Loose, But Fast Blog – Pocono Recap

Pocono

Nascar Xfinity Series

Pocono Green 250 Recycled by J.P. Mascaro & Sons

2018 marked the third annual running of the Pocono Green 250, the Xfinity Series lone trip to the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. In each of the first two runnings of the event, a Cup Series regular has dropped down and won the race (Kyle Larson ’16, Brad Keselowski ’17). Despite using an aero package similar to the one run during the Monster Energy All-Star Race, the result was the same: a Cup regular taking home the checkered. Kyle Busch overcame a pit road speeding penalty during the Stage 1 break to lead 64 of the 100 laps run in route to his 92nd career Xfinity Series victory. The win is Busch’s 189th across NASCAR’s top three touring series.

Stage 1

Kyle Busch absolutely dominated. Busch passed pole sitter Cole Custer on lap 2 and never looked back. The modified aero package was designed to produce closer racing; however, the field could not hang with Kyle Busch once he got into clean air. The stage went caution free and Busch led the remaining 23 laps rather comfortably. Christopher Bell, Austin Cindric, Elliott Sadler, and Brandon Jones rounded out the top 5.

Stage 2

During the stage break, Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Christopher Bell were caught speeding on pit road and both were sent to the back of the lead lap. As a result of pit strategy, Cole Custer inherited the lead at the start of Stage 2. With Kyle Busch trapped back in traffic, Stage 2 provided the best racing of the day. Custer led most of the stage, but could not pull away as Kyle Busch had done in Stage 1.

With 1 lap to go, the battle for stage points created the most exciting part of the race. The top four cars lined up in tandems. Cole Custer had Justin Allgaier pushing him and Paul Menard had Team Penske teammate Austin Cindric pushing him. For two-thirds of the final lap, Custer and Menard ran door to door, but out of turn 3, Menard had enough momentum to clear Custer and take the stage victory. Custer, Allgaier, Cindric, and John Hunter Nemechek were the rest of the top 5. Kyle Busch rallied back to finish 6th in the stage.

Stage 3

Pit strategy was again a major player during the stage break. John Hunter Nemechek took the green flag in the lead but was quickly shuffled back. Kyle Busch started the stage in 12th and promptly moved forward on fresh tires. Two laps into the stage, Michael Annett got loose in the middle of turn 2 and slid up into Chase Briscoe and then the wall to bring out the caution. Both drivers’ days were over. With fuel mileage being close, most of the leaders decided to stay out.

The race restarted with 39 laps to go, but the field didn’t make it back to turn 2 without another caution coming out. Out of turn 1, four-wide racing, a bump from Elliott Sadler led to Justin Allgaier getting turned into the outside wall across the nose of Dylan Lupton. Allgaier then came down across the track and collected Christopher Bell. Both drivers had strong cars but were done for the day.

At the time of caution, Kyle Busch, who had restarted fourth, was ahead of teammate Brandon Jones for the lead. Little did we know that would be the winning moment. With 35 laps to go, Kyle Busch took the green flag on the restart. From that point, Kyle Busch was gone. Just like stage 1, Busch got into the clean air and couldn’t be caught. The race went green the rest of the way and Busch won by a margin of 2.852 seconds.

Top 10

  1. Kyle Busch (64 laps led)
  2. Chase Elliott
  3. Daniel Hemric
  4. Austin Cindric (1)
  5. Cole Custer (23)
  6. Elliott Sadler
  7. John Hunter Nemechek (4)
  8. Paul Menard (3)
  9. Tyler Reddick
  10. Ryan Truex

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Pocono 400

In 81 races at Pocono Raceway, only 22 drivers had earned multiple wins at NASCAR’s tricky triangle. Martin Truex Jr. added the 23rd name Sunday. After battling all day long with fellow championship favorites Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, it was Truex Jr. who prevailed earning his 2nd win of 2018. The win also serves as the 17th of his career and 15th since joining Furniture Row Racing in 2014.

Stage 1

From the pole, Ryan Blaney edged Kevin Harvick around Turn 1 to take the early lead. Young Blaney held off Harvick, Busch, and Truex Jr. for several laps, but eventually was overtaken by Harvick on lap 11. Those were the only laps defending race winner, Blaney led all day. At lap 17, many teams began utilizing pit strategy to try and steal track position. However, Stage 1 went green the whole way and a clean stop by the number 4 Stewart-Hass Racing Busch Beer pit crew cycled the 5-time race winner in 2018 back into the lead. Once he regained the lead, Harvick set the pace for the next nine circuits around the triangle. However, Martin Truex Jr. reeled him in and assumed the lead with 6 to go in the stage. Truex Jr. would go on to win the stage and earn his 3rd stage victory of the season. 

Stage 2

A two-tire stop for Brad Keselowski resulted in the Team Penske Ford leading the field to green to begin Stage 2. Keselowski’s lead didn’t last long though, Kevin Harvick retook the lead going into to Turn 1 on the restart. The Busch Beer #4 Ford led the next 22 laps until pit strategy called for another cycle of green-flag pit stops. During the series of stops, Bubba Wallace led for four laps. After Wallace and tailer-Austin Dillon, made their pit stops, Harvick seized his position at the head of the field. Without contest, Harvick took the Stage 2 victory, his 7th stage win of the season.

Stage 3

Kevin Harvick led the whole field down pit road during the stage break and his team delivered by getting him back out in first. Harvick led the first 26 laps of the stage, but those would be the last of his race-high 89 laps led. However, on lap 126, Kyle Larson made contact with the lap-down machine of Derrike Cope to bring out the first non-stage ending caution of the day. The whole field decided to stop for tires during the caution and Kyle Busch’s #18 Joe Gibbs Racing team, as they had all day, produced the best stop and got their guy out first.

Martin Truex took the restart in 4th but used his position to move into the 2nd position with leader Kyle Busch in his sights. Busch led the next nine laps, then the caution came out for debris. While Kyle Busch and most of the field elected to pit during the caution, Truex, Harvick and Kyle Larson did not. The field took the next restart with 17 to go with Truex as the leader. Three laps later Alex Bowman and four-time Pocono winner, Denny Hamlin, tangled coming out of Turn 1 to bring out another caution. None of the leaders pitted. The field took the green flag with 10 to go, but Erik Jones was turned coming across the line to immediately bring out another caution. Again, none of the leaders chose to pit. 

The field took the final restart of the day with 7 laps remaining. By this point, the race was clearly between Busch, Harvick, Truex, and Larson who were the best four all day. Larson fought best he could to get in front of Truex, but the #78 was too good getting down into Turn 1. Truex took advantage of the clean air and was able to cruise to victory. Larson took home second, followed by Kyle Busch, Harvick, and Keselowski to round out the top 5. 

Top 10

  1. Martin Truex Jr. (31 laps led)
  2. Kyle Larson 
  3. Kyle Busch (13)
  4. Kevin Harvick (89)
  5. Brad Keselowski (10)
  6. Ryan Blaney (11)
  7. Aric Almirola 
  8. Jimmie Johnson (2)
  9. Joey Logano 
  10. Chase Elliott 

Loose, But Fast Blog: Post Coke 600 Power Rankings

Loose, But Fast Blog: Post Coke 600 Power Rankings

Post Coke 600 Power Rankings

Another race in the books, another victory by either Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch. Check out the Coke 600 Power Rankings here. Where does your favorite driver rank? Let us know what you think on Twitter @QuarterMasterNC and/or @QMS_Rongy.

20. Kasey Kahne – #95 Chevy

  • While not in “top-tier” equipment anymore, Kahne’s mentality has changed from trying to push his car to the brink to just bringing the thing home in one piece and take what you can get. It’s clear having Kahne in the car has opened up more sponsorship opportunities and LFR and the team gets a little bit better every week. At the Coke 600, the 3-time former winner of the race looked more competitive than he has all season. Kahne was even able to earn a few stage points by finishing 7th in Stage 3. Unfortunately, pit strategy in the final stage came back to bite the team and they wound up finishing 20th. 

19. Jamie McMurray – #1 Chevy

  • For the second time all season, McMurray actually looked competitive at the Coke 600. McMurray started 7th, but an early tire issue forced an unscheduled green-flag pitstop during Stage 1. However, the #1 McDonalds Chevy was able to gain the lap they lost back and work their way back up through the field. McMurray worked his way up as far a second but didn’t have enough to overcome the top dogs and brought home a 6th place finish. The top 10 moves McMurray up to 20th in the point standings. He sits only 65 points behind the playoff cutoff. 

18. Daniel Suarez – #19 Toyota

  • Speedy Danny Suarez is quickly becoming one of my favorites out of the young crop of drivers. Every week Suarez and his team get a little bit better. After finishing runner-up in the All-Star race, the #19 team found the 600 to be a bit of a struggle. During Stage 2, Suarez felt he had a tire coming apart and elected to pit, unscheduled. For the rest of the night, Suarez found out the key to the Coke 600, attrition. Though he battled an ill-handling racecar all evening, Suarez was able to take advantage of the wave-around twice to get back on the lead lap. Though he was eventually put back a lap down late by teammate Busch, Suarez still earned a 15th place finish. The momentum continues to swing upward for this team.

17. Paul Menard – #21 Ford

  • Paul Menard has been a pleasant surprise this season. He always seems to have his Wood Brothers Ford in top 15. Their only problem so far is putting together full races. Menard has already tied his total for the number of top 10s from each of the past two seasons (3), but he has also left a few on the table. Add the Coke 600 to the list. Though he still wound up 14th overall, the #21 was running 10th with 15 to go before his tires faded and he brushed the wall in turn 4 and lost a bit of ground. Keep an eye on Menard at Pocono. This same Wood Brothers team won this trip to Pocono last season with Ryan Blaney behind the wheel. Furthermore, Paul Menard’s one career Cup win came at Indianapolis, a track that requires a similar driving style as Pocono.

16. Alex Bowman – #88 Chevy

  • Despite Chevrolet’s lack of raw speed this season, Alex Bowman has managed to crack the top 10 four times this season, including this past weekend at Charlotte. The bow ties seemed to have more speed at the 600 than they have shown all season. If they continue to improve, Bowman should start contending for top 5s and find himself in the top 10 regularly. I look back to Bowman’s seasons with BK Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing as the building blocks for his potential playoff run. At those stops, he learned how to bring the car home in one piece. Now that he’s in Hendrick equipment he’s turning that mentality into top 15s. Now he gets to go to work on learning how to improve on that. We’ve seen flashes. We’ll see if he can keep grinding. 

15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – #17 Ford

  • With Matt Kenseth essentially finishing around the same position as Trevor Bayne was in the #6, it shows a little bit about Stenhouse’s talent. We all know Stenhouse is in play for the top 10 at restrictor plate tracks and short tracks, but have shown promise at the mile and a half tracks in recent weeks. At Texas, RSJ ran well and led a few laps before a suspension issue left him finishing 25th. Three weeks ago at Kansas, the #17 brought home 11th and at the Coke 600, they cracked the top 10. Currently, Stenhouse holds the final playoff position with a 33 point pad over 17th place Paul Menard.

14. Erik Jones – #20 Toyota

  • After finishing fourth in the 2017 Coke 600 and then dominating practice all weekend, Erik Jones has to be one of the more disappointed drivers leaving Charlotte. Jones had good speed and finished the first three stages 10th, 10th, and 2nd, respectively, despite having to overcome two issues on pit road. Then the monster that is the 600 came to bite Jones in Stage 4. During green flag pit stops, Jones team received an uncontrolled tire penalty dooming the #20’s top 5 chances. Jones spent the last 40 laps a lap down and finished 19th. I expect a big bounce back from this team at Pocono. Last year, Jones finished 3rd and 8th in the two trips to Pocono with the #77 Furniture Row Team. 

13. Chase Elliott – #9 Chevy

  • The pressure on Chase Elliott to win a race has to be frustrating to the 22-year old given Chevrolet’s struggles this year. Simply put, this season he hasn’t had the car to compete with any of the Fords or Toyotas this season. He’s taking a 10th place car and finishing right around there. Yet, he still has three top 3 finishes to show for and, as I mentioned with Alex Bowman, the Chevy’s looked more competitive at Charlotte than they have all season. Whereas Bowman is looking to go from borderline top 10 to a top 5 team, Chase Elliott is trying to break into Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick territory. Once he wins one race, I think he’s going to start reeling them off. Right now, he’s tied with Stenhouse Jr. for the last two playoff spots, expect him to move up soon.

12. Ryan Blaney – #12 Ford

  • Bubba Wallace’s best friend has had a rough go of it as of late. A late tangle with Kyle Larson at Kansas and a failed engine at Charlotte has seen Ryan Blaney take home finishes of 37th and 38th of the past two points-paying events. The silver lining? Young Ryan Blaney ran up front and had a top 5 car in both races. Even better for Blaney? This weekend he returns to the scene of his first career win, this race last season at Pocono. YRB is solidly in the playoffs on points, but there’s no better way to get over a string of bad luck with a win. He should be a threat this week, for sure. 

11. Jimmie Johnson – #48 Chevy

  • See comments about Chase Elliott in reference to Chevy’s speed this season. Jimmie “7-time” Johnson still hasn’t led a lap this season, but his run in The 600 was very encouraging. Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus have never gone this deep into the season without a win. Johnson said it best after finishing 5th in The Coke 600, “It feels good, but damn I want to win.” At the moment, the #48 Hendrick Motorsports Team sits 12th in points 31 ahead of the playoff cut off. By no stretch of the imagination do I think they will miss the playoffs, especially given their pedigree, but stranger things have happened. 

10. Aric Almirola – #10 Ford

  • Another solid 13th place finish for Aric Almirola at The Coke 600. After the race, he felt he and the team had left a little bit on the table, citing pit strategy and old tires. Still, not a terrible effort for a team that has been consistently in the top 15 week-in and week out. In fact, the #10 Stewart-Hass team has been so consistent that they are firmly rooted in the playoffs at this point. Currently, Almirola holds an 80 point advantage over Chase Elliott and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. With such a cushion, I won’t be surprised if Almirola and the team start taking more chances at stealing a win in the coming races.   

9. Clint Bowyer – #14 Ford

  • Bowyer and the boys had a frustrating night at Charlotte. Though they finished 12th, lost track position on old tires cost the #14 team a shot at a higher finish. Unlike teammate Aric Almirola, Bowyer already has a race win and is locked into the playoffs. Now it’s all about collecting as many playoff points as possible for Bowyer and crew chief Mike Bugarewicz.

8. Kurt Busch – #41 Ford

  • Contrary to his teammates, Bowyer and Almirola who felt they could’ve done better, Kurt Busch seemed pleased with his 8th place finish in The Coke 600. “We kind of just did everything as a top 10 team would do and I’m glad we put the Haas Automation Ford in eighth,” said Busch after the race. He ran a clean race and did what he had to do. He knew he wasn’t beating little brother, but he knew he was in top 10 equipment. He survived and that’s really all you have to do in The 600.

7. Kyle Larson – #42 Chevy

  • Young $$$ Larson had one of the fastest cars not driven by Kyle Busch Sunday night. I don’t think he was quite in the same area code as KB, but due to a spin late in Stage 3, Larson lost track position and never even got a shot. Since Bristol, Larson has been knocking on the door. Over that span, Larson only has one finish worse than 10th (Talladega, crash). If the speed the Chevy’s had at Charlotte carries on into the rest of the season, expect Larson to find victory lane sooner than later.  Keep an eye on Michigan in two weeks where three of Larson’s five career victories have come.

6. Brad Keselowski – #2 Ford

  • After Kyle Busch took himself out in the Xfinity race on Saturday, Brad K. pounced on the opportunity and held off Cole Custer for the win. Sunday night started off rocky for the former Cup champ. After electing to stay out on old tires after missing his pit stall late in stage 1. It was the wrong decision, as he was passed like a sitting duck on the restart. From that point, Keselowski struggled with track position and handling during the late-afternoon hours. However, once the sun went down and the lights came on, so did the #2 Penske Ford. During the back half of the race, Keselowski made his way back up to the front and finished 4th. 

5. Joey Logano – #22 Ford

  • Joey Logano and the #22 Penske guys didn’t have The 600 they were expecting. After sitting on the outside pole and leading the first five laps, Logano battled an ill-handling racecar all evening long. In Stage 2, Logano was caught up in the Jimmie Johnson spin and received some rear quarter panel damage. During damage repair, Logano lost a lap and never really recovered. His car never got dialed in and they crawled home 22nd.

4. Denny Hamlin – #11 Toyota

  • The Coke 600 saw the #11 of Denny Hamlin take home another top 5 run. Hamlin’s car wasn’t that far off from his teammate Busch, but couldn’t hang with the #18 everytime he got close on a restart. Hamlin has been close this season but still hasn’t been as good as the top 3. If there was ever a chance for Hamlin to breakthrough it’s at Pocono where Hamlin and the #11 have four career wins at the “Tricky Triangle.”

3. Martin Truex Jr. – #78 Toyota

  • With the last stage going green the whole way, we never got the chance to see what Truex Jr. had for KB on Sunday night. Truex was without a doubt the 2nd best car at Charlotte at the end of the race. The #78 Furniture Row team has been right behind Harvick and Busch all season long and this list is no different.

2. Kyle Busch – #18 Toyota

  • Absolute dominance. Kyle Busch destroyed the field at the Coke 600 thoroughly. He now has won a Cup race at every race track he’s competed out, the only driver in history to ever accomplish the feat. He also now has 188 victories across NASCAR’s three top touring series.

1. Kevin Harvick – #4 Ford

  • It was a tough call keeping Harvick in the top spot. Though he has 5 wins this season, he’s kind of adopted the “if you ain’t, first you’re last” mentality. Both winning streaks Harvick has owned this year have ended in finishes of 35th or worse. However, remember two things. Before Harvick cut a tire on lap 87, he had already moved from his starting spot of 39th into the top 5. He had a fast car. Furthermore, had he not failed pre-qualifying inspection he never would’ve had to come from the back in the first place. For now, Harvick stays at the top.

 


Listen to last week’s Pre-Coca Cola 600 power rankings here:

Loose, But Fast – Episode 1: Coca-Cola 600 Power Rankings

Loose, But Fast Blog: Monster Energy All-Star Race Review

2018 Monster Energy All-Star Race Review

Experimental Aero Package/Restrictor Plate Thoughts

What a night. 38 lead exchanges, three-wide racing, and everyone had a shot at the $1 Million Dollar prize. The Monster Energy All-Star Race was without a doubt a hit. Kudos to NASCAR for trying something new and experimenting with a new aero package on one of their marquee evenings. While there will always be pushback from the “we want the old-NASCAR” crowd, Saturday Night’s race was definitely a step in the right direction for a sport some consider to be “dying.” NASCAR isn’t dying and isn’t going anywhere in the near future. However, a major reform of the sport could be on the table soon. Saturday’s All-Star Race could be the foot that opens the door on that conversation. 

For those who didn’t consider the 2018 All-Star Race a success, just look back a season ago. The 2017 All-Star Race was as boring of a race as any of the past few years. There were four lap-leaders in total and only three cautions (all for stage breaks). This year’s race provided twelve changes for lap-lead and the tighter racing produced eight cautions. Furthermore, Kevin Harvick’s margin of victory (0.325 seconds) was the closest in the All-Star Race since Harvick edged Jimmie Johnson by 0.141 seconds in the 2007 version of the event. The experimental aero package worked.

Make no mistakes about it. I don’t think that the success of the aero package on Saturday Night means that NASCAR should try and implement a similar aero package at other tracks a mile and a half or greater this season. They should absolutely look into it for select tracks in 2019 though. Prime targets include California, Michigan, Texas, and Kentucky, but that’s another discussion for another day.

Moments of the All-Star Race

My first moment of the race came at the end of Stage 3. During the first lap of a Green-White-Checkered finish, four-wide racing didn’t sort itself out resulting in Martin Truex Jr. pinching Ricky Stenhouse Jr. going into turn three. Truex Jr. went spinning and collected several others including both Busch brothers and Brad Keselowski. On the ensuing restart, Kevin Harvick slung himself around the outside of three cars between the start-finish line and the end of turn two. Then he overtook leader Daniel Suarez on the outside in turns three and four to take the stage victory.

The second moment of the race was Harvick’s pass for the win. After Joey Logano and Kyle Larson tangled through the tri-oval to bring out the caution with two to go, the field was back double-file for a Green-White-Checkered. On the restart, Suarez received a big push from teammate Denny Hamlin in turns one and two. By FS1’s aerial coverage the #19 looks like he’s clear of Harvick who restarted on the outside. However, instead of going up and blocking Harvick’s momentum, Suarez elected to not get run over by Harvick, who was being pushed by third-place Logano. Harvick clears Suarez and has smooth sailing to the checkered flag. 

All-Star Race Results Thoughts

Happy Harvick

Experimental aero package or not, Kevin Harvick and the #4 Stewart-Hass Racing Ford Team are ridiculously good this season. They’re taking Martin Truex Jr.’s dominance from a season ago to a whole new level. Five points race wins and an All-Star trophy within the first thirteen events of the season. We haven’t seen this type of dominance since Jeff Gordon set the series on fire in 1998. That season Gordon went on to win thirteen points races on his way to his third career Cup title. While the playoffs are the great equalizer in today’s NASCAR, I see no indication of why Harvick won’t be racing for the title at Homestead. 

Open Advancers

Aside from Harvick,  all the drivers who advanced from the Monster Energy Open were impressive. Alex Bowman and AJ Allmendinger used their experience from the earlier race to make hellacious runs through the pack in the first stage. Though Bowman’s night ended early after getting loose and hitting the outside wall, it was good to see the #88 continue to get better every week. Allmendinger hung around the 5-9 range most of the night and brought home a solid eighth-place finish for the #47 JTG Racing Team. Chase Elliott, who advanced to the All-Star Race via fan-vote, took his #9 Chevy home fifth.

Out of the four, I was most impressed with YOUNG Daniel Suarez and the #19 Joe Gibbs Racing Team. YDS ran up front all evening and was a legit contender for the victory. Personally, I wanted YDS to take the victory after my $$$ pick (Larson) was taken out. He finished second in three of the four stages and had Harvick cleared on the final restart. Had he slid up and thrown the block, the outcome may have been different. As Jeff Gordon put it in the FS1 booth, “It would’ve been risky, but I think he could’ve done it.” After Saturday Night’s run, I’m expecting a confidence boost for Suarez and his team heading into the next couple of weeks and wouldn’t be surprised if he is in contention during this weekend’s 600. 

Other Impressions

After both were caught up in wrecks throughout the race, I was by the resilience of Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne’s teams both bringing home top ten finishes. Yes, it may have everything to do with having restrictor plates on the race cars, but damn, they still had to overcome major adversity to do it. 

My one disappointment from the All-Star race was Matt Kenseth and the whole #6 Roush Racing Team. After sitting on the pole, I was convinced Kenseth was going to at least be in contention at the end. Instead, they immediately fell back and were never a threat. Kenseth finished fourteenth in a field that had sixteen cars running at the end.

All in all, this was an excellent event. I certainly hope NASCAR uses this package for future All-Star Races. 

Loose, But Fast Blog: Monster Energy All-Star Race

NASCAR Cup Series Championship: Homestead Preview

NASCAR Cup Series Championship: Homestead Preview

In a sport loaded with young talent, four grizzled veterans will battle for the NASCAR Cup Series Championship on Sunday at Homestead. A grueling eight-month schedule comes down to 400.5 miles or 267 circuits around the mile and a half oval just outside of Miami. Left standing: three former Cup champions Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski. Fourth, the driver who has dominated this season with seven wins and 18 top fives, Martin Truex Jr. With the highest-finisher-take-all scenario, all bets are off. Regardless, we’ll take a look at each team’s outlook on a title come Sunday.

Kyle Busch

#18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

2015 Cup Champion Kyle Busch will look to add to his extensive trophy case Sunday. His lone win at Homestead came in the 2015 championship race. In 12 career starts at Homestead, Busch has five top fives but also has an average finish of 19.8. In recent years, Busch has experienced success on the mile and a half raceway finishing seventh or better in four of the past five races at Homestead. Over the past five seasons, Busch has excelled at intermediate speedways finishing over two thirds in the top ten over that span. The Joe Gibbs #18 team will need to build upon that success this weekend if Busch hopes to lift his second Cup title.

Here’s how Busch earned his trip to Miami:


Kevin Harvick

#4 Stewart-Hass Racing Ford

What a tale that would be. In Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s final race, the man who presumed his father’s ride wins the title almost eighteen years later. Out of the Championship Four, Harvick easily has had the most success at Homestead. In 16 races at the mile and a half, Harvick has finished in the top ten fourteen times including winning the race and championship in 2014. Since joining Stewart-Hass Racing, Harvick has never finished worse than third at Homestead. At intermediate speedways this season, Harvick has only finished outside of the top ten three time out of 17 races. Based on previous Homestead results, they have to be the favorites heading into the weekend.

Harvick sums it up after punching his ticket to Championship Weekend:


Brad Keselowski

#2 Penske Racing Ford

Keselowski took home the Cup in 2012; however, that was before the current playoff format was put into place. Since 2013, Keselowski has finished sixth, third, third, and thirty-fifth at Homestead, respectively. At intermediate raceways this season the #2 Penske Ford finished in the top five six times and notched a victory at Atlanta. In a mix full of wild-cards, Keselowski is as capable as any at taking home the title come Sunday. Trust me. Just like the other three fighting for the title, Keselowski will not hesitate to use his bumper when he needs it. 

If he wins, let’s hope he re-creates this moment:


Martin Truex Jr.

#78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota

Martin Truex Jr. may not have a championship like the other three drivers, but if anyone deserves the 2017 crown it is Martin Truex Jr. He’s put together the best season out of any driver, let alone the Championship Four, all season long. The #78 Toyota has won seven races and finished in the top five 18 times. However, out of the four remaining teams, Truex’s Furniture Row team has struggled the most at Homestead over the past three seasons. That includes 2015 where Truex made the Championship Four but wound up finishing 12th and had to watch Kyle Busch lift the trophy. On the other hand, at intermediate speedways this season Truex has finished in the top five thirteen out of seventeen races and has a top ten in all but one. His team has been the best at these types of race tracks all season long. 

Truex has come a long way since 2013:


Without a doubt, Sunday’s finale at Homestead is going to be thrilling.

 

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