The Big 1: Joey Logano triumphs over NASCAR’s Big 3

HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 18: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2018 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The four best drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series had 15 laps to settle it all Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway.  Three of those drivers had combined to win 19 races and earn the title of NASCAR’s Big 3.

Joey Logano had something to say about that.

With 12 laps remaining Logano emerged in the lead Sunday. And from there it was Logano who took the win and became the 33rd NASCAR Cup champion.

The 28-year-old Team Penske driver had been strong all weekend, but Sunday so where the other three championship contenders all of whom led at various times.

The final round of green flag pit stops combined with a late race caution nearly gave the title to Kyle Busch.  After his three contenders pitted, Busch elected to stay out for track position and hoped for caution.  He got his wish with 20 laps to go when Brad Keselowski got into Daniel Suarez bringing out just the second non-stage caution of the entire weekend.

The caution sent the leaders to pit road with Busch coming out first, Martin Truex Jr. second, Logano third and Kevin Harvick fourth.

The restart came with 15 laps to go; Truex shot to the lead with Logano in close pursuit.  The two began to duel side by side with Logano making a move on the outside entering turn 1 with 12 laps to go.

Logano never looked back taking the win and the title by 1.7 seconds over Truex.

“Man, I don’t even know how to put this in words,” Logano said.  “God is so good.  It’s crazy what life can throw at you sometimes.  You get the cautions at the right time and let this team do their job and let me do my job, and next thing you know, here we are, NASCAR champions.  I don’t even know what to say.”

Logano led a race high 80 laps, but early in the race it was Kevin Harvick who seemed to have the car to beat.  Harvick started 12th but was leading by lap 43.  He would win the first stage and a total of 58 laps.

“We had a daytime race car,” Harvick said.  “As soon as it got dark we never could get our car tightened up there at the end, and then they made a great call to put us in position to win the race, and then the caution came out when the 2 car spun the 19 out and came off pit road fourth, and just our strong point was not the restarts tonight, and wound up on the wrong side of it.”

Truex, who led 20 laps, came up one spot short defending his title, and getting a win for his Furniture Row Racing team which is ceasing operations after this race.

“More time.” Truex said. “That’s all we needed was a little more time. We had the car to do it at the end, it just didn’t work out. They were so much faster than us for a couple laps on the short runs. Just couldn’t hold him (Joey Logano) off.”

2015 Cup champion Kyle Busch led 21 laps and nearly pulled off the win with pit strategy. In the end he settled for fourth.

“We were a sitting duck with all those guys anyways,” Busch said. “Our car was just not even close. I don’t know what happened to it, I thought we were way better than that and way closer than that. We wouldn’t have unloaded today if we thought we were that far off. I’m not sure what happened and where we missed it.”

Keselowski was fifth, with Matt Kenseth, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola and Kurt Busch rounding out the top 10.

Greg Engle