The 2022 NASCAR Season: Expect the Unexpected

The championship 4 drivers race at Phoenix for the cup

The 2022 NASCAR season ends with a surprise champion.

Creative Commons

The 2022 NASCAR season ends with a surprise champion.

Joey Brooks, Reporter

The 2022 NASCAR season in a nutshell: New faces, old-timers, comebacks, paybacks, injuries, and drama. Going into the 2022 season, NASCAR introduced the latest generation of stock car. The brand-new generation seven race car featured a vastly different transmission, new independent rear suspension (previously solid-axle), and a much stiffer carbon-fiber body. The wheels have one center-mounted lug nut on each wheel instead of five smaller lug nuts on the previous generation of stock car.

There was many big stories during the season, rookie Austin Cindric wins the first and biggest race of the season; the Dayton 500. So far, Cindric is also the only rookie to win the Daytona 500. Another big story that was garnering attention is Kevin Harvick’s winning drought. Harvick went winless for nearly two seasons, after his dominant 2020 season, Harvick struggled in his Stewart-Haas ride. There was also so less fortunate occurrences thought, after a qualifying crash at Pocono speedway, Kurt Busch suffered a concussion. The stiffer body of the new cars put more stress on the driver’s body. Kurt Busch would be sidelined for the rest of the season and would announce his retirement from full-time racing later in the season. There was also other drivers who suffered from concussions; Tyler Reddick and Alex Bowman.

There was also new race teams and crew arrangements, such as the rise of TrackHouse Racing. This year, TrackHouse Racing hired Ross Chastain and partnered Ross up with the driver of the team’s flagship car. The driver who Chastain joined at TrackHouse Racing was Monera Mexico’s Daniel Suarez. TrackHouse is owned by Justin Marks and Pitbull, and the teams are determined to turn the NASCAR season upside down.

There were drivers who stood above the rest and fought to lock themselves in the championship finale. Those drivers who made it to the Final Four round of the championship were Joey Logano, Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell, and Chase Elliott.

If you aren’t aware of how the NASCAR playoffs work, then here’s a quick rundown. There are are four rounds of the NASCAR playoffs, starting with the round of 16 and narrowing down each round by 4 spots. When you win in the NASCAR playoffs, you automatically lock yourself into the next round. The rest of the spots that aren’t taken by winning drivers, will be filled by the drivers with the most points, but no wins in the round. If a driver doesn’t win or gather enough points, said driver will be eliminated from the playoffs and will be ineligible for the championship.

The first driver in the championship 4 is a driver named Joey Logano. Logano was seen as one of the greatest upcoming talents when he was younger. Joey Logano earned the nickname “sliced bread” from other drivers due to his immense talent he showcased in the lower series. Although Logano struggled in his first few seasons in the cup series, he found his footing and the rest was history. Logano had his breakout season in 2015, winning the Daytona 500 (the most prestigious race of NASCAR) and dominating throughout the season. Unfortunately, Joey made lots of friends, but mostly enemies. His scuffles with veteran driver Matt Kenseth led to Kenseth intentionally taking out Logano during a race at Martinsville speedway. Even though Keneseth was suspended for two races, the damage had already been done. This effectively ended Joey Logano’s 2015 championship campaign.

In 2017, Joey Logano had his worst season of his career, he missed the chase completely and was uncharacteristically inconsistent. In spite of his struggles, Logano rallied back the very next season and won the championship. Logano already had three victories going into the finale at Phoenix (not including a non-points paying race at the Busch Clash). Then, Logano won at Las Vegas speedway (the first race of the round of 8) and automatically locked himself into the Final Four.

Christopher Bell escaped elimination twice by means of two walk-off wins in both the round of 12 and the round of 8. Bell seemed to be peaking at the right time, when it matters most. Bell seems to be clutch in the playoffs and will definitely be trying his best to win the cup.

Another Final Four member, Ross Chastain, is a humble watermelon farmer from Florida. He steadily rose through the NASCAR series and made his debut in the cup series in 2021. Ross Chastain Ross Chastain barely skated his way into the final 4 by riding the wall in the final race of the round of 8 (held at Bristol Motor Speedway) and getting in the final 4 on points. This “hail melon” move was controversial among NASCAR fans and went viral on the internet.

The fan favorite however was Chase Elliott, voted the most popular driver in NASCAR on multiple occasions, Chase had an amazing season. He lead the rest of the championship 4 drivers in almost every statistical category heading into the championship finale. Chase is the son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliott, and Chase has had to live in his father’s shadow his entire life. Chase Elliott is now gunning for his second championship, in hope of proving the doubters wrong.

The finale was held at Phoenix Raceway, a one mile tri-oval circuit. Joey Logano won the pole for the race, and dominated early in the race. With his teammate (Ryan Blaney) in toe, the Penske race cars dominated the race. Christopher Bell’s pit crew made a mistake on pit road that cost Bell several spots, putting Bell’s Camry behind the eight ball. A late-race restart threatened the dominance of Joey Logano’s car. Fortunately for Logano, heading into the first turn, Chase Elliot threw a late block on Ross Chastain. This crucial mistake cost Chase Elliot a chance at winning the cup. The quarter-panel of Chase Elliott’s car made contact with the nose of Chastain’s car. Chastain held his ground and spun Chase into inside barrier. Although, Elliott continued the race, his car was well off the pace. During the closing laps, Chastain closed in on the Penske teammates of Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney. But in the end, Logano’s lead was too great. Then, Joey Logano breezed to his second NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Championship.

In conclusion, the unpredictability of the 2022 season gave teams and drivers alike a massive challenge. The 2022 NASCAR season is currently tied for the most different winners in NASCAR’s modern era. Anyone could win, proving that the new generation of stock car had leveled the playing field. Now, the bigger teams had to compete with smaller teams on a regular basis. To sum up the NASCAR 2022 season in a few words is a difficult task. But moving forward, fans will now need to expect the unexpected.