NASCAR Barometer: Logano Dominates to Win 2022 Championship

NASCAR Barometer: Logano Dominates to Win 2022 Championship

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Team Penske dominated at Phoenix Raceway in the finale of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season. Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney qualified first and second and then combined to lead 296 of 312 laps, finishing first and second, earning Logano his second series championship. Logano hardly gave any of the other championship contenders a chance out front, as he and his team were mistake-free all race long. His dominant win Sunday capped one of the most unpredictable seasons in series history, too. The introduction of the new generation of car presented opportunities for some and challenges for others. There were 19 different winners this season, which ties the record from 2001. It was one of the most competitive seasons in history, which challenged fantasy players to assemble the best rosters possible. In the end, it was veteran Logano who earned his second title.

The 2022 season and introduction of the new car gave smaller teams and newer drivers a chance to compete at the front of the field. While the second half of the season saw some of the bigger organizations deliver more consistency, there were still surprises. This winter all teams will review their notes, assess their weak points and implement plans to improve. As everyone gains more experience with the new machinery, the differences in performance will come from perfecting processes, eliminating mistakes and developing weak areas faster than the rest. That work at the race shops begins immediately and will continue until cars hit the track again

Team Penske dominated at Phoenix Raceway in the finale of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season. Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney qualified first and second and then combined to lead 296 of 312 laps, finishing first and second, earning Logano his second series championship. Logano hardly gave any of the other championship contenders a chance out front, as he and his team were mistake-free all race long. His dominant win Sunday capped one of the most unpredictable seasons in series history, too. The introduction of the new generation of car presented opportunities for some and challenges for others. There were 19 different winners this season, which ties the record from 2001. It was one of the most competitive seasons in history, which challenged fantasy players to assemble the best rosters possible. In the end, it was veteran Logano who earned his second title.

The 2022 season and introduction of the new car gave smaller teams and newer drivers a chance to compete at the front of the field. While the second half of the season saw some of the bigger organizations deliver more consistency, there were still surprises. This winter all teams will review their notes, assess their weak points and implement plans to improve. As everyone gains more experience with the new machinery, the differences in performance will come from perfecting processes, eliminating mistakes and developing weak areas faster than the rest. That work at the race shops begins immediately and will continue until cars hit the track again at the Los Angeles Coliseum the first Sunday in February.

UPGRADE

Joey Logano – Logano started his championship weekend perfectly by winning pole and going on to dominate the race's first stage. His team delivered on pit road, too. Rarely was Logano behind the other championship contenders, and in the final miles, he found himself out front with wingman Blaney behind him in support. It was a dominant afternoon with 187 laps led for Logano as he drove to his second series championship. In total, Logano had three wins, 10 top-fives, and 16 top-10s this season, but the objective from the beginning was the championship trophy. Team Penske's meticulous preparation and consistency throughout the year put Logano in position to win, which he did. The focus this winter will be to propagate that across the other teammates in order to get all three to the final four in 2023.

Ryan Blaney – Blaney won the second stage at Phoenix by stretching his fuel load to the end of the longer second segment. Blaney's car was one of the only ones that could challenge Logano throughout Sunday's race, but the teammate largely played a supporting role with the championship on the line for Logano. The closest anyone came to disrupting the Penske show was the race's final restart. Once Logano and Blaney consolidated their positions at the front, there was no looking back. The pair drove to the finish line with a comfortable gap back to third position. Despite being one of the fastest cars at the start of the season, Blaney failed to win a points race, which is something that will likely eat at him this winter. Focusing on team mistakes that held him back on numerous occasions will be the goal as the team seeks to improve next season.

Erik Jones – A win at Darlington and finishing second to Martin Truex Jr. among the non-playoff drivers put Jones and Petty GMS Motorsports in nice position at the end of the 2022 season. With NASCAR Xfinity Series veteran Noah Gragson joining the fold as a teammate in 2023, the team already had much to look forward to as well. However, last week the team announced seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson would become a part owner and drive a limited schedule, too. The future is definitely bright. The team gave Jones a competitive car throughout 2022, delivering consistency  they haven't been able to in some time. The additional experience in the program should help them continue to improve, too. If the team can successfully incorporate the feedback from their new team members and maintain what made them quick in 2022, next year could be even better for them.

Christopher Bell – Bell's 2022 season was a success despite Sunday's result not being what he had hoped for. He won three races, including two critical victories in the playoffs. Those clutch performances put him in the final four with a legitimate shot at winning the championship. His win at Martinsville to earn that spot in the finale ensured that he would be the top finishing Joe Gibbs Racing driver of the season, too. That is no small feat with the lineup of that organization either. Bell finished 10th Sunday, third among the championship contenders, earning his 20th top-10 of the season. Bell's season was proof that he has the goods to be a championship contender in this series for seasons to come. The past season seems to be just the beginning for him, and he should be a frequent selection for fantasy rosters next season.

Austin Cindric – A victory in NASCAR's biggest race to start the season gave Cindric the safety he needed to spend the rest of the season focused on learning and improving. That effort served him well as he advanced to the second round of playoff eliminations in his first full-time season in the series. With Sunday's 11th-place finish, he earned rookie of the year honors for his impressive debut season. All told, Cindric tallied five top-fives and nine top-10s and finished 12th among the playoff contenders. The biggest accomplishment for him was the Daytona 500 victory, however. Everything else was just icing on the cake. That said, Cindric improved as the wore on, and he became a legitimate contender for fantasy rosters most weeks the second half of the year. This winter will be an opportunity for him to reflect and improve. It will be exciting to see what he can achieve in 2023.

DOWNGRADE

Chase Elliott – Elliott's consistent and calm approach to the 2022 season put him into the championship finale, but it came up short in the race. Contact with Chastain with just over 100 laps to go sent Elliott spinning into the inside wall. The team made quick work of the repairs, but he returned to the track a lap down and lacking the speed his car had earlier in the day. Elliott soldiered home to a 28th position, lowest among the final four, in a disappointing conclusion to the season. Elliott's five victories were the most of any driver this season, and his top-five and top-10 tallies were among the series leaders as well. It was a good year for Elliott, but missing the championship at Phoenix means it ends with a sting. Odds are in favor of bigger teams like Hendrick Motorsports improving this winter, which makes Elliott an early favorite again for 2023.

Kyle Busch – The 2022 season was one to forget for Busch. Despite winning the Bristol dirt race he and the team had numerous stretches of races where they were hampered by crashes or mechanical issues. He was eliminated from the playoffs in the first round as questions around his future in the sport swirled. It seemed inconceivable that Busch's 15-year relationship with the team would, end and even more so he might not be able to find a top car for next season. His future was resolved when it was revealed he would join Richard Childress Racing next season, and it seemed as though 2022 could not end soon enough. Busch ended Sunday's campaign as the top finishing Gibbs car in seventh, his 17th top-10 of the year. Next season will be one of massive change for the former champion, and many will be hoping he rediscovers the form that brought him that title.

Brad Keselowski – The last two races of the 2022 season were not what Keselowski would have hoped for. He was disqualified at Martinsville and then suffered a fire that ended his day a week later at Phoenix. The season was a success for the RFK Racing organization as Keselowski took on an ownership role. Chris Buescher won at Bristol and the pair combined for 16 top-10 finishes. However, more work is needed. Keselowski was able to match Buescher's speed at times, but wasn't able to add his name to the winner's list. Both cars will want a bit more pace for 2023 in addition to working out the bugs that disrupted their consistency. The team should have the resources and knowledge to build on this year's successes, and fantasy players will be anxious to see if they can deliver another step forward. The groundwork has been laid, and Keselowski needs to build on that for 2023.

Martin Truex Jr. – Despite finishing first among the non-playoff standings this past season will likely be viewed as a disappointing one for Truex. He was a dominant force in the points but failed to make it to Victory Lane and missed the cutoff for the playoffs. Truex struggled to get the most out of the new car and amassed his lowest average race finish since 2014, which is also the last season he failed to win at least one race. It was announced that he would return to Joe Gibbs Racing next season, and they have their work cut out for them to get Truex back into race winning form. Setting the car up better off the truck is one area that needs improvement. Truex's average starting spot was also lower this year than any season since 2014. Another year with the new car, and the notebook that will carry over from 2022, should help Truex get that little bit extra, though.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Ross Chastain – Perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2022 season was Chastain. This season was a massive step forward for him. After multiple years of running deep in the field, Chastain moved to the front. He won two times and got his first shot at the playoffs. His consistent speed throughout the year saw him into the final eight of the format, and a spectacular last-lap move at Martinsville put him among the final four at Phoenix. His qualifying effort was not good, with a 25th-place effort. That wasn't a major factor, though. Like most of the season, his team made the right adjustments to give him one of the fastest cars at the finish. His third-place finish Sunday made him the runner up in the championship and reinforced his tremendous 2022 season. Trackhouse Racing has a bright future, and all eyes will be on how they can improve in 2023.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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