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Albert: Logano soaks in championship but puts service to others at forefront

LAS VEGAS — Joey Logano had navigated through most of the thank-yous in his champion’s speech at the annual Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards, offering appreciation to sponsors, managers, his crew chief, his team and his legendary car owner. He saved his family for the closing moments in Thursday’s address, and that’s when he welled up with emotion.

His parents, his in-laws, and his wife, Brittany. They are what made him pause and briefly step away from the podium.

“I guess I knew I was going to break down when I started talking about my family and the people that supported me from the beginning,” Logano said later. “I guess you just think about the commitment that everyone’s made to get you here and it means so much to me to have them here tonight and to talk about them. I guess that was the hardest part for me.”

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More than once this Champion’s Week, Logano mentioned how he used to dread the annual trip to Las Vegas for the postseason awards. In years past, those trips west meant being present to celebrate someone else’s series title. “Yeah, it stinks to sit at the table down below,” his crew chief, Todd Gordon, said earlier this week with a laugh.

This offseason, after 10 years of trying, Logano joined his No. 22 team principals at the head table at the Wynn Las Vegas. He made it clear that he plans to use that center stage as a first-time champ as a platform for helping others and for being an ambassador for stock-car racing.

Logano graciously thanked his competitors for their drive and passion, all while acknowledging his past run-ins with them on the track — a byproduct of his aggressive driving style. But he also challenged his peers with a dose of perspective, to use their position to better the lives of those less fortunate.

“I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes on and off the race track, but God’s given me an amazing opportunity to learn from each one and teaching me what it’s like to have a second chance in life,” Logano said. “That’s why we started the Joey Logano Foundation, to give second chances to children and young adults in times of crisis.

“And the other part of our mission, which is maybe even more important, is to inspire others to live a life of generosity. I talk about how our sport gives us such a large stage to make a difference. Here I am standing on the largest stage in NASCAR, so I need to use this moment to challenge all of us and inspire all of us to be the change.”

MORE: Brittany and Joey Logano through the years

Change was all part of a year of transition for Logano, who not only became a driving champion in 2018 but became a father with the birth of his son, Hudson, in January. And just days before hoisting the Monster Energy Series trophy at Miami, he was recognized for his foundation’s charitable works with the Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award.

“To me, it’s crazy that it all happened in one year,” Logano said earlier this week. “I don’t feel like it should all happen like that in one year, so I’ve kind of got to pinch myself because that stuff’s just very special to me.”

At a reception hosted by Goodyear Racing earlier Thursday, Logano offered his appreciation there for the tiremaker’s presentation of a 1/12-scale gold replica of his title-winning No. 22 Ford. In doing so, he told the intimate collection of attendees that he looked forward to representing the sport as its champion, adding that if there was ever anything he should be doing, to please tell him.

Thursday night, Logano had his own say in a moment he shared with his family, finally at the front of the awards stage.