AVONDALE, AZ – Winning a championship in NASCAR’s highest level is tough. There’s a reason only 10 drivers in the history of the sport have ever done so. Plus, for the 10 to have done it, just look at the names – Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon, Darrell Waltrip, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Lee Petty, Buck Baker and Joe Weatherly.
It’s the best of the best.
Johnson won five straight from 2006 through 2010 but prior to him, the last driver to go back-to-back was Gordon in 1997 and again in 1998. Earnhardt did so on three different occasions, two of which coming in the 90’s. But, over the last 31 years, just three times has someone gone back-to-back.
Joey Logano was hoping to make it four. Unfortunately, that bid comes up just short in Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 at the ISM Raceway in Phoenix.
Logano, did exactly what he needed to do through the first two stages. He outscored Kyle Busch 17-15 in stage points. They were now tied for the final wildcard spot to the Championship 4.
But, that’s where it all changed for Logano. His crew made a bad air pressure adjustment on his pit stop following his stage win in the second stage and despite being the first car off pit road and leading the race on the restart, his day would change.
Logano, went from first on Lap 176 to 11th and a lap down in 62 laps. There’s nothing he could do until they pit again. Once they did, they started rising up, but he was still a lap down.
He needed a break. He’d get one on Lap 302, 10 laps remaining, for John Hunter Nemechek crashing on track. Erik Jones was the first car a lap down, so Logano would have to not pit and take the wave around to get back on the lead lap.
With just a three lap shootout to the end, Logano couldn’t do much. He’d finish ninth and his bid for a second championship comes to an end.
It’s not just the pit call, it’s his lack of top fives over the last half of the season to why he’s eliminated too. The Team Penske driver last won at the Michigan International Speedway on June 10. That’s 21 races ago. In the 20 races since his win, the defending series champion has scored just three top five finishes. In fact, he’s had two top fives over the last 18 races run.
Furthermore, over the last 15 races, Logano has brought his No. 22 Ford home 10th or worse in 10 of them.
The only reason he was still alive in the playoffs in the Round of 8 was for all the playoff points he accumulated during the regular season and for the stage points he’s scored in the playoff races themselves. He’s just not finishing the races off with top 10’s.
He was +20 in the standings, but Hamlin winning eliminated Logano from contention.