AVONDALE, Ariz. — A new NASCAR Cup Series champion will have his coronation Sunday at Phoenix Raceway, and Joey Logano’s time as the reigning holder of the crown will draw to a close. There will be the figurative handing over of the torch, baton, or what-have-you, but there’s also a tangible transaction that will take place after Sunday’s finale.
The Cup Series champion’s journal will change hands in the offseason, continuing a tradition that NASCAR Hall of Famer inductee Jimmie Johnson began with the last of his seven titles in 2016. Ritual holds that the outgoing champ leaves a message to the newest title-holder. That duty will rest on Logano’s shoulders, but only after the sun sets on Sunday’s season-ending race (3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM, Peacock, NBC Sports App).
“I left it at home,” Logano said before qualifying 17th for Sunday’s 312-lapper. “Just because you don’t know who’s gonna win, you can’t write a message to somebody you don’t know who you’re writing to. So we’ll see who it is, and I’ll try to get it to them for the banquet.”
Logano is the only driver to hold the journal twice in the time since Johnson began the tradition, winning the championship in 2018 and 2022. He inherited it from ’21 champ Kyle Larson, who will vie for this year’s Cup Series title with William Byron, Ryan Blaney and Christopher Bell on Sunday.
A triumph by Blaney would keep the Bill France Cup in Team Penske’s possession. It would also mean a potentially more personal journal message from Logano, sent to a driver who has been his teammate with the Roger Penske-owned group for the last six seasons.
“Pretty cool,” Logano said of the possibility of an intra-team journal handoff. “Obviously, the closer relationship you have with someone, the easier it is to write a note. But it is one of the coolest things about winning the championship is that journal, and the cool thing is it’s one of — if not the only — kept secret in our sport, and nobody knows what’s in it, right? Nobody knows the actual letters that are in there and what they are, and it’s something special just for the championship drivers to see.
“Yeah, I’ve always kept that as something really special, and I wish it started sooner. I’m thankful Jimmie started it. I wish it started 50 years ago or 75 years ago. It’d have been amazing. But it’s something really neat to have, and honestly a little nerve-wracking to hold on to, because you don’t want to be the one to lose it. But definitely something neat.”
Keeping and curating the journal remains a happy obligation for Cup Series champions, but there’s also a greater responsibility as stewards of the sport. Kevin Harvick, a longtime leader who will end his illustrious driving career this weekend, singled out Logano as a stabilizing presence when asked in his media rotations if the next generation of the sport was in good hands. “I think guys like Joey Logano are gonna be great leaders,” Harvick said. “They already are.”
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It’s a responsibility that Logano — a 15-year Cup Series veteran at age 33 — said he gladly accepts.
“That’s cool he said that,” Logano said. “You know, somebody’s got to step up and speak their piece for everybody, and usually the guys that have been around for a long time are the ones that do that, because they’ve seen it, they’ve done it. We all have to remember as drivers, we have a very unique perspective that nobody else in the industry has — nobody. Nobody knows what it’s like to be inside the car, to talk to the media like today, to talk to our fans out there and work on the race team, right, and see it from that perspective as well. Nobody can do that. Media can’t do that, car owners can’t do that, crew chiefs can’t do that.
“Drivers see everything, and it’s important that we put in our two cents on all of it to try to make it better, right? Ultimately, how can we make the sport better for the next generation. That’s what, to me, true champions do, and you’ve got to look for that stuff to try to make everything good, together.”