After 35 races and 3 rounds of the playoffs, it all comes down to 4 drivers, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano. The highest finisher of those 4 Sunday afternoon at Homestead will take home the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship. Busch, Harvick and Truex are looking for their 2nd championship. Logano is the only 1 of the 4 without one. In addition, on Saturday, the NASCAR XFINITY Series will crown its champion, and the Camping World Truck Series will also do so on Friday - all part of Championship Weekend.
These drivers have been among the best all season. The 4 have combined for 22 wins in 35 races (with Busch/Harvick responsible for 8 apiece). They also have the 4 best average finishes this season.
To win their championship, Busch, Harvick and Truex each had to win at Homestead to win it all. Logano has yet to win at Homestead, his best finish was a 4th in 2015 and 2016.
Kyle Busch opened as the 2018 championship favorite at 9-2, Harvick and Truex Jr. were right behind at 5-1. Logano wasn't exactly a longshot, as he had the 6th-best odds at 8-1.
• Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
• Age: 33
• 14th full season
• Best points finish: 2015 championship
• Cup Series wins: 51 (11th all-time)
• 2018 season: 8 wins (ties career-high set in 2008)
• Other accolades: 2009 XFINITY Series champion, all-time leader with 92 NXS wins; tied for Truck Series record with 51 wins; 2005 Cup Series Rookie of the Year
Kyle Busch (along with Kevin Harvick) have won 8 times this season. Last year, Martin Truex Jr. won the championship with 8 wins. The last time we had a 9-win season was in 2008 (Carl Edwards). The only time since 2000 that a driver had 9 wins and won the championship was in 2007 (Jimmie Johnson: 10 wins).
9 wins and a championship for Busch (or Harvick) would be a rare feat. The only driver to do that since 2000 was Jimmie Johnson in 2007. Since 1990, only Johnson, Jeff Gordon (twice) and Dale Earnhardt have done it.
Kyle Busch - History Made in 2018
• Became 11th driver to reach 50 career wins
• 4th-youngest driver at time of 50th win (33 years, 143 days)
• Moved from 17th to 11th on all-time wins list (notably passed Bill Elliott, Tony Stewart, Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett)
• Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
• Age: 42
• 18th full season
• Best points finish: 2014 championship
• Cup Series wins: 45 (17th all-time)
• 2018 season: 8 wins (previous career high was 5 in 2006, 2014)
• Other accolades: 2-time XFINITY Series champion (2001, 2006); 2007 Daytona 500 champion; 2001 Cup Series Rookie of the Year
Only 13 drivers in series history have had seasons with at least 9 wins and 2,000 laps led, and none since Jeff Gordon in 1996. If Harvick gets to 9 wins, it'll mean he also wins the championship. No driver has had 9 wins and 2,000 laps led in a championship season since Dale Earnhardt in 1990. Harvick was the driver to replace Dale Earnhardt after Earnhardt's fatal wreck in 2001.
Harvick is having his best season at 42 years old. He could become the oldest Cup Series champion since fellow 42-year-old Dale Jarrett in 1999. Only 5 different drivers in Cup Series history have won a champion after turning 42.
Harvick is chasing his 2nd career championship, but he's already (mostly) surpassed what he did in his 2014 championship season.
Martin Truex Jr.
• Team: Furniture Row Racing
• Age: 38
• 13th full season
• Best points finish: 2017 championship
• Cup Series wins: 19 (T-42nd all-time)
• 2018 season: 4 wins (3rd straight 4-win season after having 4 career wins in first 10 full seasons)
• Other accolades: 2-time XFINITY Series champion (2004-05)
Truex is looking for a 2nd straight championship. He would be the first to pull that off since Jimmie Johnson won an unprecedented 5 straight titles from 2006-10. Only 10 drivers in series history have ever won consecutive titles.
• Team: Team Penske
• Age: 28
• 10th full season
• Best points finish: 2nd in 2016
• Cup Series wins: 20 (T-40th all-time)
• 2018 season: 2 wins (spring Talladega and playoff Martinsville)
• Other accolades: 2009 Cup Series Rookie of the Year; only teenager to win a race in Cup history (2009 New Hampshire); 30 career XFINITY Series wins (7th all-time)
Joey Logano might still be looking for his first championship, but this is actually his 3rd trip to the Championship Four in the 5 seasons of this format. Harvick, Busch and Truex have all made at least 3 visits to the Championship Four, no other driver has done it more than once.
Logano made his Cup Series debut in 2008, so it's easy to forget that he's still just 28 years old. Only 2 drivers in the Playoff Era (since 2004) have won championships before turning 30. The last to do it was Logano's teammate Brad Keselowski, who was also 28 in 2012. Since 1990, only Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon have won titles before turning 30.
Even if Logano wins at Homestead to capture the championship, he would be tied for the fewest wins for a championship driver in the playoff era (since 2004). If Logano wins the championship without winning the race, his 2 wins would be the fewest since Matt Kenseth's 1-win championship season in 2003.
XFINITY, Truck Series Crown Champions
On Friday and Saturday, NASCAR's other 2 National Touring Series, the XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series, will crown their champions.
At 27, Hemric is the "old" man of the group. Custer has a shot to be the 4th driver in Cup/XFINITY/Truck Series history to win a championship before turning 21.
The Truck Series will crown its champion Friday night. There are 2 drivers 20 or younger racing for the championship (trying to join the above list as well). But also a series veteran in Johnny Sauter, as the 40-year-old looks for his 2nd title in the last 3 seasons.
Who's Hot and Who's Not - Homestead
Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas): finished 4th or better in last 4 Homestead races (only driver with 4 straight top 5s at track)
Kyle Busch (Gibbs): finished 1st, 6th, 2nd in last 3 races at Homestead (1 finish of 6th or better in 10 races at track)
Kyle Larson (Ganassi): led 132 and 145 laps in last 2 years at Homestead (finished 2nd and 3rd) (no other driver has led more 79 laps in 2 races combined)
Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas): 21 top-10 finishes this season ties career high (had 21 in 2004 championship season and also 2009, 2015, 2016)
Brad Keselowski (Penske): finished 7th or better in 4 of last 5 Homestead races (13th or worse in first 5 races at track)
Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick): on career-long slumps of 58 races without a win and 22 races without a top-5 finish; would snap streak of 16 straight seasons with a win (T-3rd-longest in series history)
Denny Hamlin (Gibbs): winless this season; had won a race in all 12 full Cup Series seasons entering 2018 (2 career wins at Homestead)
Ryan Blaney (Penske): finished 17th or worse in all 3 career starts at Homestead
Clint Bowyer (Stewart-Haas): finished outside top 20 in each of last 3 races (1st such streak since 5 straight over 2016-17)
Erik Jones (Penske): 16.0 Avg finish in 9 playoff races (7.5 Avg finish in final 10 races before playoffs)
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