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Jim Utter

Confidence and experience fueled Logano's NASCAR title run

The 2022 season started with the debut of the Next Gen car, a revolutionary change in design compared to all of its previous iterations.

But Logano mastered the first race in the car – the preseason Clash in the Los Angeles Coliseum – and the last – Sunday’s championship race at Phoenix Raceway – and his confidence to do so rarely, if ever, waivered in between.

The 2022 Cup season featured a record-tying 19 different winners, including five drivers winning their first-ever races. No one organization or driver overshadowed any other on a consistent basis throughout the season.

A dominant showing

Yet when it came to the season’s biggest prize during Championship Weekend, Logano and his No. 22 Penske Ford team left little doubt as to who would win.

Logano won the pole for the race and led the most laps. He was challenged for the race lead – most notably by his Penske teammate Ryan Blaney – but his position leading his fellow Championship 4 contenders throughout the race was rarely in doubt.

It was just as Logano predicted.

“I told the guys after we put it on the pole the other day: we got them down, now we put our foot on them,” Logano, 32, said. “That’s the attitude you’ve got to have.

“It’s just what it is when it comes to this level. Your feelings are checked at the door, and it’s all about winning and nothing less than that.

“I said it all week – we weren’t satisfied with being in the Championship 4. There was nothing to celebrate for us. We’ve been here before. We know what it feels like to lose. It’s the worst feeling in the world if I’m being honest, and winning is the best feeling in the world.”

Logano’s victory at Las Vegas in the opening race of the semifinal round of the playoffs made him the first driver locked into the Championship 4 and gave his team more than two weeks to prepare for the title opportunity.

While the remaining seven drivers in the Round of 8 battled it out at Homestead, Fla., and Martinsville, Va., Logano’s presence was more of afterthought.

Throughout the week leading up to the championship race, and particularly on Championship 4 Media Day, the air of confidence surrounding Logano was unmistakable and appeared quite genuine.

“It wasn’t meant to be mind games,” Logano said. “You just asked me how I felt, and I was honest, and I really felt like we were in a spot to win this thing. I truly believe that attitudes are

contagious, good or bad. When you’re able to bring that attitude to your race team in a moment like this, as a driver, that just carries through it.

“I believe confident people win. If you don’t believe in yourself, who else is ever going to believe in you? How are you ever going to win? But I also think you can’t fake that.”

In his first appearance in the Championship 4 in 2014, Logano admitted he was a “nervous wreck.” He finished last among the four drivers eligible for the title.

Nerves were still present this past weekend – his sixth time competing for a title – but perhaps most importantly was also experience.

“I truly felt ready as a driver, and I felt like, as a race team, we went through everything we can possibly go through, Logano said. “At that point, the confidence is real. We’ve been here before. We knew how to do things. We knew how to prepare.

“We went out and just did our job. We put it on the pole and then we won the race. That was the job at hand, and we nailed it.”

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