Joey Logano busted up The Big Three and captured an improbable first NASCAR title by soundly beating a trio of champions.
Logano won the season finale Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway to grab his first Cup championship in a season in which he barely contended until the playoffs began. The year was dominated by Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr., with Logano calling the final-four field “The Big Three and Me.” But Logano kicked it into another gear to steal the title.
He passed Truex with 12 laps remaining and pulled away to win for Roger Penske, the car owner who celebrated this year his election into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, a 17th victory in the Indianapolis 500 and now a second title in NASCAR’s top series.
It marked the first championship for Ford since 2004.
Truex finished second in his final race with Furniture Row Racing. The team is closing because it lost its primary sponsor midway through Truex’s championship reign.
“It’s a tough night, a tough way to lose,” Truex said. “I had nothing for him at the end. That’s just the way it goes. I don’t know what else to say. It hurts a little, and I’m going to miss all of the guys.”
Harvick was third and Busch fourth as the title contenders followed each other across the finish line.
“We weren’t even close,” said Busch, who used strategy to keep up with the other title contenders.
But it was Logano who took the checkered flag, climbed to the roof of his car and was embraced by his Penske crew.
Logano had to move Truex out of his way in the final turn at Martinsville Speedway last month to earn his berth in the championship race. The 28-year-old Connecticut racer was criticized for his aggressiveness, and Truex promised he’d prevent Logano from winning the Cup, but Logano insisted he made the necessary move to win a championship.
And in the final 15-lap shootout to the finish, Logano used a power move on the outside line to shoot past Truex and drive away. If Truex had any intention of stopping Logano he had to catch him first, he couldn’t and finished 1.725 seconds behind.
Logano had been adamant he was the favorite to win the race, in part because he wasn’t even supposed to make the final four and had just one regular season victory. Busch and Harvick ended the season with eight wins each, while Truex had four.
Logano’s third win came at Homestead, where the champion has won the race to win the title since this format was introduced in 2014. Logano was the favorite to win the 2015 title but missed the finale, was the championship runner-up in 2016 and a penalty kept his No. 22 out of last season’s playoffs.