|Sunday's championship and Homestead race figures to be two-horse race.|
Sunday's Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway will finish off the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and we couldn't ask for a better final four drivers to participate. After 35 races, including nine playoff races, Martin Truex Jr. will battle 2012 champion Brad Keselowski, 2014 champion Kevin Harvick and 2015 champion Kyle Buschfor the 2017 title.
No more points. This is all about who has the better finish among the four drivers. The past three seasons we've seen the eventual champion leave no doubt about it and win at Homestead's 1.5-mile high-banked, paper-clip layout. Harvick did it in 2014, Busch in 2015 and Jimmie Johnson did it last season. The odd thing about those three wins is that it was their first win ever at Homestead.
Another oddity this week is that Chevrolet won't have anything at stake in this year's Championship Race. Chevrolet has been driven by 10 of the past 12 champions, including seven by Johnson, two by Tony Stewart and one by Harvick. But Harvick drives a Ford now. The only two drivers to get in the way of the Chevy steamroller in the past 14 years was Keselowski's Dodge in 2012 and Kyle Busch's Toyota in 2015. Truex, Busch's corporate teammate, will be driving a Toyota as well.
This will be Busch's third straight season competing in the Championship 4 and he's ready to go.
“It’s obviously a great opportunity to be able to go race for a championship, and that’s what this format is," said Busch, who grew up in Las Vegas. "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. It means a lot to have that opportunity not only for myself, but for M&M’S Caramel, Toyota, Interstate Batteries and everyone at JGR who helps us to be as good as we’ve been. It’s what your whole season comes down to. I’m looking forward to Homestead and we’ll see if we can bring home another championship.”
As a fellow Las Vegan, it says in the city rules that I have to root for Kyle Busch to win the title Sunday, and I'm okay with that. And at least I'm not rooting for the favorite here because someone else has been much better on these type of tracks.
With this being a 1.5-mile track, we don't need to look anywhere else than Truex to identify who the overwhelming favorite is. The layout at Homestead is vastly different from all the tri-ovals around the circuit, but the set-up requirements are still similar. Truex has never won at Homestead, but did finish second there in 2006 and third in 2011. In 2015 when he was one of the final four drivers at Homestead, he finished 12th driving a Chevrolet at the time.
I remember wondering after the 2015 season why the Furniture Row team would make the switch from Chevrolet to Toyota. It seemed silly after he had his best career finish on a season with fourth-place to make the switch. Well, things turned out just fine and since the 2016 season no one has been better on 1.5-mile tracks than Truex. This season he won on six of the 10 races on them. He won four straight on them heading into November before Harvick finally ended his run at Texas. But Truex would finish second and lead a race-high 107 laps that day.