Joey Logano qualified the No. 18 GameStop Toyota in the fifth positions for Saturday night’s NASCAR Nationwide Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway
Early in the race, Logano reported that the No. 18 Toyota was “wrecking loose” on corner entry. It was a problem that would plague the driver and the team all race long.
As the problem continued, Logano would fall back all the way to 19th trying to figure out how to get the car handling better. Through a number of pit stops, crew chief Adam Stevens called for wedge, track bar, shock and air pressure changes. Nothing seemed to work to get the handling better until just past the halfway point.
When the handle of the car slowly started to get better, Logano made steady progress back towards the front. After running around 20th, Logano fought his way back to 13th.
Logano fell a lap down on lap 167, but got back via the “wave around” just a few laps later. Once again, Logano found himself running 18th with an ill-handling car.
Once it appeared that the car was not going to get any better, Stevens told Logano to just ride in out and “see the big picture.” That is exactly what the 22-year-old did, eventually coming home with a 16th-place finish
With the finish, Logano was able to lock up the NASCAR Nationwide Series Owner’s Championship for the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. The team finished with a 23-point lead over the No. 6 of Roush-Fenway Racing in the final standings. During the season, a total of six different drivers spent time behind the wheel of the No. 18, including Logano, Denny Hamlin, Michael McDowell, Ryan Truex, Drew Herring and Mark Martin. Logano won a total of seven races in 13 starts the No. 18, giving Joe Gibbs Racing their fourth Nationwide Series Owner’s Championship (tied for the most all-time with Richard Childress Racing).
Logano ended the season with nine wins in 22 starts. Along with those nine wins, Logano earned 12 top-fives and 17 top-10s. Logano also led the series with six poles and also led the series with 1,065 laps led in race competition.
The evening marked Logano’s final start for Joe Gibbs Racing in Nationwide Series competition. Logano made all of his 110-career Nationwide Series starts behind the wheel of Joe Gibbs Racing cars, his first coming just days after his 18th birthday back in 2008. That day, Logano made his debut and finished sixth after starting ninth. In just his second-career race, Logano won his first pole and then followed that up with a record setting performance in his third-career start, just three weeks after his 18th birthday, by winning his first Nationwide Series race and becoming the youngest Nationwide Series winner of all time.
Logano’s Post-Race Thoughts: “This was a bittersweet night. We didn’t get the finish that we wanted in the race, considering the success that we had this year with nine wins. All of us really wanted to get to 10 wins. We just didn’t have a very good car and it really changed handling characteristics between practice and the race. That really confused all of us. But in the end, we did enough to win the Nationwide Series Owner’s Championship and that is a huge, huge accomplishment. To take six different drivers, eight different sponsors and to come out here and earn enough points to win the Championship is a pretty amazing accomplishment. This is the second Owner’s Championship I’ve been able to be a part of here at Joe Gibbs Racing. And it just so happens that it was in my first year here at JGR (2008) and now my last year here at JGR. It’s a real testament to this team and this organization.
“But it’s a really sad night too. It’s hard to say goodbye to all of these guys and to this organization. This is all I’ve ever know when it comes to big-time racing. The JGR Nationwide Series program helped me get to where I’m at right now. It really hit me tonight when the race was over, all the pictures were taken and we were back at the hauler. To get to see all of the guys and realize that this was it and it was all over was pretty emotional. To say goodbye to these guys is really hard. They are such a great group of guys. I got a lot of thanks and had a lot of great words said to me by everyone. It’s a sad night. I will miss everyone, from Adam (Stevens), Kevin (Kidd, Logano’s 2010 crew chief), all of the guys on the team and all of the guys at the shop. They were a huge part of my life.”