A New Champion Will be Crowned Sunday
One way or another, the first champion of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series era will be crowned this Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as both the NASCAR Playoffs and the 2017 season come to a thrilling end.
Four drivers remain in the championship hunt: Kyle Busch, who punched his ticket to the Championship 4 with a victory at Martinsville last month, Kevin Harvick, who did the same thing at Texas a week later, as well as Martin Truex, Jr. and Brad Keselowski, both of whom qualified on points.
A quick glance at each of these drivers' resumes will reveal quite the championship pedigree. Three of the four have won Cup Series titles in the past five years - Kyle Busch in 2015, Kevin Harvick the year before that and Brad Keselowski in 2012.
Interestingly enough, though, the only driver among them yet to taste championship glory, Martin Truex, Jr., enters the weekend as the odds-on favorite, at least according to the NASCAR experts. That's no surprise, of course - not this year. All Truex has done so far in 2017 is take his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota to Victory Lane seven times, finish in the top-10 on 25 separate occasions and narrowly miss adding to his stack of victories several other times when misfortune kept him from capturing the checkered flag.
But come Sunday, Truex Jr.'s NASCAR-leading seven wins won't help him much. There are no points to earn, no stage wins to stockpile and no season-long merit to fall back on. Simply put, the highest finisher among the Championship 4 at the end of the race - whether he wins the thing or not - will drive away from South Florida as the 2017 Cup Series champion.
As far as history at Homestead goes for these four drivers, it's a bit of a mixed bag. Kyle Busch stands out from the pack with one Cup Series victory 12 starts there, as well as two victories each in both the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series. Harvick, meanwhile, has one victory to his name in all three series, and Keselowski has two race wins there in Cup.
But remember how good Truex has been all year? Well, he's oh-fer in 12 career starts at Homestead in the Cup Series, so he'll have to rely on the momentum he's built all season if he wants to finish ahead of the other three Playoff drivers who have won in Miami.
All four have shown strength on the 1.5-mile tracks both this season and in the past, and each has a legitimate shot at winning the title this weekend. As good as they all are, it will likely come down to perfect execution, avoiding mistakes and relying on a winning strategy in order to clinch a coveted spot among NASCAR's elite.
Oh, and don't forget; there will be 36 other drivers on the track who will be gunning for a win equally as hard. A victory at NASCAR's highest level never comes easy, and that's 10-fold so for a title. There's nothing left to lose in the 2017 season, and this Sunday will be NASCAR at its best.