Joey Logano earns second Cup title, leads Penske 1-2 at Phoenix
AVONDALE, ARIZ. — Team Penske dominated Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship race as Joey Logano took home the championship and the win with Ryan Blaney in second.
Logano and Blaney combined to lead 296 of 312 laps – 187 by Logano and 109 by Blaney – and raced for the win amongst themselves in the final 34-lap green flag run.
Blaney had the lead before the final, Lap 269 caution but lost it to Chase Briscoe. On the Lap 279 restart, Logano quickly passed Blaney and took the lead from Briscoe on Lap 283.
Shortly after, Blaney took second and cut Logano’s two-second lead down to 0.3-seconds but he couldn’t get by.
Logano earned his second NASCAR Cup Series championship with his 31st career Cup win and third win at Phoenix. He is now tied with Martin Truex for 28th on the all-time wins list.
Logano bested Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell and Chase Elliott in the championship.
In Stage Two, on Lap 152, Elliott pitted while the other three stayed out – dropping him from 8th to 28th.
As he reeled off laps one second-plus quicker than leader Logano, Elliott unlapped himself on Lap 169 and was 12th when the stage ended on Lap 185.
Elliott’s crew fueled his car up with less fuel, which boosted him to sixth for an adjacent Lap 204 restart.
Then, he and Ross Chastain got together in the first incident for a Championship 4 contender in the title race since 2016.
During the restart, Chastain dove to the bottom and Elliott also dove down, but it was too late. Elliott spun off of Chastain’s front bumper and hit the wall with the right side.
Just as the crew rallied to gain Elliott six spots, they rallied to mend his car’s internal damage, especially the right-front suspension parts and pieces. The efforts were only enough to put him in 28th, 2 laps down at the finish.
“I felt like we just kind of peaked right there before we crashed. We got our car driving pretty good, we just had our best pit stop of the day, so that was all really solid and, heck, we were right there next to the 22,” Elliott said post-race. “I thought we had a shot at it all the way up until we didn’t, and that’s unfortunately the way it goes sometimes.”
Meanwhile, Ross Chastain went on to be second-best to Logano after Elliott’s incident.
Chastain ran sixth, one spot ahead of Bell, who leapfrogged him on a pit stop strategy around Lap 252. In the final stop, during the Lap 269 caution, Chastain passed Bell again.
On the final restart, at Lap 279, Chastain gained a couple of spots to sit third behind the Penske brigade as the laps clicked down. He closed to within a second of Logano but settled for third behind him and Blaney.
The road to the Championship 4 and the finish was satisfying for Chastain, as he described his emotions to be “surprisingly good”.
“On the final pit stop we got it right, fired off the best, together with a good pit stop, together with a good restart and that was the best we were,” Chastain said. “That’s what makes me so happy is we can just keep fighting and no one is ever upset. Like we keep our world small. We all do our jobs. Everybody at Trackhouse just put forth their best effort throughout the season, and we ended as strong as I’ve ever seen us.”
Christopher Bell finished 10th in the race and third in the championship.
Bell challenged Joey Logano for the championship lead after pitting two laps earlier than him in the final stage. A slower final stop and restart eventually led to him rounding out the top 10.
The finish, while disappointing, wrapped up a stressful day for Bell. At times, he feared blowing an engine as he also dealt with the loss of Joe Gibbs Racing Vice Chairman Coy Gibbs.
“You wake up first thing this morning and super excited and thrilled with life and where you’re at and the opportunity given to you. To receive news like that a couple hours before you get in the car is extremely tough. Just really kind of puts it in perspective that what we’re doing here is not the big picture for sure,” Bell said. “Just thinking of Joe. I just can’t imagine what Joe is going through and the entire Gibbs family. That’s the important piece.”
Bell’s teammate, Kyle Busch, finished 7th in his final race for JGR. JGR drivers Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. finished 8th and 15th, respectively. None of them led a lap.
TOP 10 FINISHERS: Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain, Chase Briscoe, Kevin Harvick, William Byron, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell
STAGE 1 TOP 10: Logano, Blaney, Briscoe, Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Byron, Harvick, Tyler Reddick, Austin Cindric
STAGE 2 TOP 10: Blaney, Logano, Truex, Briscoe, Harvick, Bell, Byron, Larson, Reddick, Cindric
Ross Chastain (3rd), Christopher Bell (4th), Chase Briscoe (9th) and Daniel Suarez (10th) each earned their first career top-10 Cup points finish.
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