The four drivers who will race for the NASCAR Cup Series championship at Homestead

Analyzing the four drivers racing for the title in the championship final of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Brad Keselowski won his first Cup Series championship in 2012. Kevin Harvick won his first in 2014, while Kyle Busch won his first the following year. These three former title holders make up three-fourths of the contenders in Sunday’s championship final at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Yet it is the one finalist who’s never won a title, Martin Truex Jr., that Keselowski, Harvick, and Busch each believes is the clear favorite. The Furniture Row Racing driver has been the standard barrier throughout the season, leading every major statistically category and his speed on intermediate sized speedways, like Homestead, is especially overpowering with six of his seven victories having come on mile-and-a-half-tracks.
The role of favorite is not something Truex shies away from, instead he embraces the prospect of being the driver everyone else is chasing. This is his second time qualifying for the Final Four and when he did so in 2015 he was the decided underdog, which ultimately bared out on the track. He finished fourth that year, with Busch narrowly defeating Harvick for the championship.
“If I'm the favorite, perfect, I like that,” Truex said. “I think it's a better position to be in. I was the underdog before and I finished fourth. So bring it on.
“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. 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.”
But while Truex may have the perceived edge, the best-finish-wins-the-championship format opens the door for any of the finalists to drive away with the Cup Series crown Sunday night. Here’s a breakdown of their chances and what each needs to do to leave South Florida with the hardware.
Kyle Busch
Team: No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing
Manufacturer: Toyota
Regular season wins: 2
Playoff wins: 3
Best Homestead finish: First (2015)
Homestead average finish: 19.8 (12 starts)
Why he could win: Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing have been the only team to consistently challenge Truex and FRR. Also aiding Busch’s cause is with four heavyweights in the finals the spotlight will be spread out equally, lessening the pressure the No. 18 team will feel to win a second title in three years.
Why he could lose: Keeping pace with Truex is one thing, actually beating him is a whole different beast. And while Busch has been strong on intermediate tracks, Truex’s six wins underscores the speed disparity between their respective teams.
Kevin Harvick
Team: No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing
Manufacturer: Ford
Regular season wins: 1
Playoff wins: 1
Best Homestead finish: First (2014)
Homestead average finish: 6.9 (16 starts)
Why he could win: In a possible sign that Truex’s mile-and-a-half dominance may be waning, Harvick ran him down, then passed him, to win at Texas Motor Speedway two weeks ago. Maybe it was a one-time occurrence, but it certainly indicates that Stewart-Haas Racing possesses the necessary speed on to beat the Toyotas and that Truex isn’t invincible. Not being the favorite is also role that suits Harvick, who is at his best when backed into a corner.
Why he could lose: Does one win on a Texas track with vastly different characteristics than Homestead truly indicate the pendulum has shifted in favor of Harvick and SHR? Ford has improved, but Toyota remains the top manufacturer.
Brad Keselowski
Team: No. 2 Team Penske
Manufacturer: Ford
Regular season wins: 2
Playoff wins: 1
Best Homestead finish: Third (Twice)
Homestead average finish: 15.9 (nine starts)
Why he could win: Crew chief Paul Wolfe is one of the best strategists in the garage and with Penske’s intermediate track program not on the same level compared to the other three teams, this allows him to employ aggressive and outside-the-box tactics. And as Jimmie Johnson demonstrated last year, putting yourself in position to capitalize others’ mistakes can overcome a performance disadvantage.
Why he could lose: If you need others to stumble to give you a reasonable shot, that speaks volumes about how good your chances were to begin with.
Martin Truex Jr.
Team: No. 78 Furniture Row Racing
Manufacturer: Toyota
Regular season wins: 4
Playoff wins: 3
Best Homestead finish: Second (2006)
Homestead average finish: 12.3 (12 starts)
Why he could win: The best driver, crew chief and team this season are motivated to cap off what has been a superb 2017. That the championship is decided on a 1.5-mile track provides further advantage, placing Truex in the catbird seat where the title is his to win or lose.
Why he could lose: Harvick showed Truex could be beaten straight up. FRR has also a tendency to not always have the sharpest execution, which in this format and against three competitors who thrive on pouncing opportunities when presented, could spell doom.

Top News