Who's Hot and Who's Not - Homestead
- Martin Truex Jr.: won 6 of 10 races on 1.5-mile tracks this season (no other driver has more than 1)
- Kevin Harvick: finished top 3 in last 3 races at Homestead (1st in 2014, 2nd in 2015, 3rd in 2016)
- Harvick: 3 straight top-5 finishes entering Homestead (has not had 4 straight this season)
- Kyle Busch: 3 wins in 2017 playoffs (previous had never won more than once in a single playoffs)
- Busch: finished 7th or better in 4 of last 5 Homestead races (won in 2015)
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 1 top-5 in 16 career races at Homestead (3rd in 2013); 1 top 5 is tied for his fewest at any track
- Earnhardt Jr.: 21.5 Avg finish career at Homestead is his 2nd worst at any active track and worst at any non-road course (22.6 at Watkins Glen)
- Truex Jr.: finished outside top 10 in last 3 seasons at Homestead
- Brad Keselowski: finished 35th at Homestead last year
- Jimmie Johnson: winless in last 22 races (2nd-longest winless streak of career, 24 straight in 2016)
Setting the Field to Crown a 2017 Champion
Sunday at Homestead, 4 drivers, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski, will be running for a championship. The highest finisher of the 4 will win the championship. Of the 4, all but Truex has won a championship before, but Truex has had the strongest year of the 4.
These 4 have combined to win 17 of the 35 races run this season.
Although the championship will go to the driver among the Championship 4 who finishes the highest at Homestead, drivers likely will need to win. In the 3 previous years with the "highest finisher wins championship" format at Homestead, the eventual champion won this race. In 2 of the 3 years, another Championship 4 driver finished 2nd.
Can Martin Truex Jr. Put a Bow on His 2017?
The favorite to win this year's title is the only 1 of the Championship 4 that hasn't won a title, Martin Truex Jr.. Truex had 7 career wins in 405 career races entering this season, but has 7 in 35 races this year. Over the last 59 races dating back to last season, Truex has won 11 of 59 races after winning 3 times in his first 381 career starts.
It's been a remarkable turnaround for Truex, who was released from Michael Waltrip Racing after the 2013 season after his sponsor NAPA left following a controversial race. Truex joined Furniture Row Racing and had 1 top-5 finish and 1 lap lead there in 2014. Since then, his career has taken off.
If Truex wins at Homestead, it'll be his 8th win of the season. He'd become the first driver to win 8 times and lead 2,000 laps (he's already reached 2,000) in a season since Jeff Gordon's 10-win season in 1996. Since 1990, the only drivers with 8 wins and 2,000 laps led in a season are Gordon, Rusty Wallace and Dale Earnhardt.
Truex is looking for his 1st Cup Series title at the age of 37. He'll become the 6th driver in the modern era (since 1972) to win his first title at 37 or older. 1 of the other 5 is 1 of his competitors in the Championship 4, Kevin Harvick.
Truex Jr. is heading to the right track type. In 10 races on 1.5-mile tracks this season (like Homestead), Truex has won 6 times (no other driver has won more than once), and has led nearly 400 more laps than any other driver, with a 2.7 average finish.
Kyle Busch Looks to Add a 2nd Title
After winning the 2015 championship, Kyle Busch (along with Harvick and Keselowski) will attempt to join Jimmie Johnson as the only multi-time Cup Series champions still active. Busch would be the 5th-youngest driver in series history at the time of his 2nd championship.
Busch had only won 1 playoff race as a playoff driver prior to this year, his 2015 championship-winning victory at Homestead. But this year, he's won 3 of the 9 playoff races, but those are his only top-5 finishes in the playoffs. But he's led a lot more than in 2017.
Busch is in the midst of one of the finest seasons of his career. He's the 3rd driver since 2000 to have 5 wins and 8 poles in a year (2014 Kevin Harvick, 2003 Ryan Newman are the others).
Harvick, Keselowski Can Play Spoiler
While the Toyota drivers are the frontrunners, Ford drivers Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski are also in the mix. Harvick is trying to give Stewart-Haas Racing its 3rd title in the last 7 seasons (Harvick in 2014, Tony Stewart in 2011). Harvick has been the cream of the crop over the last 4 seasons.
Much like Busch can become 1 of the youngest 2-time Cup Series champions in series history, Keselowski can also join that list with a title on Sunday.
Both drivers will try to become the 16th driver to win multiple Cup Series championships, and the 2nd active driver, along with Jimmie Johnson, a 7-time champion.