Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – LAS VEGAS, NV – What was a dream to Joey Logano became an ambition, and on Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, ambition became reality.
The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford won the season finale at the South Florida track to claim his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, and the reality of that first title sank in as soon as Logano crossed the finish line.
“This is what we’ve worked for our whole life,” Logano said on Wednesday at the Wynn Las Vegas after the NMPA Myers Brothers Awards. “Not 10 years that we’ve been trying at the Cup level, but it started in ’95 when I first got behind the wheel of a go-kart. That’s when this goal started.
“There was never a second thing that I was going to try to do. This was it—NASCAR champion.”
Not that Logano considered a Cup championship a possibility when he was five years old—but he could dream.
“You’re a kid, and it’s a dream,” Logano said. “Maybe a goal is a little different. It’s a dream at that point. A lot of kids want to be NASCAR champion, and I’m here to say it can happen, as long as you keep working hard and taking advantage of the opportunities in front of you.
“When I went to elementary school, and they said, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’, it was always race car driver.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR. SATISFIED WITH EFFORT IN MONSTER ENERGY SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP RACE
Martin Truex Jr. thought he had the Championship 4 race won—until a late caution intervened and gave Joey Logano the chance he needed to deny Truex a second straight title.
“No question,” Truex said. “If it wasn’t for a bad pit stop on the (earlier) green-flag stop… we had a straightaway lead at that point. We were running those guys (leader Kevin Harvick) down really fast.
“I had already passed the 22 (Logano) for second, and I was catching the 4 car (Harvick) three or four tenths (of a second) a lap. I mean, it wasn’t going to take long—but it doesn’t really matter now, does it?”
Truex didn’t have the fastest car last year, but he managed to hold off Kyle Busch in the championship race.
“It’s hard to get completely devastated about a race working out that way,” said Truex, who will be driving for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2019. “We did all we could do. We put ourselves in position, made the right decisions.
“The year before, we were the second-best car. Kyle had it won, and the pit strategy—the way we played it out—we caught the caution at the right time and got the lead and were able to hold him off. So it’s like you win one you maybe shouldn’t have, and you lose one you maybe shouldn’t have. They kind of even out.”
FERNANDO ALONSO SURPRISES JIMMIE JOHNSON WITH HIS LOVE OF A LOOSE CAR
During his recent car swap in Bahrain with former Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso, seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was impressive in his first stint in an F1 car, running only two tenths of a second slower that Alonso’s fastest lap.
But Alonso impressed Johnson in a stock car, too—and surprised the driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
“One thing that really surprised me was how good he was at sliding the car around,” Johnson said. “In Formula 1, you don’t really slide those cars, but I rode with him in some type of McLaren sports car on some hot laps, and he was dead sideways the entire time.
“I said, ‘I thought you drive a Formula 1 car straight,’ and he said, ‘You do, but I like to slide. So, the entire time, he was boiling the tires in the sports car. And when he got in the Cup car, I don’t think he ever went straight. He was sliding and drifting through every turn, amazing car control…
“I don’t think he knows what his plans are for 2019, but I’d love to have him in NASCAR.”