Championship 4 Preview: Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. And Kevin Harvickby Nicole Hetrick November 13, 2018 0 comments
The Championship 4 field is set. In the fifth season of competing with the Championship 4 format, drivers Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick will have the opportunity to compete for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway and etch their name into history.
Joey Logano | Team Penske No. 22 Ford
Joey Logano punched his ticket into the Championship 4 by winning race number No. 1 in the Round of 8 at Martinsville Speedway. The victory was Logano’s second win of the season, his first coming at Talladega in the spring. This season, Logano has shown that he can run with “The Big Three” and that he should be taken as a true competitor. With an average finish this season of 10.9 and 854 laps led, Logano is sure to be near the front at Homestead.
“You think about a couple years ago, we finished second in points,” Logano said at Martinsville Speedway. “We follow that up with missing the Playoffs. Whoever would have thought that? That was something I was taking for granted, making the Playoffs would have been easy. To kind of have that checkup, it happens. I think God does that sometimes to teach you some valuable lessons. I think I learned a lot in those situations, becoming a stronger racecar driver, stronger man since then.
“Now we’ve been able to take that and recover this year and get ourselves to the Championship 4. That’s a pretty big deal. So pretty neat that we’ve been able to kind of bounce back from all that. It says a lot about our race team, you know, our personalities, that persistence that we continue to have.”
Logano’s stats at Homestead are fair with an average finish of 14.9 and only 78 laps led, but this is the third time in five years that Logano is going into Ford Championship weekend at Homestead with the chance at taking home the series title. In 2014, Logano finished 16th at Homestead, fourth of the Playoff drivers. He finished fourth at Homestead in 2016, losing the championship to Jimmie Johnson who won the race. If Logano were to outrun Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick on Sunday, it’d mark his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.
Kyle Busch | Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota
Kyle Busch has been one of the dominating drivers this season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He has become part of “The Big Three” that also consists of two other drivers competing for a Championship this Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but out of his competitors, Busch has shown the most consistency. He has 8 wins this season, his most recent coming this past Sunday at IMS Speedway. He has also led 1,448 laps this season with an average finish is 8.4.
“All four of us have lost in the format,” Busch said following his win at ISM Raceway. “I think that that’s pretty interesting the way that that kind of is. But overall, if you had to say, then I would say the three guys that have won, it lends to them more than the guy that hasn’t been able to capitalize in that format.
“But overall, again, it just goes back to you’ve got to have a lot of things go your way, and there’s ways in these races that things don’t always go your way and you’ve got to be able to rebound from those in those instances that you can when possible, and I think that we kind of did that here today. We tried to do that last week. We just could never get out of that hole. You know, it feels good to be going to Homestead with a shot and just kind of reset and focus on next week.”
Busch’s past races at Homestead since winning the race in 2015, the same year he won the Championship, have been higher than before his championship run. In 2016 he finished 6th and in 2017 he finished 2nd. Prior to his championship win, Busch’s best finish at Homestead was 4th and that came in 2012. It marked his first top-five in his first eight starts at the track. Regardless of his stats at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which has seemed to be a must-win effort to capture the Championship, Busch thrives in must-win situations, and this Sunday, he will most likely have to win to hoist the Monster Energy Cup once again.
Martin Truex Jr. | Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota
Martin Truex Jr. has shown that adversity can push you to places unknown. Starting this season as the reigning champion and now having the added pressure of finishing strong for Furniture Row Racing, which is closing down following Homstead-Miami, Truex has to dig deep and perform at his highest level. With four wins this season, Truex has proven that he is a top contender for the Championship once again. His average finish this season is 11th, the lowest of his “Big Three” competitors but higher than Logano’s. Truex has led 996 laps through the 35 races this season.
“Homestead is a tough track, it’s a long race and anything can happen,” Truex said. “We saw last year that we were really good on short runs and the 18 (Kyle Busch) was good on long runs and at the end it came down to a short run and we were able to hold him off. You have to have a little bit of luck on your side, you have to have a good race car and you have to have things play out the way you need them to suit your setup and suit what you’re doing. For us, we’ve got a lot of confidence and we really don’t have a lot of pressure on us. We’re going to go down there and all you can do is give it your best. We haven’t been the fastest car this year by any means, but when we hit it right we can beat anybody. If we can go down there and hit it right, we’re going to have some fun.”
Truex’s Homstead-Miami stats are on par with his Championship contenders. His average finish is 11.5 and he has led 189 laps. Truex only has one win at Homestead-Miami and that came last year when the night ended with him winning his first-career Monster Energy Cup.
Kevin Harvick | Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Ford
This has been one of Kevin Harvick’s best years in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. With eight wins this season, tied with Busch, Harvick has proven to be a top contender. He has the most laps led this season with 1,932, and his average finish is ninth. Harvick, the final member of the “The Big Three” has had some controversy to overcome in recent weeks, but he has proven that he puts all of that behind him on the racetrack, and there’s no doubt he will push it to the back of his mind at Homestead.
“The year I won, we went through so many ups and downs and I really think 2014 was a good training ground for us from a mental standpoint, because we went through so many highs and lows and ‘must-win’ situations,” Harvick said. “We were 12th with 10 or 12 laps to go in that race, wound up pitting and being on the offensive. It was definitely a scenario where your heart rate and intensity were up and you know you’re going to have to go out and get it to make it happen and be on the offense to go forward and get back to the front. There are a lot of things that get me excited, but I don’t think there is anything that gets me more excited than being behind and winning a race late.”
Harvick’s Homestead stats are also the best of his Championship competition. He has an average finish of 6.8, and he has led 315 laps, but the most impressive statistic by far is that Harvick has completed 100% of the laps run at Homestead since he ran his first race at the track back in 2001. Harvick has only one win at the track, which like his competitors, was also the year he won the Championship. Harvick has proven to be a force to be reckoned with this season, and his stats at Homestead prove that he will continue to be through the end of this season. Harvick enters this weekend’s race making his fourth Championship 4 appearance in the last five seasons.
The Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway will broadcast live on NBC and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday.