By David Morgan, Associate Editor
AVONDALE, Ariz. – As the grizzled veteran of the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4, Joey Logano showed his fellow title contenders how it was done Saturday at Phoenix, scoring the pole for Sunday’s championship deciding race.
The 2018 series champion posted a lap of 26.788 seconds, 134.389 mph to jump to the top of the board ahead of his Team Penske teammate Ryan Blaney to put himself in the best position possible when the green flag drops.
“It keeps the pressure on them,” Logano said. “That’s the goal. When you get here it’s keep the pressure on the competition. This team does amazing under the pressure and that’s why we thrive in playoffs and Championship 4 type moments. I love it. It makes me better and I think it makes my whole race team better as well…It’s a good place to start, better place to finish.”
Logano added that winning the pole only solidifies his feelings that his No. 22 team is the favorite to bring home the trophy on Sunday.
“We’ve been the favorite to win since the beginning of the year if you ask me,” Logano said. “That’s my mindset. That’s the way I go to a racetrack. If I don’t go to a racetrack like that, I shouldn’t show up, so I’ve always said it doesn’t matter what everyone says about favorites and odds all that garbage that everyone posts. I don’t care.
“I know what my odds should be and I know what I feel like they are, so I feel great about our position. Like I said, I’ve got a great team and we’ve proven today we’ve got a good horse, so we’re ready to rock and roll.”
Winner of the spring Phoenix race, Chase Briscoe, timed in third fastest, with defending champion Kyle Larson rolling off in fourth.
Chase Elliott, 2020 Cup champion and Championship 4 contender, will round out the top-five fastest drivers as he looks for a second title in the past three years.
“Honestly just kind of ready to go from the standpoint of a lot of times I think it’s kind of hard to tell where you’re at, what you have, how the race is going to unfold until the race unfolds,” Elliott said.
“Yeah, just ready to get tomorrow rolling and try to execute a perfect day. That’s all we can do now.
“I was pretty pleased with our qualifying effort. I thought we went faster than we did yesterday for a one-lap pace. I was pleasantly surprised with that. Hopefully it holds on tomorrow and we can have a good day.”
The remainder of the top-10 qualifiers were Harrison Burton, Kevin Harvick, William Byron, Cole Custer, and Ty Gibbs.
As for the other two Championship 4 drivers, Christopher Bell and Ross Chastain, they will have their work cut out for them at the start of Sunday’s race, with the 17th and 25th fastest times in qualifying.
Bell’s qualifying effort was a continuation of the lack of speed that the No. 20 team has shown this weekend, but that hasn’t stopped Bell from staying positive heading into the race. After all, he’s been here before with his two walk-off wins in the Playoffs to even make it to Phoenix.
“The weekend definitely hasn’t started off how any of us had planned,” Bell said. “I was really happy with the changes that they made to the car overnight from practice to qualifying. I think that was a really big positive.
“That’s definitely been one of our strengths, is improving over the course of the race, improving over the course of the weekend.
“I am definitely really happy we didn’t race yesterday, that’s for sure. I’m not counting myself out yet.”