While Joey Logano might not have had the best season statistically, he left Miami as the Cup champion.
For those who question Logano’s merits as a champ because he didn’t win the most races, understand that it is common for the champion to not have the most wins in a season.
In the last 20 years, the champion has not had the most wins 65 percent of the time. That’s a stretch that includes when the championship was decided by season-long points total, when the Chase was created and when the elimination format debuted in 2014 that led to the one-race championship.
Logano admits that he didn’t think he was a title contender in the first third of the season.
“I thought, man, if we get to the Round of Eight, that’s pretty good this year for where we were at the time,” Logano said. “We were consistent, that’s what kept us up in the points all year long. We didn’t have many bad races throughout the season.
“But I guess just as the playoffs went, everyone rose to the occasion. You always talk about how you have to find another little bit inside of you to just maintain when the playoffs starts because everyone is able to get a little bit better, and then as we do that, we started running better, and we were running top five and winning stages.”
And becoming a champion.
Logano is in some good company among champions who didn’t win the most races in their title season.
In four of Jimmie Johnson’s seven championship years, he did not have the most wins those seasons. In two of Tony Stewart’s three championship years, he did not have the most wins those years.
Logano’s three wins this season are the fewest for a champion since Kurt Busch won three times in 2004. Matt Kenseth has the fewest wins for a champion in the last 20 years with one when he won the title in 2003 — the last championship determined by the season-long points total.
2. Changes coming?
While the idea of a spending limit for teams was discussed in the recent owners meeting a few days before the season finale in Miami, nothing is expected for next year.
“I think there’s two things when you start to consider financial stuff,” car owner Joe Gibbs told NBC Sports. “There’s cut and revenue. I think that’s where we are, trying to get those two to meet so you have healthy owners, healthy sport and you’re inviting new people to come in, all those things are a part of it.
“I think right now is a critical time. Maybe I look at every year that way, but right now is a big, big, critical time for our sport, where we’re going. I think there will be some big decisions within the next year.”
Gibbs said the owners and NASCAR also discussed how to get more fans to attend races.
“There’s all kinds of things that affect that, our racing on the track, what it takes to come to the race, our venue, where we go racing some places are obviously better than others,” Gibbs said. “All those kind of things are wrapped into it. The one thing I’m really thankful for is NASCAR and now Jim (France, interim Chairman) being involved the way he is, they’ve been pretty aggressive on not being afraid to go after stuff and change stuff, which I think is good.”
3. What a difference a year makes
After last year’s season finale in Miami, Brad Keselowski noted Toyota’s dominance and looked ahead to a 2018 that featured a new car for Chevrolet.
“As to what will happen for 2018, you know, I don’t know,” Keselowski said after the race a year ago. “I would assume that Chevrolet will be allowed to design a car the same way that Toyota was for this one, but Ford doesn’t have any current plans for that. If that’s the case, we’re going to take a drubbing next year, so we’ll have to see.”
This year featured the debut of the Optical Scanning Station, a camera-based inspection station that scrutinized the car in a way it hadn’t before. Ford teams hoped before the season that it would keep all three manufacturers close.
When the checkered flag waved in Miami last weekend, Keselowski’s teammate, Joey Logano, won the race for Ford — the company’s 19th Cup victory in 36 points races. Logano’s championship marked the first time since 1999 that Ford won the driver and manufacturer’s title in Cup in the same year.
“I’m certain that the inspection process … that changes part of it because any time you go through a big change like that, it does affect how the teams prepare the cars and bring the cars to the track,” Mark Rushbrook, Global Director of Ford Performance said of what led to the manufacturer’s success this season.
“But I think the biggest part is the advanced tools that we’ve developed over the last couple years have really matured to the point that they were able to help us, especially in the area of CFD, where we use that advanced computational fluid dynamics tool, the same tool that we use on our road cars and road trucks to make them better.
“We have turned that and applied it into racing starting two years ago, and it took a little bit of time to adjust those tools, test those tools in this environment to make them even better, and now that is paying off on the performance on the track with the Fusion with what we’ve seen, hopefully contributing to the Mustang to come strong out of the box at Daytona next year.”
4. Gone but not forgotten
Overlooked Sunday was JJ Yeley’s 32nd-place finish with the team that once was BK Racing.
Days before the Daytona 500, BK Racing owner Ron Devine put his team in Chapter 11 bankruptcy to keep a bank that stated it was owed more than $8 million from taking the team’s charter.
So began numerous court hearings over the year that eventually led to a judge approving a Trustee to run the team instead of Devine and eventually the sale of the team in August. Front Row Motorsports purchased BK Racing for $2.08 million and kept the team intact.
During all that and after the sale, the team ran every race — as required by the charter it had.
It wasn’t pretty. The team finished 35th among the 36 charter teams in owner points, but the team made it to the end.
5. Something to ponder
Greg Maffei, CEO of Liberty Media, which owns, among other things, Formula One and the Atlanta Braves, gave a wide-ranging interview with NBC News this week.
Maffei was asked about NASCAR possibly being on the market.
“We like motor sports,” Maffei said. “If NASCAR were available, we’d certainly take a look.”
During an investor analysts call May 10, Maffei responded to a question about if NASCAR in light of the reports then that NASCAR could be for sale.
“I think it’s not as clear what the synergies are between the two assets (Formula One and NASCAR), and I would note the trends have not been perfect in NASCAR,” Maffei said. “Unless we had a good thesis on how and why we could fix them, it’s not an obvious to us.”