Championship 4 Preview

Championship 4

Four drivers have a chance to win the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Four drivers have a chance to win the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski are the quartet set to do battle for the coveted crown in Sunday’s season finale at the 1.5-mile south Florida oval.

While three are former champions, Truex Jr. is shooting for his first career Cup title.

“That means it's my turn,” Truex Jr. joked.

The Furniture Row Racing driver has put together a stellar season that includes seven wins, six of them coming at 1.5-mile tracks.  Truex Jr. has also racked up eight top-five and 10 top-10 finishes at those sized tracks and led a whopping 1,054 laps, over 300 more than the next Championship 4 driver Harvick.

Championship 4 at 1.5-Mile Tracks in 2017
Driver Wins Top Fives Top 10s Laps Led Poles Avg. Start Avg. Finish
Martin Truex Jr. 6 8 10 1,054 1 5.9 2.7
Kevin Harvick 1 5 9 707 3 4.9 8.6
Brad Keselowski 1 4 6 133 1 7.9 13.1
Kyle Busch 0 3 4 460 2 7.1 13.8

His stellar regular season and accumulation of points got him to this position in Homestead and despite being the title favorite since early in the year, Truex Jr. insists he and his team are taking everything in stride.

“I don't think it's any extra pressure at all,” he said. "I have a lot of respect for all three of these guys.  Two of them were in the Final Four when I made it in 2015.  Definitely have a little bit of experience in this position, but you know, honestly just excited about the opportunity.  I feel like we're in a whole lot better spot as a team than we were the first time we had a shot at it, and we're going to go out there and just do the best job we can do. 

“I've got a lot of confidence in our team right now and what we're doing, and I think today was a perfect example of that for us, so just keep doing what we're doing, go down to Miami and just have fun and do what we know how to do.  Do the best job we possibly can and hopefully come out on top.”

Harvick scored two wins during the season and his playoff victory at Texas Motor Speedway two weeks ago cemented his Championship 4 berth. He has the best track record at Homestead among the title contenders with a win, six top-five and nine top-10 finishes to go along with a win in 2014 that earned him the title.

Championship 4 in the Last 10 Races at Homestead-Miami
Driver Wins Top Fives Top 10s Laps Led Poles Avg. Start Avg. Finish
Kevin Harvick 1 6 9 256 1 11.6 5.9
Martin Truex Jr. 0 2 6 84 0 10.8 11.4
Kyle Busch 1 2 5 251 0 14.6 15.9
Brad Keselowski 0 2 3 106 0 11.3 15.9

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver thinks he is peaking at just the right time of the season to make a run for championship number two.

“It means a lot, especially this year switching everything from our manufacturer to Ford and just seeing the steady climb of performance and peaking as the playoffs started and running good on really every racetrack that we’ve been to; and this has by far been our best round – all three top-fives and a win,” Harvick said.

“It’s the right time of the year to be peaking. I feel really good about our mile-and-a-half program. Homestead has been a great racetrack for us through the years, and hopefully we can go down there and contend. I think, for us, you’re really happy with where you are just for the fact that as a company we know what we went through and kind of playing on house money at this point. So we’re gonna go down there and wing it and see what happens.”

Busch raced his way to Miami on the strength of five wins. Although none of them came on a 1.5-mile track, Busch and the Joe Gibbs Racing team has shown strength at nearly every layout on the schedule.

He returns to Homestead looking to lock up a second career title to go along with his 2015 crown.

“It’s obviously a great opportunity to be able to go race for a championship, and that’s what this format is,” Busch said. “It doesn’t mean a whole lot to make it to the Championship 4 if you don’t win it. You know, it’s all reset to zero. There are four of us who go for winner-take-all at Homestead.

“It’s what your whole season comes down to. I’m looking forward to Homestead and we’ll see if we can bring home another championship.”

While Busch is confident about his chances to outrun his trio of competitors, he knows it will not be an easy task.

“It’s going to be a tough race,” he said.  “It’s never easy. All the Championship 4 (drivers) are going to be fast and have a lot of experience winning championships and races. 

“It’s that way every single time we go down there. It’s crazy to look at it today, how many of the championship guys were right up front in the top-six, top-seven, during the last round, in particular. That’s just kind of the way this business is when it comes down to the end of the season.”

Keselowski earned the last spot with his finish at Phoenix Raceway last weekend. The Team Penske pilot claimed the 2012 title, but it was not under the Championship 4 format.

In nine career starts at Homestead, Keselowski has no wins, two top fives, three top-10s and a 15.9 average finish.

Keselowski survived round three to make the Championship 4 and even if the odds seem against him, he’s ready to take aim at title number two.

“I'm a big subscriber that it takes speed, execution and luck to win, and I think we probably had some really solid execution last week in Texas, great speed at Martinsville and luck today,” he said after his Phoenix performance.  “You know, if you put all three of them together on any given day, you can win, and we haven't done that in this round, but we had one of each in all three races, and that put us in position to be here.

“You know, I don't know.  I mean, the karma word sure does seem to get thrown around a lot, and I'm not sure what the hell it means, but the reality is that this year we made it through this round, and I'm thankful for that, and hopeful that we can make it count next weekend.”

Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" will have live coverage of Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400, beginning at 1:30 p.m. (ET) - with live streaming at MRN.com and on the MRN App.  

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