NASCAR Cup Series
Joey Logano Advances to Final Four with Vegas Cup Win
Oct 16, 2022
Joey Logano in the Final Four.
These are the virtual-most guarantees in life with Logano now reaching the final race with a chance to battle for a Cup Series championship for the fifth time in nine years. In fact, you might want to go ahead and mark ‘Sliced Bread’ down for a championship run in 2024 because --
"I know, I know," Logano said with his trademark laugh. "It's every other year. At least we've made it this year and I hope we're in it next year too, but it seems like every other year."
It literally is.
Logano has been a constant of this format since its debut in 2014. The 2018 champion is now tied with Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. for the most Championship Race inclusions of this era.
"I guess that's an okay average," Logano said. "I wish it was every year. Maybe that's the greed in myself. But overall, yeah, it feels good to be able to get into Victory Lane and race for a championship when we get to Phoenix for sure."
While Logano can lay claim to being amongst the statistical best (three victories) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the 32-year-old was quick to credit crew chief Paul Wolfe for their accomplishment together on Sunday.
Logano was running ninth at the time of a caution on Lap 241 when Wolfe decided to call him down pit road for four tires. Better articulated, Wolfe was asking Logano to restart around 15th (depending on the results of the choose rule) with 20 laps to go. The driver responded by driving to eighth in one lap before the next caution.
On fresher tires, Logano carved up the top five on the next restart and methodically broke down Ross Chastain for the lead over the final 10 laps.
Paul Wolfe said it was an easy call, given how their car drove earlier in clean air and the challenges the Team Penske No. 22 faced in dirty air, to offset that with fresher tires and let his driver eat.
"When we lost that track position, we got pretty tight," Wolfe said. "We were kind of at a point where I thought we were still better than most of those cars in front of us (but) it's very hard to pass right now …
"We were running ninth, and if it turned out we were going to give up two or three spots, I thought we had done a good enough job up to that point in the race, and if we wanted to have the mentality of we're here to win, that was going our play to win.
"We weren't going to have enough time and be good enough with as tight as we were back there to think we were going to drive to the front and win the race."
It was a difference of about a dozen laps on the tires and Logano was honestly surprised more teams didn’t make that call given the level of falloff in the desert on Sunday.
"Honestly that was kind of a better scenario for us when everyone in front of us stayed out," Logano said. "And then I think there was only three cars that were running behind us that stayed out. So really, we gave up three spots for four new tires.
"I thought that was a pretty good trade-off."
It was a massive trade-off, that again, gives them over two weeks to prepare for the big one in Phoenix.
"We've got a few weeks to think about it, which is nice," Logano said. "We will be able to focus in. I've lived this story before winning at Martinsville (when it was the first race of this round) and being able to give yourself a bit of an advantage when you get to Phoenix when that's all you've thought about for the last couple weeks (as) everyone else is fighting tooth and nail to get in.
"We're able to really focus in on the one race that counts for us now."
Logano feels pretty good about his chances at Phoenix, but after Sunday, really wishes this was the site of the championship race.
"Let's bring the championship here," Logano said. "This would be a good place for a championship race, wouldn't it?"
Matt Humphrey, from NASCAR Communications playfully interjected that 'Phoenix may beg to differ,' but Logano was resolute.
"You'd have a hell of a time afterwards," Logano said. "You could go down to the city. It would be great. Marcus (Smith) would love it."
Regardless of how Logano and Wolfe feel about Phoenix it’s worth remembering that the driver was the only one willing to proclaim himself the favorite at Playoff Media Day last month in Downtown Charlotte. Logano has now backed up the bravado with yet another championship race appearance.
The final race is a bit of a crapshoot so Logano has already proven his point so whatever happens, happens.
"We've got a one in four chance now," Logano said. "I feel like our chances are way better than that. But I do think it'll be interesting to see what the next two weeks are like, and yeah, I'll let you know in Phoenix how important this one was."