Middletown native Joey Logano spoils Big Three party to win NASCAR title

Logano would finally, at long last, after close defeats and missing the playoffs entirely the season before, win his first NASCAR Cup Series championship.

All four drivers led at varying points in the race, but Logano certainly carried the load, pacing all drivers with 80 laps led in the 267-lap race. He led 58 laps early in the race - with interim crew chief Tony Gibson calling the shots for suspended crew chief Rodney Childers - but soon saw the sun set on his championship push.

He passed Truex with 12 laps remaining and pulled away to win for Roger Penske, the auto owner who celebrated this year his election into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, a 17th victory in the Indianapolis 500 and now a second title in NASCAR's top series.

"We were the favourite". Those guys turned around and had the stop of the night to give us a chance to maybe win a race.

Harvick, victor of eight races in 2018 in his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, said, "We just got loose as the night went on".

"Last year we had the good short run and we got the late caution and it worked out for our favor".

It looks like Joey Logano won the war after all.

"They made me a superstar in NASCAR", he said of FRR.

He is the second Cup champion for Penske, the titan of motorsports who has had a banner year.

But when darkness fell, the handling of Harvick's No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford fell off, and after a late caution and trip to pit road left him fourth for a restart with 15 laps, Harvick had to settle for a third-place finish in lieu of a second series championship.

"He sure delivered for us", Penske said. "Didn't have the feel in the race vehicle I wanted".

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Gibbs, the Super Bowl and NASCAR champion, was diplomatic about the errors. Logano secured his spot in the Championship 4 by winning at Martinsville in October, but did so by bumping Truex on the final turn, which prompted the Furniture Row Racing driver to say Logano "wouldn't win the damn war".

"Tough day for us", Gibbs said. "I had nothing for him at the end". I needed 15, 20 more laps, and that's just the way it goes. Every time I went to the gas, it just spun the tires, so I had to keep coming back out of it, and he's going forward on me.

Busch, who had career highs in top-fives (22) and top-10s (28), won the race en route to the title in 2015 and finished fourth Sunday.

"Today we weren't even close", said Busch, who started second and had seen encouraging signs in the practices leading up to Sunday's race.

"When it got dark, we just lost the rear grip and couldn't get off the corner and was having trouble turning in the corner", Harvick said.

In fact, Busch's crew had one of its worst races of the year on pit road as the front tire changer had hiccups on several stops. "Not what we expected either", Busch said.

Logano had been adamant he was the favorite to win the race, in part because he wasn't even supposed to make the final four and had just one regular season victory.

"Lots of wins", Busch said. He was the championship runner-up in 2016, and a penalty kept his No. 22 out of last season's playoffs. The 28-year-old CT racer was criticized for his aggressiveness, and Truex promised he'd prevent Logano from winning the Cup, but Logano insisted he made the necessary move to win a championship.

And in the final 15-lap shootout to the finish, Logano simply drove around the outside of Truex and pulled away. Later in the race, Busch's air hose also got caught during a stop and cost him another four spots.

Logano did, zipping past Truex late to win his first Cup championship in a season where he was the outlier of the "Big Three". Next season, Knaus will move to Charlotte native William Byron's No. 24 team, while Johnson will pair with Kevin Meendering from the Xfinity Series.

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