Roger Diez: No ordinary Joey: Logano wins Cup
November 24, 2018
Congratulations to Joey Logano, who was crowned the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup champion at Homestead-Miami Raceway last Sunday evening. Logano became the 33rd champion in NASCAR's top division in the sanctioning body's 70-year history. He also brought Roger Penske yet another title to add to the incredible racing history of Team Penske. Logano follows in the footsteps of legendary Penske drivers Mark Donohue, Dave Marcis, Donnie and Bobby Allison, Rusty Wallace and current stars Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, and Logano's teammate Brad Keselowski. Brad is also a Cup champion, winning the title in 2012 for Penske.
The race was a nail biter, with the four championship contenders swapping the lead throughout the race. Each of the four, referred to by Logano as "The big three and me," had different strengths, but Logano's car was a rocketship on short runs. Fortunately for him the final restart came with fewer than 20 laps to go, and he immediately opened a gap and cruised to the win. Martin Truex Jr., still smarting from Logano's racing tactics at Martinsville, finished second, disappointed not to bring the title to the now-defunct Furniture Row team. Kevin Harvick had trouble with rear grip, and Kyle Busch's car just never came right. "I knew I was a sitting duck," he lamented after the race. Truex finished second in the championship standings with Kevin Harvick third and Kyle Busch fourth. Aric Almirola was fifth on the season, followed by Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, and Ryan Blaney rounding out the top 10. Six Fords, two Toyotas, and two Chevrolets comprised the top 10 finishing makes, with Ford taking the Manufacturer's title. The driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Camaro, William Byron, took Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.
NASCAR's top series is facing a lot of changes for 2019, with drivers departing, entering the series, and swapping places. There are some significant rule changes in the offing, and Ford will be switching to the Mustang as their platform for next season. Chevrolets should be more competitive next year, with a year of development on the Camaro, but the Mustang is still a question mark. Toyota will stay with the venerable Camry, as they have no "pony car" equivalent in its model lineup. I'll try to tally up all the new driver/team alignments and the rules changes in this space next week.
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The Formula One season finale at Abu Dhabi will take place on Sunday, the last major 2018 racing event. Although the drivers' and manufacturer's titles have already been won, there are still some positions in the standings yet to be settled. Currently Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen has a 14-point advantage over Mercedes driver and fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas in the driver standings, with Red Bull's Max Verstappen a further three points back. Depending on luck and aggressiveness (of which Verstappen has an abundance), he could move up one or even two spots. It's Raikkonen's last race with Ferrari, and he wants to go out with a strong performance. Bottas is only the third teammate of a champion not to score a season win since 1994, and he'd like to change that statistic with an Abu Dhabi victory.
Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, and Renault, lead the constructors' championship standings in that order. Remember, the lion's share of the season payout goes to the constructors, not the drivers, so that battle is important for next season's funding. There are only a couple of possibilities for a change further down the order. The gap from McLaren to Force India is 14 points, and Sauber is only six points behind Force India. Depending on racing fortune, that order could change by Sunday afternoon.