Logano celebrates second NASCAR Cup title; Chase Elliott most popular driver again
Published 12:00 am Friday, December 2, 2022
By Teresa M. Walker
AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Joey Logano has a simple target for the future even as he celebrates his 2022 NASCAR Cup championship.
Add yet another.
Logano this season joined Kyle Busch as the only active NASCAR drivers with multiple Cup series titles, adding to the first Cup championship he won in 2018. Being the only active driver with three Cup titles would be even sweeter.
“That’s where my head is at right is, ‘Let’s go get another one,’” Logano said Thursday before he was feted at NASCAR’s annual awards ceremony.
“It is something special though for sure. Winning championships is hard in professional sports, right? This is so hard to come by, and so hard to do, and everything has to come together at the right time,” he continued. “It’s not just the driver, but it’s the team, the cars. Everything has to be clicking at the right time to be able to do it.”
Logano, at 32, was already the oldest of the four drivers in the championship finale. Credit— or blame — the new Next Gen car for evening out competition to where the Cup Series had 19 different winners, with five first-timers and two drivers making their first appearance in the championship race.
Logano won his second NASCAR championship by finishing first in a winner-take-all finale at Phoenix Raceway, giving Team Penske both the Cup and IndyCar titles in the same season for the first time in 31 tries.
Roger Penske, owner of Logano’s No. 22 Ford, knows how hungry Logano is to win a third title. He’s part of a roster that includes Ryan Blaney and Austin Cindric, who both made the playoffs with Team Penske, and Harrison Burton in an affiliate Wood Brothers Racing car.
“We’ve got the same team, so we should,” Penske said. “We should be able to compete now. A lot of great talent out there today. New talent, young talent. Teams and the cars brought us closer together. But I think we’re someone you’re going to have to beat in ‘23.”
The immediate celebration of his second Cup championship was a bit muted for Logano with the death of Joe Gibbs Racing vice chairman Coy Gibbs hours before that season finale. Logano started his career at JGR, where he spent four Cup seasons.
Coming to the NASCAR awards in Nashville allowed Logano time and space to really enjoy his latest championship.
He posed with the trophy on a bridge over the Cumberland River and suggested a visit to the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, where Logano visited with two-time rushing champ Derrick Henry and swapped his helmet for a No. 22 Henry jersey. He also got to spend time on the team’s practice field.
Logano said he loves picking up tips and ideas on how other people at the top of their sports work to stay there because he’s learned that nobody, even in the same sport, sees or approaches things the same way.
“So it’s good to learn all that for sure,” Logano said.
Logano also knows he’s among one of NASCAR’s older current drivers and wants to embrace being more of a leader and help grow the sport. He’s still young enough to relate to all the young drivers coming into NASCAR, yet old enough to remember what it was like over a decade ago.
“I feel like that’s a huge responsibility for all of us as an industry to care about the next generation of our sport,” Logano said.
Kevin Harvick, the 2014 Cup champion, said Logano doesn’t give himself enough credit for being a leader in the sport already.
“He has a voice that he uses and participates in a lot of the activities and things that it takes to help us progress forward,” said Harvick, the 2014 champion who once feuded with Logano. “It’s been an interesting year to understand where everything is at, and I’m guilty of it as well and not participating in doing the things that we need to do.”
As Logano prepares to chase his third championship, Busch wore his two big championship rings because the NASCAR awards offer a perfect opportunity to flaunt what he’s earned. Busch pointed out he can’t wear them when he’s getting into a race car.
“I might as well wear (them) when we come to the functions in which you can show people what they’re going after anyway,” Busch said.
Busch already has cleared out his gear from Joe Gibbs Racing after 15 years as he switches to Richard Childress Racing for the upcoming season. He admitted showing off the spoils of victory might offer motivation that works against him in the future.
“You know we’d love to get more,” Busch said.
Chase Elliott wins most popular driver for fifth straight year
Chase Elliott simply can’t be beat when it comes to his grip on NASCAR ‘s title as fans most popular driver.
Not even with a late social media push by Ryan Blaney to end Elliott’s reign.
In a season in which he won five races and finished fourth overall, Elliott added another victory Thursday night. At the season-ending awards ceremony at the Music City Center, the National Press Association declared Elliott winner of the fan-decided most popular award for a fifth consecutive year.
Elliott had a message for Blaney, who surprised him by campaigning for the award on social media. Blaney also had fun with Elliott, whose tweets featured videos that included accusing the driver sponsored by Hooters of thinking parmesan garlic chicken wings are “too spicy.”
“I got a pretty good laugh,” Elliott told Blaney during the awards show. “But if you need a trophy or need to borrow it, you know where my room’s at.”
Elliott’s run as NASCAR’s most popular driver started in 2018, the first year of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement. Earnhardt had won the most popular award every year since 2003, the season Bill Elliot, the man known as “Awesome Bill From Dawsonville” in Georgia, asked for his name to be removed from the ballot after winning 16 times.
Now his son is continuing the tradition with this latest victory, meaning either an Elliott or Earnhardt has won the Most Popular Driver award for 32 straight years. Chase Elliott said he understands and appreciates fans continuing a family tradition of rooting for an Elliott.
“Dad had a great connection with the fans and beyond him, I look at the connection as really an extension of his career and my uncles and my grandfather and just kind of the path and the work ethic that they had to, to be able to get to where they did and to achieve the goals they did,” Chase Elliott said.
Chase Elliott held off his three rivals for the Cup championship even if he lost on the track to eventual Cup champ Joey Logano. Ross Chastain and Christopher Bell also were among the top 10 vote-getters. Others receiving votes included Blaney, Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr.
The most popular driver award was first presented in 1949, to Curtis Turner, at the end of NASCAR’s inaugural season. The award has been administered by the NMPA and presented annually by the organization since 1983, and it is the only major NASCAR award determined solely by a fan vote.
AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports