. Most of all be thankful for the freedom that has been given to us by those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

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About Mike Neff

Mike Neff
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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26 comments

  1. Avatar

    “There were 35 other cars on the track but we only saw them on restarts or when they were being lapped so it is hard to say what anyone else did during the event.”

    This says it all.

  2. Avatar

    Lordy. Please. It was not Mark Martin with that phrase. It was the family friend Ct. native Randy LaJoie. Joey is good friends with his son Cory, who said that. Mark Martin did predict meeting and seeing Joey Logano at a young age, he would have a place and no doubt in his mind he would endorse him and see a NASCAR future. (Or something like that). Yeah Connecticut!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Avatar

      Reporters don’t do their homework, they are like parrots repeating what they’ve heard. Calling Harvick the closer is ridiculous. Look what the real closer, Jimmie, has done during the same time.

  3. Avatar

    why didn’t they just have a race with the top 4? should had saved teams some money, for the tv exposure they got. ok throw kyle larson and hamlin into the mix too, so just have 6 cars on the track.

    i truly would not had wanted to be kyle busch’s pit crew last night night.

    sunday morning i had a feeling logano was going to win championship. so we have another truly vanilla champion. yawn.

    • Avatar

      A sharp official finally spotted Harvicks trick spoiler, Nascar doesn’t have many sharp
      Officials so makes me wonder how long they have been using their truck spoiler. This year only, or last year too. At least they finally caught it so that we don’t have harvic k as the champion. True x said he’s a NASCAR superstar, with how many career wins !!

  4. Avatar

    The lack of cautions in all three races kind of point to the fact that the rest of the non-championship teams are just out there logging in laps which may be why there is no reason to show them on TV.

    I kind of feel like Logano did exactly what was necessary to win the championship and nothing more. He won one race in the regular season to lock himself in. Won a race in the final round of the playoffs (the first round in which he wasn’t above the cut line) and the won the final race. The is a recipe that any driver can use to win the championship (of course doing it is the hard part). So congrats to the 22 team.

    I wish that everyone would drop the “sliced bread” moniker. It is not a good thing and does Logano no favors for reporters to keep bringing it up.

    • Avatar

      OH yeah, I was so happy that Busch didn’t win. I’d hate to think that the total bullshit, unethical move that Gibbs tried by ordering Hamlin to leave the 1st pit stall for Busch actually paid off. One of the biggest myths ever is that Gibbs is a virtuous owner because he is religious. From what I’ve seen, he is a businessman first and everything else takes a back seat to the bott5om line.

  5. Avatar

    ” If he doesn’t go home and sulk a little, there is total confusion about what Harvick genuinely wants from the sport.”
    That might be true. However, maybe Harvick is trying to teach his kids that one should try his best, and if one does that, then there is no shame in not winning (I am a fan of Vince Dooley, the former Georgia coach – Vince publicly came across as gracious after a contest, regardless if his team won or lost – I do not remember his publicly pouting after a loss, or his publicly gloating personally after a win…of course, Georgia Tech and Florida fans might remember differently).
    Assuming the final top 10 still makes the head table at the Vegas championship dinner (which apparently is, or was, a big deal for sponsors, among others), it is interesting that Aric was 11th at the beginning of the round of 12, while Clint was 5th; after the final race, Aric had moved up to 5th, while Clint had dropped to 12th (Clint finished one spot below Denny, after Denny was eliminated before the round of 12).

  6. Avatar

    Congratulations to Joey! I loved every minute of it! He is a great representative for the sport of NASCAR and a true champion in my book.

  7. Avatar

    I’m a lugano fan, but beyond that the race was a total dud. I left for a while and when I came back I watched the final 50 laps. Things didn’t change much.

  8. Avatar

    Joey can now join the other 10 race ‘champeens’.

  9. Avatar

    this whole weekend just plain sucked….it is apparent to me that the “non-championship 4” drivers in each division are just out there logging laps and trying not to be “the story”…

    NASCAR might as well just line up the 4 contenders and let them race a 30 lap shootout for the title….

    please, for the love of God, go back to the pre 2004 points system, modified slightly to reward winning more….

    • Avatar

      Why is there this obsession with “wins” in a “points” battle. I’ve said this since Brian’s “brilliant” idea to change the point system because it was too complicated. A driver doesn’t need more wins than any other driver to finish first in points. It’s about consistency over the length of the season. A driver with no wins will always be able to win the championship if he is the most consistent. Even in the last event with the Faux Four the driver with the best finish, not necessarily the win, would win the “championship.” What would happen if the four were involved n a multi-car crash early in the event and spent the rest of the event in the garage? The “champion” would be the driver furthest ahead before the crash. If that happened I think the network would spend the rest of the event showing the cars in the garage because they wouldn’t know what to talk about.

      • Avatar

        Yes Andy, because it was so much better watching one guy get hot all year and practically have the championship locked up by September.

        • Avatar

          But back then, each race was a big deal, and the title just the logical outcome of having a good year. They didn’t pound on the title starting at Daytona in February.

        • Avatar

          Yes, it was better. Because, each race mattered. Some years the championship was clinched with 3 races to go, some years ended like 1992.
          At the last race, there was a victory lane ceremony and a champion’s ceremony.
          One race, on the same track each year isn’t nearly as fair as a champion decided by 36 equal races.
          Plus, the last race had multiple story lines and those story lines were covered. The championship, who needed to win to escape a winless year, who was in their last race with a specific team, etc.
          Why would anyone who’s drive wasn’t represented in the Top 4 buy a ticket to yesterday’s race?
          The ROVAL sold tickets because it was about the race and the track. There’s something that can be learned from that.

        • Avatar

          maybe the Roval sold tickets because it was new and different, not the same old thing.

  10. Avatar

    So, Matt Kenseth gives the 6 car it’s best Intermediate run in years, and goes out with a 6th place finish is likely, his final race. Yet, there’s no mention during the last 20 minutes of the broadcast and post race?

    Nor in this article.

    Tis a shame.

  11. Avatar

    Before the event I was kind of hoping Truex would be on Kyle’s bumper on the last lap and do a bump and run to win and then try to explain what he said after Martinsville and how he doesn’t race like that. And he would have Kyle as his “teammate” next season.

  12. Avatar

    Truex got screwed by Logano’s teammate when the #2 caused the caution so Joey could have a chance. Am I the only one that saw that?

    • Avatar

      The thought crossed my mind but it would be impossible to prove. Plus it didn’t guarantee the 22 anything but another chance to change what looked like the 78 locked into win (assuming there was no caution).