By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season for the full-time drivers in the series leading into February’s running of the Daytona 500.
Years in Cup: 11
Career Wins: 23
Biggest Accomplishment: 2018 Cup Series Champion
Last season, Joey Logano was the defending series champion and during the first half of 2019, it appeared a shot for a repeat was definitely possible, leading the championship trail in 10 out of the first 21 races with wins at Las Vegas and Michigan.
Once the playoffs rolled along, there was a skid such as his only finish outside the top-25 occurring at Dover where he finished 34th due to rear axle issues before the green flag even waved.
As soon as it was repaired, Logano was a subject of criticism for racing Denny Hamlin aggressively in the first half of the race.
This wouldn’t be the last those two grew ire of each other as the on-and-off feud that goes back to 2013, exploded at Martinsville where a battle saw the two tangle into the wall led to a post-race brawl.
In the end, it was Hamlin who got the last laugh as he made it to the Championship 4 after winning Phoenix while Logano was eliminated and finished fifth in the final standings, his fourth top-five campaign in the last six seasons.
The man who beat Logano and made it to Homestead with a shot for the title via points was Hamlin’s teammate Kyle Busch, who happened to be the man who claimed Logano’s throne.
Like his final points position, Logano ended up fifth at Homestead where he had hoped to crash the party by getting a third win, but like his title defense, it wasn’t meant to be.
“You want to win. You want to be the one who spoils the must-win to win the championship party if you’re not in it and we just weren’t fast enough,” Logano said. “Maybe a late-race restart would could have made some magic happen, but fifth was the best we were gonna do. That was about the highest we got all race long and apparently all year long as well because we were fifth in points, so it was a strong year. It wasn’t a championship year. We want to be better, but we’ll move on.”
Logano completed the most laps among the entire Cup grid at 10,221 laps (99.7%) and was running at the finish in all 36 races for the second time in his 11-year career.
However, he’ll enter 2020 with a 21-race winless streak while Penske only scored single victory (Ryan Blaney at Talladega) since Logano’s Michigan triumph and a brand new crew chief.
Gone is Todd Gordon, ending the dynamic duo’s run of seven years where both careers rose from utter mediocrity to one of the strongest driver/crew chief combinations today.
Taking Gordon’s helm will be Paul Wolfe, who’s also a championship winning crew chief when he led Brad Keselowski to a 2012 Cup title. Much like the duo of Logano and Gordon, Wolfe’s nine years of excellence with Keselowski was over.
Gordon commented earlier this month on SiriusXM NASCAR that Penske saw it as a way to mix things up. Thus far, the change made him reflect on the two drivers and what challenge may occur.
“Brad and Joey are both championship winning drivers but with that being said, they have different styles and techniques, and ways they see the race play out,” Gordon said. “I’m trying to really understand that and get the communication part down. That’ll obviously be the challenge earlier on in the season.”
The new driver/crew chief combo will be tested, beginning at the season opener at Daytona International Speedway where Logano won one of last year’s Bluegreen Vacations Duel races and eyeing for a second Daytona 500 victory, which would be Wolfe’s first.