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.
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.
About the author
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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