Last season, Joey Logano and the No. 22 Team Penske team did not make the playoffs after an encumbered win at Richmond early in the season seemed to ruin their vibe for the remainder of the year. Logano struggled mightily every week to the point where he missed the playoffs for the first time since joining Team Penske in 2013.
One year later, he is a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion.
Is this the greatest turnaround for a team from one year to the next or is there a better one in recent memory?
With 2018 now in the books, it is time to compare this past season with those of the last few years. We saw a ton of amazing racing throughout the season in all three series, all the way until the championship races at Homestead.
Was this the best season in NASCAR in the last few years? Was it similar or worse? Can 2019 live up to the hype we saw in 2018 or will it be a disappointment?
Q: Do you consider Joey Logano’s turnaround from 2017 to 2018 the greatest in NASCAR history? If not, who do you think owns that honor? Bill N., Des Moines, IA
Last night Team Penske friends and family gathered back home in Charlotte, NC to watch @JoeyLogano and the No. 22 team battle for a championship. 🏆
This is the reaction when he crossed the finish line. 🏁 pic.twitter.com/PHcfxM3DOK
— Team Penske (@Team_Penske) November 19, 2018
A: Statistics do say that Logano did, in fact, have the greatest turnaround from one year to the next, going from 17th, missing the playoffs in 2017, to winning the title this season.
One year ago, I would not have listed Logano as a favorite for the 2018 Cup Series title. He barely would have made my picks to advance to the Round of 8 with the way he struggled in the second half of last season. However, Team Penske gave Logano what he needed and that team rebounded in a huge way.
All year, Logano was near the front, but you could sense that there was just something missing from his performance and he needed that extra something to get him to the next level. After winning Talladega in April, he knew he was locked into the playoffs and did not have to worry about another repeat of 2017.
Once the playoffs began, though, Logano and his team stepped up in a big way. Eight out of the 10 races, he finished inside the top 10, and that included his two wins at Martinsville and of course, Homestead-Miami to clinch the championship this past weekend. Team Penske as a whole was much better as they combined to win six of the last 12 races of the season as a team, with Logano’s teammates Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney picking up victories as well.
The talk at the beginning portion of the season was the Ford camp being much stronger than many expected, but it was all about Stewart-Haas Racing. As the season progressed, the Penske Fords caught up and, by the time we got to the playoffs, they seemed to be just as strong as the SHR bunch. Logano proved this to be true with his consistency, and his wins.
There is no question about it — Joey Logano is one of the sport’s superstars now. He had come close before, making it into the Championship 4 twice before this. The third time was the charm for Logano and his team, and the turnaround they had from last year to this year is one we may not see again for a long time.
Q: Did you think 2018 across all three series was the best season NASCAR has seen racing-wise in a few years? Or was it similar or worse than it has been recently? Beth T., Charleston, SC
A: If I had to compare this season in all three series to years past, I would say it was better. Forgetting the Cup Series for a minute, the Xfinity and Truck series had some of the best racing in many years for both series.
The Xfinity Series has a lot of hope for next year. The series was highly competitive in 2018 and very unpredictable up to and including the championship race at Homestead. Once the field was narrowed down to only eight drivers in the second round of the playoffs, any one of those eight could have won the championship. That is the first year I feel I could genuinely make such a statement.
The Truck Series was at its best in several years too, between the fantastic finishes and the close racing we saw all season long. This series puts on the best show week after week, year after year, and this season was no different. I expect this to continue into 2019 as there is only going to be more talent moving up into the series with guys like ARCA Champion Sheldon Creed and Harrison Burton who will be running full-time for GMS Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports, respectively. It should be very entertaining once again in 2019.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series provided the best season since 2014, from the Daytona 500 all the way until Homestead. 2014 was the first year for this current playoff format, and it did not disappoint with the amount of excitement we saw in all 10 playoff races. This season had a similar vibe to it, well before the playoffs even started and of course, continuing into the postseason.
Chicago started the trend of excellent races with that spectacular finish between Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson, and each race afterward had its own intriguing storylines. This is the first year that has felt that way for quite a while. For me, I was on the edge of my seat almost every race, not really knowing what would happen until the checkered flag flew.
The championship race at Homestead capped off an amazing season for the Cup Series. The way Joey Logano won the title, making that final pass on Martin Truex Jr., was the perfect way somebody could ever win a championship in sports. It felt like a game seven, all-or-nothing moment, and that is what makes the playoff format so entertaining and the sport so great. Forget what happened 15 years ago with the old points system — now is now and Logano earned his title fair and square.
Suffice it to say that 2019 has a lot to live up to. 2018 will be a season to remember because of a first-time champion in all three series. Whatever happens in 2019, one thing is for sure: NASCAR will find a way to entertain us all as it did this past weekend and all year long. The only thing to say now … is it time for Daytona yet?