By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
For the second time in three years, Joey Logano will go to the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a chance at winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. The other three drivers in the Championship Four are Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, and Kyle Busch.
The saying goes that one must first lose a championship in order to learn how to win a championship. Logano has lost two championships, one due to a pit road mishap, and the other taken away from him before he had a chance.
Logano is also looking for redemption. In 2014, he was running up front, battling with fellow contender Ryan Newman and eventual race winner and Champion Kevin Harvick, until a late-race pit stop. Logano’s No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion fell off of the jack, dropping Logano in the running order. He ended up 16th when the checkered flag waved.
Last year, Logano was arguably had the car to beat after sweeping the races in the Second Round of The Chase. His chances came to a crashing halt, both literally and figuratively.
At Martinsville Speedway, after both Logano and his Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski teammate dominated the bulk of the race, a late-race incident swept up fellow Chasers Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, and Kurt Busch. Kenseth, took it upon himself to wreck Logano from the lead, pile-driving him into the turn one wall.
One week later at Texas Motor Speedway, Logano cut a tire early and was never a factor. Phoenix International Raceway was his last chance in 2015. Unfortunately for Logano, the race was shortened by rain, and he failed to qualify for the Championship Four.
This year, after decent runs at both Martinsville and Texas, Logano was sitting just inside the Chase cut-off entering Phoenix. He pulled off the win at Phoenix and now has momentum entering Homestead.
Phoenix was Logano’s third win so far this season. Since joining Penske in 2013, Logano has averaged 3.75 wins each season. Edwards also has three wins this year. Both Kyle Busch and Johnson have four wins this season.
Logano has the second-most top fives of the Championship Four with 15 top fives this season. Busch has the most top fives with 17.
Logano leads the Championship Four drivers with 25 Top 10s. Busch has 24 Top 10s this season.
Meanwhile, at Homestead, Logano has a career average finish of 17.71. Johnson has a career average finish of 14.07, Edwards, 9.25, and Busch 21.09. However, since joining Team Penske in 2013, his average finish at Homestead has been 12.67.
Logano calmly explained his thoughts on preparing for the Championship race,
“For us it’s the same exact thing for us — at least for us it’s the same thing we had to do last week. Last week was part one of our championship, and now this is part two. I feel like I’ve kind of lived this once before as far as last week, and not only a couple years ago, as well. I think that all helps. But for the most part it’s still another race. You’re still going to have to go out there. We’re going to have to beat each other. We’re going to have to beat the rest of the cars, as well. There’s going to be a lot of fast cars here trying to end on a very good note for the season.”
“At least for us, for the 22 team, we’re going to stay constant to what we typically do. The way we work practices, the way we prepared for the race at the shop this week was very normal. Obviously we all think about what’s on the line and we know what’s on the line and we make sure that we’ve talked about everything and thought about everything that can happen and be as prepared as possible, but at the same time you’ve got to look at it, it’s still a race. It’s still just like every other race this year that we’re going to try to win. Our goals don’t change.”
Logano has some added motivation and pressure riding on him as NASCAR rolls into Homestead. Aside from competing for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship, Team Penske is celebrating their 50th NASCAR anniversary as well as competing for a chance for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Owner’s Championship. Penske’s No. 22 Ford Mustang sits just 11-points behind the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 in the standings.
Team Penske also captured the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship, won by Simon Pagenaud. In fact, Penske captured the top three positions in the IndyCar Championship.
Based on all of this, Logano has a good chance of capturing his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship on Sunday.