Leading into Sunday night’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, much was made about the season’s “Big 3” deciding the championship – all former champs, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. And yet, as it turned out the “fourth” – Joey Logano - was “big” enough when he needed to be too.
Joey Logano out-ran the threesome to earn his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, beating in order Truex, Harvick and Busch to the checkered flag. It was as true a Playoff royale as you could imagine – the four championship-eligible drivers dominated the day.
They combined to lead 179 of the race’s 267 laps. Each led at least 20 laps and Logano fittingly bested the entire race field, leading 80 laps in all. He passed 2017 champion Truex with 12 laps remaining and held the lead to the championship checkered flag, winning by a smooth 1.7-seconds.
“You are the champion, you are the champion," his crew radioed as Logano drove around the track from the checkered flag.
And he earned it by beating the season’s absolute best. For the first time since NASCAR implemented the Playoffs, the four championship finalists finished first, second, third and fourth.
“It was a hell of a battle, I can tell you that," Truex said on pit road after the race. “Everybody had good cars. Everybody fought hard and I guess we finished 1-2-3-4 [glances at scoreboard]. Yeah, I thought that was the case, so I mean that just shows the quality of the teams that were in it, and any one of us could've hit it right tonight and won it.
“Three other amazing teams are lucky to be part of that four.”
Logano’s win Sunday night was his third on the year – rounding out a trifecta of superspeedway (Talladega, Ala.), short track (Martinsville, Va.) and mile-and-a-half (Homestead) victory venues. All combined, the four championship eligible drivers won an impressive 23 of the season’s 36 races – the most ever by a championship foursome. Harvick and Busch led the way with eight victories each. Truex had four wins.
And they showed that domination again Sunday to settle the title.
“I would say, this was the best championship four ever put together," Logano’s crew chief Todd Gordon said. “It’s just surreal to think you raced Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr for the championship. And again we proved you have to win [the race] and Joey elevated himself to do it.”
Indeed. Logano turned in the best Playoff run of the foursome. He scored the most points and averaged a 8.6 place finish in the 10 Playoff races compared to Truex (9.1), Busch (10.2) and Harvick (11.5).
“We went up against the best of the best," Logano said. “No one was up there by accident. To beat the best is what makes this championship feel so good."
Before he climbed in the car, he told one of his crew man, "I'm climbing in as a driver but I'm climbing out as the champion.
“And that's exactly what we did."