HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Joey Logano, trying to help team owner Roger Penske to a sweep of the major American racing titles, was the fastest of the four championship contenders in Saturday’s final practice at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Team Penske won the IndyCar championship with Will Power in September, and a victory by Logano in Sunday’s season finale would make Penske the only team owner to complete the sweep. A first-time champion will be crowned when Logano competes against Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman, with the Sprint Cup going to the highest-finishing driver.
“To be able to accomplish this would be really quite something, and that was really our goal from the beginning of the season,” said Walt Czarnecki, executive vice president of Penske Corp. and the listed car owner of Logano’s Ford.
“Maybe we didn’t verbalize it quite that way, but we really felt we were going to be competitive in all of these series, and the results have demonstrated that.”
Logano, a five-time winner in the Sprint Cup Series, is the youngest driver in the final four at 24. Logano would become the third-youngest title-winner in series history.
It showed following Saturday’s final practice, when he was seventh on the speed chart before he headed to his team debrief. His plans for the night before the biggest race of his life?
“We have been watching ‘Boy Meets World’ like nobody’s business, so we will probably watch an episode of that and go to sleep,” he said.
Harvick was eighth on the speed chart in Saturday’s second practice, but his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing entry led the field in the first practice. He’s probably the favorite — he has four wins and has been consistently fast all season — and he’s had a swagger all week as he’s tried to rattle Logano.
Harvick was expecting an uneventful evening, saying he was going to “eat!” when asked, but most certainly planned to debrief with crew chief Rodney Childers after a disappointing second practice.
“I don’t think we’ve really hit it exactly where we need it to be yet,” Harvick said.
Newman, the only winless driver in the final four, was 12th on the final speed chart. He hit debris during the first practice that caused slight damage to his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, but he didn’t seem concerned.
As the underdog, Newman had a worry-free Saturday night planned of cooking out at his motorhome with family and friends.
“I don’t ever have a high-pressure night,” he said.
Hamlin, 13th on the speed chart, seemed confident. He was the third-fastest in the more telling statistic of best 10 consecutive lap average, and the Joe Gibbs Racing driver is the defending race winner. He’s the only driver in the final four to have raced for a championship before — he lost in the 2010 finale — and the Charlotte Hornets season ticket holder will have Michael Jordan at the track Sunday rooting him on.
First up, though, was a low-key 34th birthday party with family and friends on a yacht on South Beach.
Hamlin said his confidence “is as high as it should be. We’ve got a car that we can compete with, and that’s the main thing.”