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Championship 4 Preview

Homestead-Miami Schedule | First Practice Speeds

The stage is set for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick each will race for the title in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400. The four contenders have combined to win 22 races and post 100 top-10 finishes in the first 35 races this season.

Busch and Harvick head into the season finale having won eight races each while Truex has gone to Victory Lane four times and Logano twice.

Both Harvick and Busch have reached the Championship 4 four times since the elimination-style playoff format was introduced in 2014 with Harvick and Busch taking the title in the first two, respectively, by taking the checkered flag. Truex, the defending race winner and champion, is making his third appearance along with Logano, who saw his best finish in the standings (second ) come in 2016 behind race winner and champion Jimmie Johnson.

“From a mental standpoint, you have to be prepared to do things differently than you’ve done all year because that’s the type of situation you’re in,” Harvick said. “Throw all that aside and then go into the race knowing you’re probably going to need to win the race to win the championship, because that’s what’s happened the last few years. We’ve seen the champion go out and win the race. You have to be in an ‘I have to win’ mindset and prepare for everything outside of the normal.”

Busch, who won the Round of 8 finale last weekend at ISM Raceway, has made made 13 starts at HMS and leads all contenders with 322 laps led. His is the only driver that has been eligible to win the title in the last four years.

“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.”

Harvick has finished in the top 10 in his last 10 starts at Homestead-Miami, including top fives in the last four.

Logano’s win at Martinsville Speedway last month locked him into the Championship 4. The win came after he made contact with leader Truex Jr. in the final turn.

“I stick to my guns, I’m not going to run a guy over just to win a championship unless it’s Joey Logano,” Truex Jr. said at Thursday’s Championship 4 media day. “He did it so why can’t I?”

Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami
Ordered by Average Finish

Driver Starts Wins Top 5s Top 10s Laps Led Avg. Start Avg. Fin
Kevin Harvick 17 1 9 15 315 12.4 6.8
Martin Truex Jr. 13 1 4 8 189 12.7 11.5
Joey Logano 9 0 2 4 78 14.8 14.9
Kyle Busch 13 1 3 6 322 12.0 18.5

Truex Jr. is looking to become the first back-to-back champion since Jimmie Johnson won five straight from 2006-2010. Last year, Truex led 78 laps en route to the win, which marked his first top 10 in four starts at HMS with Furniture Row Racing,

“Homestead is a tough track, it’s a long race and anything can happen,” Truex Jr. said. “We saw last year that we were really good on short runs and the 18 (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.”

The Ford EcoBoost 400 will mark the final race for FRR as the team is closing its doors after Homestead. In 2019, Truex Jr. and crew chief Cole Pearn will move to Joe Gibbs Racing.

“I don’t think any of us were prepared for how emotional it was when we loaded up,” Pearn said. “I think we’ve just been head down, kind of pushing super hard, trying to do everything we can to get ready for this weekend, and once it was in the truck and saw the lift gate up, there was a lot of tears shed and a lot of sad faces, and I think all of us really realized that that was the last time we were going to do it together as a group.”

See Also: Championship 4 Media Day

Logano has finished sixth or better in his last three starts at Homestead-Miami and his average finish (4.7) ranks fourth among all drivers that includes Harvick and Busch, who each have a series-leading average of 3.0 in that span.

Championship 4 in Last 5 Race at Homestead-Miami
Ordered by Average Finish

Driver Wins Top 5s Top 10s Laps Led Poles Avg. Start Avg. Fin
Kevin Harvick 1 4 5 187 1 6.8 4.0
Joey Logano 0 2 4 78 0 9.2 7.6
Kyle Busch 1 2 4 85 0 6.6 11.0
Martin Truex Jr. 1 2 2 81 0 7.4 14.0

Harvick leads the series with four wins at 1.5-mile tracks, but his win at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this month resulted in an L1 penalty for an illegal rear spoiler on his No. 4 Ford. Harvick also leads the series in laps led at 1.5-mile tracks in 2018 and has led 267  in the last three races at intermediate tracks in the playoffs.

While the series has competed in 10 races this season at 1.5-mile tracks, Homestead-Miami Speedway is unique.

“There is really nothing about that weekend at Homestead that is the same just because of the fact everything is different,” Harvick said. “The track is different. The amount of people is different. The weekend is a championship-winning scenario.”

Logano has the best average finish (5.0) among the championship drivers in the three races that were held at 1.5-mile tracks in the playoffs.

Championship 4 at 1.5-mile Tracks in 2019 (10 Races)
Ordered by Average Finish

Driver Wins Top 5s Top 10s Laps Led Poles Avg. Start Avg. Fin
Kyle Busch 3 6 9 572 2 6.8 5.2
Martin Truex Jr. 1 8 9 290 1 13.9 7.2
Joey Logano 0 3 9 249 1 8.6 7.7
Kevin Harvick 4 7 7 867 1 7.1 10.5

Since the playoffs started nine races ago, Logano leads all drivers in top fives (5), top 10s (7) and is second in laps led (515) behind Harvick. Like he stated last week going into ISM Raceway, Logano believes he’s the favorite to win the title.

“I didn’t mean to stir anything up. I just felt like I was. I still do,” Logano said at media day. “I’m not trying to stir the pot when I say that. I feel like what we’ve been able to do the last 15 races to get into the playoffs, during the playoffs, all through this point, we’ve been able to execute under a lot of pressure without many playoff points behind us.”