Joey Logano parlays swagger into second Cup championship: 'I never felt more ready'

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Something was different about Joey Logano leading into the Championship 4 weekend.

Well, that‘s both true and false. It‘s the same Logano we‘ve always seen on the track: aggressive, confident, decisive, determined. But that differs from the Logano we usually see outside of the cockpit.

The typical Logano is laughing, jovial and lighthearted away from the race car. The chuckles remained throughout championship week at Phoenix Raceway, but his vibe was palpably different this time, charged with a swagger and shear confidence perennially reserved for when he straps his helmet on.

The result: a second NASCAR Cup Series championship, with which Logano becomes only the second active driver to claim multiple titles at the sport‘s highest level.

MORE: Phoenix recap | Logano through the years

“I told the guys after we put it on the (pole) the other day: We got them down; now we put our foot on them,” Logano said Sunday. “That‘s the attitude you‘ve got to have. It‘s just what it is when it comes to this level. Your feelings are checked at the door, and it‘s all about winning and nothing less than that.”

Logano and Co. had the benefit of locking into the Championship 4 way back on Oct. 16, courtesy of a strong showing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that ended in Victory Lane. That gave the team two full weeks to throw every ounce of manpower into its Phoenix preparation.

To capitalize was one thing. To dominate — win the Busch Light Pole award, light up practice charts, lead 187 of 312 laps, win Stage 1 and the race — was a season-defining performance for the Next Gen era‘s first winner and champion.

“When we won in Vegas, we sat down Monday and started coming up with a meeting agenda, a bunch of meeting agendas that we can go over and reviewing film together as a team,” Logano said. “Going through pit stops, reviewing, rolling times on pit road, all these little subcategories that happened and making sure the details are all in the right place.

“That was the difference maker. We knew we would have a fast race car, and we knew we‘d make those decisions and we‘d be close because we had plenty of time to really go through all that, and we weren‘t bad here in the spring.”

The key to efficient preparation, he said, was crew chief Paul Wolfe. Wolfe won the 2012 championship with Brad Keselowski, now a former teammate of Team Penske. Having so much time to prepare for one race can be a blessing or a curse, given the plethora of data teams have to sift through. Wolfe made sure to reap the benefits.

“When you saw how confident I was and my team was, it‘s because we were truly ready,” Logano said. “You can‘t fake confidence. You can maybe show it a little bit, but truly deep down inside, you have to believe that if you‘re going to be ready for this battle ahead of you.

Logano wins 2022 Cup Championship at Phoenix

“I never felt more ready, and a lot of credit goes to Paul for taking the time and the effort and forcing us to do it together as a team.”

It‘s important to note Logano‘s experience in the Championship 4 as well. This year marked his fifth visit to the final round, qualifying for title contention in the season finale in five of the last nine years. Having baseline expectations for what a pressure-packed weekend asks of its championship drivers was a critical piece of Logano‘s advantage.

“I truly believe that attitudes are contagious, good or bad,” he said. “And when you‘re able to bring that attitude to your race team in a moment like this, as a driver there, that just carries through it. I believe confident people win. If you don‘t believe in yourself, who else is ever going to believe in you? How are you ever going to win?

“But I also think you can‘t fake that. I think of my first Championship 4 appearance, was I confident? No, I was a nervous wreck. Are the nerves still there? Yeah, the nerves are still there. You don‘t want to screw it up because you got this far. But I truly felt ready as a driver, and I felt like, as a race team, we went through everything we can possibly go through.

“At that point, the confidence is real. We‘ve been here before. We knew how to do things. We knew how to prepare. We went out and just did our job. We put it on the pin, and then we won the race. Like that was the job at hand, and we nailed it.”

That swagger is bound to stick for some time. What may take Logano some getting used to is being referred to as a multi-time champion in the NASCAR Cup Series. But don‘t be mistaken — at 32 years old, Logano wants much more than his current stock.

“I guess the greed in me feels like I should have four or five at the moment, so I guess the feeling is it‘s about time,” Logano said. “But that‘s just how I am and how I work, I guess.”

If 2022 was any inkling, Logano‘s competitors should be on watch for years to come.