INSIGHT: Logano's year for the books

INSIGHT: Logano's year for the books

What will you remember about Joey Logano’s NASCAR Cup Series championship season?

There was the four wins Logano’s No. 22 Team Penske group celebrated, including the inaugural Cup Series event in St. Louis. Another win, at Darlington Raceway in the spring, came after a hotly debated run-in with William Byron. And on championship weekend, Logano was the talk of the town for the swagger he took to Phoenix.

Every playoff has a theme. What Logano remembers about the final 10 races of the season isn’t what he did on the racetrack, but what crew chief Paul Wolfe was like off it.

“I was giving Paul a hard time about it (because) his intensity ratcheted up like crazy when the playoff started,” Logano says. “I was like, ‘my man wants it this year.’ I was excited to see it. Not that he’s not intense all the other times – he’s that person – but you kind of see it and feel it.”

Wolfe does not come across as an outwardly emotional person, but to those closest to him, like Logano, a difference in attitude would be noticeable. Wolfe and Logano are opposites in that regard; Wolfe being a calmer and soft-spoken presence, while Logano isn’t afraid to mix it up on the racetrack and then back it up in his media interviews.

Logano’s second Cup title was also the second for Wolfe as a crew chief. Wolfe first reached the promised land with Brad Keselowski in 2012, which was as unexpected for the young and unproven team as it was for the rest of the paddock.

By the time Wolfe was paired with Logano in 2020, their respective resumes had spoken for themselves. Weathered and experienced, Wolfe doesn’t have to worry about having to keep on Logano about doing his job, and vice versa.

It’s why, once the win at Las Vegas was secured in the Round of 8 to clinch a championship spot, there was no talk of shifts in focus. It was all-in on Phoenix, with the races in between being nothing but a formality.

“The questions he was asking and the things he was doing, (it was clear) he really wants it here and he felt we had a great opportunity to do it, and I did as well,” Logano says. “Especially after we won Vegas. That was a whole other side of Paul.

Paul Wolfe (right) provided the perfect contrast to Joey Logano in the No. 22 team. Nigel Kinrade/Motorsport Images

“To me, he’s the MVP of the team when it comes to this season. Paul really brought everyone together there, especially the last three weeks of the season.”

After winning at Las Vegas, Logano finished 18th at Homestead-Miami Speedway and sixth at Martinsville. The only objectives for those two weeks were to maintain momentum, and not make any enemies. Then at Phoenix Raceway, the No. 22 was the class of the field, claiming pole and leading 187 of 312 laps to sweep both the race and the championship.

Logano is one of eight drivers with two Cup Series championships. But the list is more elite when it comes to those who are current full-time drivers in the series: just Logano and Kyle Busch.

“It’s an even smaller group of three(-time winners); that’s where my head is at,” he said. “Let’s go get another one. It is something special, though, for sure.”

Should Logano be fortunate enough to add another title – or more –  to his resume, time will tell what the theme of those seasons will be. But there is bound to be something that stands out.

“Winning championships is hard in professional sports,” Logano says. “It’s so hard to come by, so hard to do. Everything has to come together at the right time. It’s not just the driver but the team, the cars. Everything has to be clicking at the right time to do it, and I still look at the ones we lost and think, man, we should have five of these things. It just didn’t work like that.

“That’s what makes them so special because you can make the Championship 4 and it’s great, but if you don’t win, it means nothing afterward. I’ve been through those losses. I’ve lost more of them than I’ve won. It’s an interesting feeling, for sure. But it’s nice to have a couple.”