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Odds on the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

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Joey Logano – Underdog Becomes NASCAR Cup Series Champion

By Kent Whitaker

For much of the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series season it was assumed by many that one of the drivers nicknamed the “Big Three” would win the Championship. Instead, the fourth driver on the list, Joey Logano, claimed the title by winning the final race of the season at Homestead / Miami Speedway. Logano powered his way to the front during the closing laps of the Ford EcoBoost 400 to win the race and the Championship, while putting the “Big Three”, Martin Truex Jr, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, in his rear-view mirror.

Logano, driver of the No. 22 Ford for Team Penske, started his full-time NASCAR career in the shadow of a former Cup Series Champion. When Tony Stewart left Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) to start his own team, it was Logano who was brought up from the NASCAR Xfinity Series to fill the vacant seat in 2009.

Logano, who had raced a handful of Cup Series event in 2008, gained the nicknamed sliced bread - because he won so much as a youngster in lower series. That success did not carry over to the Cup Series at JGR. Logano learned the ropes of Cup Series driving, captured a few wins, and became the youngest winner in Cup Series history by winning the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2009.

At the time he was 19 years, 35 days old. Kyle Busch, the previous youngest winner, was 20 years, 125 days old, in 2005 when he set the record. With only two wins over four seasons with Gibbs it was announced that Matt Kenseth would take over the No. 20 ride. Logano found a home at Team Penske where he would pilot the No. 22 Ford having driven Toyota’s for the entirety of his Cup Season career.

Underdog Wins

Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr were called “the Big Three” by NASCAR media and fans during the 2018 season. And, there’s god reason for this. The three drivers won most of the races run during the season. Harvick and Busch both won 8 races on record while Truex, the 2017 defending Cup Series Champion, captured 4 checkered flags. Harvick also won two additional races during the season that were disallowed due to rules infractions during post-race inspection.

When the numbers are crunched, you’ll find that Logano only had 2 wins entering the final race of the season. But he placed well enough during the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs to survive each elimination round which started with sixteen drivers. As each round ended, four drivers were cut from eligibility. Logano scored enough playoff point to keep moving forward. Logano won the final elimination race allowing him to advance with the “Big Three” to the Championship event at Homestead.

While many may have considered Logano the underdog going into the Championship race, as many oddsmakers did, the driver of the No. 22 Ford for Team Penske constantly referred to himself as the “favorite” to win. In an interview prior to the race Logano stated “I think we’re the favorite to win (the Championship) now.” It was a theme he repeated over the course of the race weekend. And, he was right.

The underdog who proclaimed himself as the favorite made several dominating moves during the closing laps of the race which included several restarts. Logano passed the three former Cup Series Champions labeled as “Big Three” for the checkered flag. Joey Logano became the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series Champion with Truex finishing the race, and season, in second, Harvick in third and Kyle Busch in fourth. It was the first time since the start of the NASCAR “playoff” format that all four Championship eligible drivers finished in the top-four positions.


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