NASCAR’s annual Awards Banquet gave the sport an opportunity to not only crown a champion but also pay tribute to all the drivers, manufacturers and stakeholders that made the season successful.
“To the NASCAR fans, love me or hate me, I just love your passion,” 2018 NASCAR Cup champion Joey Logano said when he received the ultimate honor in stock car racing. “That is one of the biggest things for me, is passion. Whether you’re booing or cheering, it’s pretty good. We all do it for you guys.”
Here are some of the highlights:
Champion: Joey Logano
“(Wife Brittany Logano) is my rock,” Logano said. “I knew this was when I was going to have a hard time. Family means a lot to me, alright? We have so many long talks at night. I’m not always smiling. I know it looks like I smile a lot, and I do when I’m happy. She’s there at my lowest points, it really brings me back up. She’s an amazing mother to our child and what an amazing year, to be able to have Hudson now and now a championship.”
Logano was introduced by Make-a-Wish recipient Gavin Grubbs.
Champion Car Owner: Roger Penske
During his time on stage, Roger Penske acknowledged the other owners in the series who challenge him and Team Penske to be better, including the owner of the closing Furniture Row Racing.
“One last comment, very important to me and this is congratulations to Barney Visser … Martin Truex (Jr.), Cole Pearn, you’ve brought so much to this series over the last several years.”
Second-place Martin Truex Jr.
“Looking forward to the future, for sure – but definitely the end of an era with Furniture Row … thank you Barney (Visser) for all you’ve done for me and this sport.”
Truex’s Furniture Row Racing Era ended with one championship, 17 wins, 56 top fives and top 10s in more than half of Truex’s 191 starts with that organization.
Third-place Kevin Harvick
“Our road to the championship round certainly had some challenges along the way, but our team performed when it mattered the most and believed in each other,” Harvick said.
“I want to thank the fans – and especially all the No. 4 fans for all the support this year,” Harvick continued. “And all you haters: I still see you.”
Fourth-place: Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch took to the stage with the comment, “This sucks. Worst of the best,” before congratulating Logano on his championship. Busch noted several highlights of the season including tying his career-best number of victories and passing the 50-win mark.
“I wanted to make mention of Matt again this year in case he’s really retiring this time,” Busch said. “I think we’ve all kind of seen this story before with another Roush guy, Mark Martin years ago. I don’t know. Maybe this time’s true. Time will tell.”
Most Popular Driver Award
Bill Elliott won the award a record 16 times (1984-88, 1991-2000 and 2002). Dale Earnhardt Sr. won in 2001.
“So cool that it stayed between Earnhardt and Elliott for so long,” Elliott told Earnhardt as he accepted the award. “I am glad though that you quit a year before you broke Dad’s record.”
Other Notable Moments
Ryan Blaney joked that he had sent Jimmie Johnson a Christmas card in return for his gift at the Charlotte Roval. In that race, Johnson’s contact with Truex Jr. on the final lap opened the door for Blaney’s second career win.