The last time a driver went back-to-back in terms of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championships was Jimmie Johnson during his five year reign from 2006 through 2010. In the eight years since, seven different drivers have all won titles in NASCAR’s premiere series. Johnson, is the only repeat winner (2013, 2016) in that time frame.
Furthermore, since 1995, Jeff Gordon (1997, 1998) and Johnson (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010) are the only ones to earn back-to-back Cup titles in general.
Joey Logano was hoping to join that elite tandem and become just the third driver in the last 24 years to do so this season. Unfortunately, following a strong opening half of the year, he doesn’t look like a legitimate championship contender anymore.
Logano, had eight top five finishes and 11 top 10 finishes during the first 15 races of the season. Out of those eight top fives, two of them were victories (Las Vegas, Michigan). He was a prime candidate to earn another championship in his No. 22 Ford.
But, since his victory on June 10 at the Michigan International Speedway, Logano has been anything but. Out of the last 15 races, he’s scored just two top five finishes overall. He’s also only put his Team Penske Ford in the top 10 in only six races.
Last Sunday, his rear axel broke before the race even began at the Dover International Speedway. They’d spend the first 23 laps of the Drydene 400 behind the wall making repairs. He’d finish 34th for his seventh finish outside of the top 10 in the last 10 tries.
He went from +24 in the playoff standings to in a tie for the final spot that advances to the third round. Now, Talladega is looming. It could get even worse. Logano, said from the media center last weekend at Dover that he hoped to get off to a better start in the Round of 12 because he knows there’s only a 50-50 chance of even finishing the race at Talladega.
“We definitely used our mulligan,” Logano said of his finish at Dover. “We used the playoff points we accumulated, we just have to be perfect now. We have two really good race tracks coming up though. Talladega is arguably one of our best race tracks and I would say Kansas is as well. We just have to be perfect from here.”
Luckily for Logano, he’s been a very good superspeedway racer.
Logano, has six top five finishes in his last eight tries on superspeedway’s including being very strong at Talladega. He was fourth back in April, fifth in this race last year. He won the spring race in 2018.He has five top five finishes in his last six Talladega starts overall and ha sled at least 10 laps in five of those six races as well.
He’s even been good at Talladega in the XFINITY Series in scoring seven top three finishes in eight tries, two of which being wins and three more being runner-ups.
Also, since 2015, Logano has five wins and four runner-ups on superspeedway’s in NASCAR’s premiere series.
While that’s all good, there’s still the chance he could get taken out in someone else’s mess. That always weighs on every race car drivers’ mind heading to Daytona or Talladega.
He should have a shot though as Ford has won five straight years in the Talladega Fall race, four of which seeing a Penske driver celebrating in victory lane.
If Logano wants to avoid being the first defending champion to not make it out of the second round under this new playoff format adopted in 2014, he needs to finish in the top five on Sunday to give himself a chance at Kansas. That’s a place he finished 15th at in May and has three finishes of 15th or worse in his last five tries there too.