Column By: HOLLY CAIN / NASCAR – NASHVILLE, TN – Celebrating a season full of first-time winners, a popular repeat champion and all the makings of a bright future, the NASCAR industry arrives in Nashville, Tenn. this week to officially crown Team Penske’s Joey Logano as the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Champion and highlight a year of big personalities and high achievement on track.
The NASCAR Awards and Champion Celebration will be held Thursday night at Nashville’s Music City Center and streamed on NBC’s Peacock Saturday at 8 p.m. ET with country music star Erin Kinsey headlining the evening’s entertainment.
The 2018 champion Logano, who now joins Kyle Busch as the only multi-time NASCAR Cup Series champions among active drivers, will be feted along with NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Ty Gibbs and Camping World Truck Series champ Zane Smith.
The Most Popular Driver from each series – as selected in a fan vote – will also be revealed in what is always a highly-anticipated evening of celebration. Chase Elliott, the 2020 season champion, is the four-time defending winner of the award in the NASCAR Cup Series.
“We are delighted to bring the celebration to Nashville once again, as the city’s energy and passion for motorsports never cease to amaze us,” NASCAR’s Senior Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer Pete Jung said in announcing the return of the awards event to Nashville for the third year.
From historic venues like the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame to honky-tonks and famous barbeque at every corner – Nashville has quickly proven to be a favorite for both the NASCAR industry and the sport’s loyal fans, so many show up hoping to meet their favorite drivers – all eager to celebrate a remarkable 2022 season.
Logano, 32, driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, dominated the Nov. 6 NASCAR Cup Series finale at Phoenix Raceway – leading 187 of the 312 laps – to claim his second series title – besting the Championship 4 of Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell and Hendrick Motorsports’ Elliott. It marked the first time either Chastain or Bell had earned a place in the Final 4 – both advancing thanks to clutch performances in the dramatic penultimate race of the schedule at Martinsville, Va.
Similarly, Gibbs, the 20-year-old driver of the No. 54 JGR Toyota, led a race best 125 of the 200-laps at Phoenix to definitively claim his first major NASCAR title in just his first fulltime Xfinity Series season. JR Motorsports teammates Noah Gragson, Justin Allgaier and Josh Berry rounded out the foursome who advanced to the final round.
Smith, 23, who drives the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford, took his first NASCAR championship in the Camping World Truck Series after finishing runner-up for the big trophy in the last two seasons. Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Chandler Smith and ThorSport Racing teammates Ben Rhodes – the 2021 series champion – and Ty Majeski rounded out the series’ title contenders.
The championship races in all three national series proved as compelling and exciting as the season they capped providing a lot of eager anticipation for this week’s opportunity to celebrate.
The NASCAR Cup Series saw 19 different winners in the debut of the Next Gen car – the most diverse winner’s slate since 2001, tying a modern-day record. It notably included a remarkable five first-time race winners, including Chastain, his Trackhouse Racing teammate Daniel Suarez, Team Penske rookie Austin Cindric, who won the season-opening Daytona 500, Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe.
It all bodes well for the competitive future of the sport with so much to celebrate this week in Nashville – a rare repeat champion in Logano and a pair of young, first-timers in Gibbs and Smith. Strike up the band and cue the talent, Music City is ready. And so is NASCAR.