HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Joey Logano called himself the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship favorite on Thursday at the Miami Beach Edition, and he backed it up Sunday night by capturing his first title with a stirring drive to victory in the Ford EcoBoost 400.
Logano made a power move to the outside of race leader Martin Truex Jr. to take the top spot with 12 laps left and never looked back, driving away by 1.725 seconds with his No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford to win both the race and the championship in his 10th full-time season at the Cup Series level.
The thrilling sprint to the finish began with 20 laps to go, when a four-wide scramble for position saw Brad Keselowski get into the rear quarter-panel of Daniel Suarez’s car, sending Suarez spinning and bringing out the last of five caution flags during the 400-mile distance.
Kyle Busch was the leader at that point, having stayed out during a cycle of pit stops in hopes of catching a caution, and Busch led the leaders down pit road for a race-deciding set of pit stops. Using the strength of the No. 1 pit stall, Busch won the race back on to the track, with Truex, Logano and Kevin Harvick close behind.
Racing resumed for the final time with 15 laps to go, seeing the Championship 4 line up in the top four positions, and Truex powered to the lead off the bottom lane as Busch began to fall back upstairs.
Logano took just one lap to dispatch Busch for the runner-up spot, setting his sights on Truex for the lead and the win just as he did at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway three weeks earlier.
It took Logano just one lap to put himself on Truex’s back bumper and the next time by, Logano sailed his car through the middle groove in turns one and two, leaving Truex behind with ease and driving off into the South Florida night.
Sunday’s performance marked Logano’s third win of the season, first at Homestead and the 21st and most important of his Cup Series career, putting him among the elite in the sport as a champion at last.
“We did it! We won the championship!” Logano exclaimed after climbing from his car on the frontstretch. “I can’t believe it. I don’t even know what to say. This team, Roger Penske, Todd Gordon, the pit crew … they’re amazing. They gave me the car I needed at the end to do my job.
“I’m so proud of everyone. We rose to the occasion and executed under pressure like no one’s business,” he continued. “There was a lot of screaming (in the car) when I took the checkered flag. I’ve worked my whole life to get here, to get to and win the championship. It’s been 10 seasons fighting for this, and I wasn’t sure I was going to get it. It was a no quit attitude.”
Logano led a race-high 80 of 267 laps, but his car struggled to maintain speed over the long haul. When the race came down to a sprint to the finish, the 28-year-old was confident and backed it up.
“My car was really good on the entry all day. I knew we had a short-run car, and it really showed all day,” Logano noted. “It came down to the short run, thankfully.
“This team is the best in the business and they proved it again today. Every one of them is the best in their position, and we showed it when it mattered most. We are NASCAR champions!”
Logano’s championship season consisted of three victories – including two in the playoffs – along with 13 top-five and 26 top-10 finishes in 36 races.
In his final ride with Furniture Row Racing, Truex came one spot short of defending his Cup Series title, chasing Logano to the finish line in second. Harvick and Busch followed in third and fourth, respectively.
Sunday night marks the first time in the elimination era that the Championship 4 finished in the top four positions during the final race of the season.
Logano’s teammate Keselowski rallied from the late contact with Suarez to complete the top five.
To view complete results from the championship race, advance to the next page.