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Joey Logano claimed the first spot in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 with a win Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. And he now could be the title favorite much the same way he was when he won his first and only championship four years ago.

Logano stormed past Ross Chastain with four laps to go in Sunday’s event to win his third race of the year and first of the 10-race postseason.

Joey Logano has had a solid, if not spectacular, 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season

The 32-year-old driver has had a somewhat quiet but typically strong season. He had a dust-up with William Byron in May at Darlington Raceway when he shoved Byron out of the way in the final laps to capture his first win of the season, but he otherwise has not made many headlines.

He spent much of the regular season seventh in the points standings, but four finishes of sixth or better in the final five regular-season events got him second by the time the playoffs began, behind only points leader Chase Elliott.

A fourth-place finish in the playoff opener at Darlington, combined with the playoff points he accumulated through the regular season, got him safely through the first round of the postseason despite a 27th-place result in the third and final race of the Round of 16 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Logano then finished second the following week at Texas Motor Speedway to give him the cushion to survive 27th- and 18th-place finishes the final two weeks of the Round of 12.

The Round of 8, which began Sunday at Las Vegas, is inherently more unforgiving since a different winner from the eight remaining title-eligible drivers would leave only one open spot in the Championship 4 for a driver based on his points total.

That was the case in 2018 when Logano, Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Busch won the three Round of 8 races, which left Martin Truex Jr. as the only driver to reach the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in championship contention despite not having a win in the previous round.

Logano has previously been in similar playoff situations

Logano started fifth and won that race to clinch his championship after he and his No. 22 Team Penske crew had the prior two weeks to focus solely on the Homestead race.

“We are the one team that has been able to say we’re locked in the last couple of weeks,” Logano said before the semifinal race that year at Phoenix Raceway. “I can promise you, I haven’t watched any Phoenix tape when I flew out here. I was focused on one race.”

His strategy paid off that year, and the same approach could lead him to his second title this season. Logano and his team now have two additional weeks on their competitors to prepare for the championship race November 6 at Phoenix.

Logano has the same number of wins he did in 2018, although he would surpass that total if a win is required to capture the title at Phoenix. He also, perhaps coincidentally, won the pole award in the final race of the Round of 12 before he won the race the following week.

Of course, the schedule is different now than it was four years ago. Logano’s Round of 8 win in 2018 was at Martinsville Speedway after he had won the pole the week before in Kansas. This year his win at Las Vegas was preceded by a pole award at the Charlotte Roval.

Even the championship location is different. Logano will have to outrun three other championship contenders at Phoenix instead of Homestead, as he did in 2018.

Those similarities also hardly guarantee Logano will win the championship this season. He also won the Round of 8 opener in 2020 at Kansas when he last qualified for the Championship 4. He started the playoff finale at Phoenix second behind Elliott but ultimately finished third behind 2020 champ Elliott and then-teammate Brad Keselowski in second.

Logano has run well in recent races at Phoenix

Joey Logano celebrates after winning the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400
Joey Logano celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 16, 2022 | Sean Gardner/Getty Images

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Still, Logano has several factors in his favor. He has six top-10 finishes in his last seven Phoenix races since the start of 2019, including a win in the March 2020 race on the relatively flat 1.0-mile oval.

Those six top-10s at Phoenix since 2019 are tied with Ryan Blaney for the second-most behind only Kevin Harvick, who is no longer championship eligible. Logano’s 6.3 average finishing position in that span at Phoenix is also the best of the remaining playoff drivers and second overall to Harvick.

A single race to determine a champion will always be somewhat of a toss-up event, but Logano should be able to enter the championship race this year as confident and well-prepared as any of the four drivers who will battle for this season’s championship.

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