by Crystal Clay and Adam Carabine
A dominant performance led to the crowning of a new two-time NASCAR champion. The No.22 Penske Ford Mustang of Joey Logano led 187 laps on the way to winning the Season Finale 500, and the NASCAR Cup Series Championship.
Being the most experienced driver of the Championship Four may have given Logano a little bit of confidence. “I looked at the other teams, and some of them were just happy to be here, saying it’s just another race. I’ve been around here long enough to know this wasn’t just another race.”
The race was Logano’s 4th win this season, and 31st all-time in the Cup Series.
Most importantly, it gave Logano his second Cup Series championship. The only other current full-time driver to complete that feat is Kyle Busch.
After the race, he said, “We’ve got them down, now we have to put our foot on them. That’s the attitude you have to have.”
Though, when you ask him what it feels like to be a two-time champ, Logano - ever the competitor - answered “The greed in me feels like I should have four or five at this moment, I guess that’s just how I work.”
Logano’s biggest competition in winning the race outright was fellow Penske teammate Ryan Blaney. With around 30 to go in Stage 2, Blaney passed a fuel-saving Logano and ended up winning the stage.
The other three drivers that were in contention had their moments, but no one could challenge him.
On lap 201, right after a restart, Chase Elliott came down in front of a determined Ross Chastain. Chastain had a run, didn’t lift, Elliott was spun out, hitting the inside wall. While it didn’t end Elliott’s race, the damage was too much to bounce back from. Elliott finished the day 2 laps down, in 28th.
When asked about the collision, Chastain simply said: “I got position on him to the left side on the dogleg, and he turned left.”
Christopher Bell was also in the conversation near the end of the race, but a late-race caution proved to be troublesome for the #20 team.
One of Bell’s tire changers got their finger stuck between the nut and the spindle while changing the left rear. In order to release his finger, the tire needed to be removed, and then replaced. The resulting pit stop meant Bell would restart 15th, and while he was able to make his way forward and finish P10, it certainly proved to be disastrous toward his championship hopes.
When the final stage went green, Blaney proved to be tougher to pass than expected, and he held the lead until a Michael McDowell and Alex Bowman incident brought out the caution at lap 269.
Chase Briscoe, who had run up around the top five all day, took the lead off the restart, but Logano was not to be denied.
With 30 to go, Logano retook the lead and held on to it until the very end.