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Fierce Competition Makes Logano’s Championship More Impressive

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Joey Logano’s 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship will be remembered as one of the most impressive feats in history considering the strength of his competition.

This season’s headlines have been dominated by the historic performances from the big three drivers of Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex JrAll three competitors put up record numbers over the course of 36 races.

Busch tied his career-high wins mark of eight set in 2008, scored 22 top-five’s, which is five more than ever before, and finished inside the top-10 28 times, beating his 2016 record of 25.

Harvick won eight events, three more than any other season in his career. He tied his 2015 record of 23 top-five finishes and 28 top-10’s marks the most in his NASCAR Cup Series tenure.

While 2017 remains Martin Truex Jr.’s banner year overall, he scored a career-high 20 top-five finishes in his final year behind the wheel for Furniture Row Racing.

Each driver accumulated a healthy amount of playoff points throughout the year as a result of this success and entered the playoffs as the favorites to make the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The only question that remained is who would join them to round out the field where ultimately, one race would decide which member of the big three would reign supreme. A victory at Martinsville meant they would face the assumed underdog, Logano.

It was not a record year for the No. 22 team as entering Homestead-Miami, they had two wins, 12 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes. All three statistics had been topped previously in Logano’s career in seasons that did not end with a title.

Additionally, intermediate tracks haven’t historically been Logano’s strong suit as his last mile-and-a-half win came in 2015 at Kansas Speedway.

In contrast, the big three won eight of the 11 intermediate races this season and captured three of the last four victories at Homestead-Miami entering Sunday, with those wins en route to the first and currently only championships for each driver. They had been in this situation before, faced the pressure, and left with the title.

This seemed to lend them the upper hand over Logano who had competed in the Championship 4 twice before but came up short each time.

While Logano emerged as a rising threat as the post-season progressed and self-titled himself the championship favorite at ISM Raceway, history and statistics were not on his side. However, the No. 22 crew overcame those challenges to capture Team Penske’s second title and the first for Ford since 2004 on Sunday.

The finale has not played favorites under this format as the fifth running featured a fifth different winner. While Logano may not have had the best season-long statistics, once in this race, it’s anybody’s game.

In a season that many predicted a big three champion, Logano outperforming three drivers putting up career numbers for the title is an upset story that will be remembered for years to come.  

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Jason Schultz

Jason Schultz aspires to enter the public relations field of NASCAR. Schultz, 19, attends UNC Charlotte and is a communication studies major with a focus in public relations. In addition to contributing to POPULAR SPEED, Schultz produces podcasts for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Dirty Mo Radio. He also completed a semester as a social media intern at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Each year, he volunteers as the social media correspondent for Autism Delaware's Drive for Autism golf tournament featuring NASCAR personalities and the AAA 400 Drive for Autism Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover.