Remember that 2018 season in which there appeared to be clear NASCAR Cup Series championship favorites, and then Joey Logano arrived on the scene? Logano made it to the championship, then led the most laps and won the title in the finale.
This time around, the Team Penske driver is entering this postseason with a similar feeling based on how things have unfolded the last few months for his No. 22 team leading into the playoffs.
“We had some growing pains and some things we had to learn throughout the regular season, and we slowly built the speed back up for the playoffs, and the next thing you know, we won two of the most important races, and we win the championship,” said Logano. “It just has that feeling to me throughout the regular season, so I feel like for those reasons I’m as confident as anybody rolling into this thing – in our race team, and myself, because we’ve been here before. We’ve done this before, so we’re ready to rock.”
A consistent 10-week stretch is always crucial, and consistency is what Logano and crew chief Paul Wolfe seemed to have regained. Before being taken out in a late crash last weekend at Daytona – after having led the most laps – Logano was riding a streak of six consecutive top-nine finishes. He’d also led laps in three of those six races.
If Logano is going to be a contender, this time around, the favorites are Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin. Logano doesn’t feel his team is “far off” of being where those two have been, but he also understands there isn’t going to be a light switch to flip to get them there.
“We’re two or three little things away from that,” said Logano in making his 2018 reference.
As the fourth seed, Logano enters the postseason with 22 playoff points. While he has never won at Darlington Raceway, where the Southern 500 will run Sunday (6 p.m. ET), Logano believes it suits his driving style, and names it among his favorites to visit.
Speaking of winning, both of Logano’s victories this year came before the sport paused for COVID-19. Logano won at Las Vegas and Phoenix, which admittedly feels way too long ago.
“We’re ready to win again,” he said. “We’re getting close back to that same point as we were. To me, there’s no doubt when we went back racing we weren’t where we wanted to be. I even said it a few times, almost (felt) like a lost puppy, not knowing what road to go down to get back to where we need to be, and it’s hard to find that direction without practice.
“Going to a different racetrack every week, it’s hard to grow. It took longer than we wanted it to, longer than we expected it to, but I feel like we’re getting really close back to where we were at the beginning of the year. We can get ourselves in a position to win again, and I feel like we’re right at it.
“So, I do feel pretty good about where we’re at again.”