Is Cup champion Joey Logano also Driver of the Year?
Who is the NASCAR Cup Series Driver of the Year?
In most seasons – some would say all seasons, the answer is easy. The Driver of the Year is the Cup champion. Joey Logano qualified for the playoffs, survived every playoff round and finished in front of the other three championship contenders in the final race to become the champion.
It’s certainly easy to make the argument that the Cup champion also should be named the season’s top driver, but various groups who hand out such awards occasionally go in other directions. For example, the National Motorsports Press Association, a group of writers, broadcasters and photographers who cover auto racing, has awarded its Richard Petty Driver of the Year award to drivers who did not win the championship in four of the past 15 seasons.
Chase Elliott won the championship in 2020, but Kevin Harvick was named driver of the year. In 2019, the NMPA honored Martin Truex Jr. with its award, although Kyle Busch won the title. Joey Logano won the championship in 2018, but Harvick was driver of the year. And, in 2008, Carl Edwards won the NMPA award in one of Jimmie Johnson’s championship years.
How does this happen? In most cases, it’s about race victories. Some media members tend to give drivers more credit for race wins than the NASCAR system might, particularly if the driver is relatively new or has had a breakthrough sort of season.
In 2020, for example, Elliott won the title, but Harvick got the award nod primarily because he won nine races to Elliott’s five. In 2018, Harvick was honored by the NMPA for his eight race wins, while champion Logano visited Victory Lane only three times.
The Cup championship – and its attendant monetary, hardware and publicity packages – obviously is more important than a media award, but the differences illustrate the way different entities view excellence.
What about 2022?
Logano, who put together a masterful final race to win his second Cup championship, would seem to be the logical choice for this year’s Driver of the Year award.
But an argument could be made for two other drivers – Ross Chastain and Chase Elliott.
Chastain was the breakout driver of the year, winning for the first time and then adding another victory, wrestling at the front of packs with leading drivers, riding the wall in a spectacular display at Martinsville to make the Championship 4 and finishing second in the standings. And creating more than his share of controversy along the way.
Elliott led the seasonal win list with five and was one of only two drivers (Logano being the other) with more than three victories. He won the regular season championship, won with a last-lap pass at Talladega and led the tour in laps led (857) and average finish (12.5).
Logano is king. But is he king of all he surveys?