Written by: Adrian Beecher
Joey Logano started in the front, led 188 of 312 laps, and finished there to capture his second career NASCAR Cup Series Title on Sunday at Pheonix Raceway.
Here’s how it all went down in the NASCAR Cup Series Season Finale.
Logano would lead the field to the drop of the green flag alongside teammate Ryan Blaney.
The rest of the Championship Four rounded out as follows to get things started: Chase Elliott in the No. 9, in 5th, Christopher Bell in the No. 20 back in 17th, and Ross Chastain in the No. 1 Machine back in 25th.
Logano would pull clear into the lead as things settled down after the green flag.
Things would stay calm throughout stage 1, and Logano would capture the stage win. Chase Elliott had dropped back to 6th, Christopher Bell had moved up to 11th, and Chastain found himself in 13th.
As they went through pit stops, things would stay nearly the same, with Logano coming out P1, Elliott in P6, Bell in P9, and Chastain in P10.
On lap 68, the green flag would fly to start stage two. Logano took the inside and had Larson to his outside, though it would be the No. 22 taking P1, clearing the field. On Lap 70, Bell would make a move to pass Elliott for sixth.
Our first unscheduled caution came out on lap 84 as the No. 77 of Corey Lajoie took a spin, and the No. 47 of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was unable to slow down and slammed into the No. 77.
All the Championship four took a pitstop under caution, and the winner off pit road was Logano, second overall out of the pits. Bell would follow, with Chastain and Elliott following suit.
As we got ready to go back green on lap 89, it would be Erik Jones leading the charge in the No. 43 with Loagon in P3, Bell in P8, Chastain in 10th, and Elliott in 11th.
Logano would take over the lead after just one lap. Meanwhile, the other three Championship contenders went three wide in a battle for sixth. Bell was on the outside and got loose and dropped back to 14th. Meanwhile, Chastain would win the battle for the position, and Elliott would fall back and settle into ninth.
On lap 154, Chase Elliott took his No. 9 machine into the pits as the first of the Four Championship drivers.This would put Elliott a lap down and put him back in 28th. On lap 159, Ryan Blaney in the No. 12 would make the pass of his teammate Logano to take the lead.
On 170, Chase Elliott passed Blaney to get his lap back. To this point, he was still the only Championship Four driver to take a green flag stop.
That would remain true through the end of stage two, with Blaney taking the Stage win with Logano in second.
Bell finished in 7th, with Chastain in 11th and Elliott in 12th. They would all go in for fresh tires and fuel before the start of the final stage.
Out of the pits, ahead of the green flag drop, Blaney led the field, and the championship Four stacked up as follows.
Logano – P5
Elliott – P6
Chastain – P10
Bell – P11
The restart would last only a lap as the No. 8 of Tyler Reddick got spun and the No. 23, No. 34, and No. 43 were all involved in Turn four. This would stack’em and rack’em again for another restart.
On the restart at lap 199, Chase Elliott had moved atop the Championship Four contenders into P5, with Logano in tow in P6. Chastain was sitting pretty in 8th and Bell had fallen back to 12th.
However, on the restart, Chastain was at Elliott’s back bumper, who moved to the inside, where Chastain had the positioning and held strong. Chastain bumped him and sent him for a spin. That sent Elliott into the inside wall of turn one, thus bringing out the caution.
At this point, Logano was back in P5, With Bell in tow in P6 and Chastain in P7.
We went back green on lap 204, with Blaney leading the pack. Elliott had dropped back to 30th one lap down.
With 65 laps to go, Bell would be the first of the four Championship drivers to take the move to the pits. Then Chastain would follow suit on the following lap. He would have an issue with the right rear tire on the stop and had a stop of 14.679-seconds, costing him positions and valuable time.
Joey would follow suit as well, and his crew would run a clean stop, getting back out on the track in front of the rest of the Championship four. However, Bell found himself 0.3-seconds behind the No. 22 after the stops. Chastain found himself 4+ seconds behind Bell, who was tailing Logano.
On lap 267, the caution poked its eye again. This time it was for the No. 34 of Michael McDowell misjudging his exit coming out of turn two and into the backstretch and clipped the No. 48 of Alex Bowman, who went around and into the wall.
This brought the three remaining Championship contenders down into the pits. Christopher Bell had a horrendous stop, lasting 21.451 seconds. Logano would get out first of the Championship four and Chastain would follow.
Under caution, the No. 6 of Brad Keselowski would catch on fire, extending the caution.
As we went back green with 33 laps to go, this is how the Championship Four stacked up.
Logano – P3
Chastain – P7
Bell – P15
Elliott – P29
Logano would move into 2nd and Chastain up to fourth. Then Logano went to battle with the leader Chase Brisco in the No. 14. he would catch him and take over the lead on lap 283.
Chastain was having his struggles back in 4th, unable to get past the No. 12 of Blaney and the No. 14 of Briscoe.
With 19 laps to go, Chastain would take the 3rd spot away from Briscoe. However, it was a 2.6-second gap to Logano in first, with time running out.
With five to go, Chastain had cut off a second on that gap. Though, it was too little too late for Chastain as Logano took the checkered flag and cemented his second career Cup Series title.
Image Credit: Birton Gilbert