Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of four stories examining why each Championship 4 driver could win the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series championship. For more on Logano and the Championship 4, tune in to “Race for the Championship” docuseries at 10 p.m. ET Thursday on USA Network or set your DVRs.
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Joey Logano will win the 2022 championship because …
It’s an even year, and the Team Penske driver is exceptionally well-positioned to make it No. 2 for the No. 22 in ’22.
Logano has made the Championship 4 in literally every even year dating back to this playoff format’s inception in 2014, winning it all in 2018. We’re (mostly) joking by noting what’s likely just a coincidence, but the fact is that Logano finds himself a championship contender every other year, and this season stands as one of his best opportunities yet to get his hands on the Bill France Trophy.
With the hoopla of Martinsville taking Logano out of the spotlight a bit, it’s easy to forget that for the past few weeks, the longtime Team Penske driver has been the only one able to sleep soundly knowing his championship berth was safe. Every driver would pay to be in that position, and you have to think cerebral crew chief Paul Wolfe has been cranking on his Phoenix machine for hours upon hours the past few weeks while other drivers still clamored to clinch their spots at Homestead-Miami and Martinsville.
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Logano has won the fall race at Phoenix before (2016), though that was before the reconfiguration of the track, in a different generation of car, in a race that wasn’t for the title. So, probably not a whole lot to cull from that one in, but Logano did win the spring 2020 race at the track as well, so he’s proven capable of doing it on this layout.
As for how he’s fared this season, he’s turned in three wins for the fourth time in the past seven years, picked up his most poles (three) since 2016 and, at times, has looked every bit the part of a championship winner. There’s a bit of concern with figures such as his average finish (13.8, his worst since missing the playoffs in 2017) and amount of top 10s (16, which is currently one fewer than he had in 2017 as well), but neither really matter when it all comes down to one final race – and essentially every elite driver from past seasons saw their numbers take a dip this year as parity increased with the debut of the Next Gen.
Let’s not forget Logano is one of, if not the least fun driver on the track to try to pass; the friendliest guy outside the car who turns into a stubborn-headed, ultra-aggressive driver behind the wheel. If somebody wants to take the title from his grasp … they quite literally might have to take it from him.
Logano has proven time and again that he’s a big-moment driver who delivers when the stakes are highest, and he can choose his own destiny. The No. 22 group led by the Connecticut native is the most well-rested, well-prepared and most experienced of the four. A second title is within reach.