NASCAR: The case for — and against — all 16 playoff drivers

NASCAR Cup Series Championship Trophy - Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
NASCAR Cup Series Championship Trophy - Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /
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Joey Logano, Team Penske, NASCAR
Joey Logano, Team Penske, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

NASCAR playoff contenders: No. 13 – Joey Logano

It’s been an interesting 2023 campaign for defending Cup Series champion Joey Logano. After narrowly losing out to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the Daytona 500, Logano picked up his sole regular season win at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March after a last-lap pass on Brad Keselowski.

However, Logano has seemed to lack contending speed at times, and there have been multiple races in which he has been a total nonfactor. It’s a significant dip from his championship-winning 2022 season, but nonetheless, opportunities remain for the No. 22 Team Penske team to find their stride in the playoffs.

The case for Joey Logano

For starters, Logano is the defending champion and has won two titles in the present-day playoff system. One of those titles happened to be in 2018, when he was viewed as a massive underdog to the “big three” of Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr.

And no matter how lackluster his regular season may have been, it’s next to impossible to call Logano a “longshot” in the playoffs. On top of his two championships, he has made a total of five Championship 4 appearances, doing so in every even year since the 16-driver playoff format debuted in 2014.

With a little more consistency and maybe another win in the playoffs, Logano could easily break his “even year” trend with a second straight appearance – and title.

The case against Joey Logano

Logano’s speed on intermediate tracks this year has been far from impressive. And many of the tracks on the playoff schedule are intermediate tracks. While he has had some strong runs this year on such tracks, he has also been invisible just as often, if not more so.

With the 2023 playoff field being loaded with drivers who are consistently near the front at every intermediate track race, Logano will face a tall order to position himself to race for a third championship at Phoenix Raceway.

On top of that, Logano will enter the playoffs just one point above the cut line. While he should be able to advance out of the first round, he will face a growing playoff point deficit to the cut line each round, making him more and more reliant on winning races to continue advancing.