NASCAR & Auto Racing

Who are the four drivers competing for a NASCAR championship in Homestead on Sunday?

Who are the Championship drivers at Homestead-Miami Speedway?

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ 2018 season comes to a close Sunday with the Ford EcoBoost 400. Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. are all in title contention.
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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ 2018 season comes to a close Sunday with the Ford EcoBoost 400. Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. are all in title contention.

NASCAR’s championship will be crowned Sunday in Homestead as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wraps up the postseason with the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Four drivers are in contention, including the sport’s so-called “Big Three” of Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.

Challenging the threesome, which dominated the NASCAR Cup Series all year, is the driver some call “Sliced Bread.” Joey Logano is the outsider in this group, but he’s certainly one of the most talented drivers in the sport. Here’s what you need to know about NASCAR’s Championship 4 as championship weekend kicks off in the Miami metropolitan area:

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Joey Logano celebrates after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va., Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Steve Helber) Steve Helber AP

Joey Logano

Logano was the first driver to punch his ticket in the Championship 4. The 28-year-old took advantage of the first opportunity available, winning the opening race of the Round of 8 at the First Data 500 last month in Ridgeway, Virginia. The win gave Logano an automatic berth into the championship round.

This season marks Logano’s return to the Championship 4 after a 17th-place finish in 2017. Logano was the Cup Series runner-up in 2016 and finished fourth in 2014. He’s guaranteed a third top-four finish in five years and his fifth top-10 finish in the last six seasons.

The return has made this season a redemption for the young driver, who earned the nickname “Sliced Bread” as a teenager, as in “the best thing since sliced bread.” He was regarded as one of the top prospects of all time, but has yet to fully capitalize on his potential.

He’s also the outlier in the Championship 4 this season. Harvick, Truex and Busch have been called a “Big Three” this season and Logano crashed the party through controversial means when bumped Truex down the stretch to win in Virginia.

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Kyle Busch (18) celebrates winning the NASCAR Monster Energy Series auto race in victory lane at Richmond Raceway in Richmond, Va., Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Steve Helber) Steve Helber AP

Kyle Busch

Busch was the only other automatic qualifier for the Championship 4 and he waited until the last moment to seal the spot. The 33-year old won Sunday at the Can-Am 500 in Avondale, Ariz., to solidify his fourth top-four finish in as many years. He’s now just one good race away from his second Cup Series championship.

Busch’s only other Cup Series title came the only other time he won in Homestead. Busch claimed victory at Homestead-Miami in 2015 to win his first and only championship. He did, however, finish second in Homestead last season and has finished in the top 10 four other times.

This season has been a monster for Busch. He’s won eight times to move into 11th on the all-time wins list.

Busch is now the co-favorite to win the title. He and Harvick share 11/4 odds, placing them well ahead of the other two drivers in the Championship 4.

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Kevin Harvick, right, poses with the trophy in Victory Lane after he won the NASCAR Cup Series auto race, Sunday, May 6, 2018, at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) Nick Wass AP

Kevin Harvick

Harvick is into the Championship 4 for the fifth time in six years and ninth time in his career. The 42-year is now seeking his second championship after winning the Cup Series in 2014.

Harvick clinched his spot in the Championship 4 on Nov. 4 when he won the AAA Texas 500 in Fort Worth – or so he thought. After the race, NASCAR found Harvick drove with an illegal spoiler, docked him 40 points and took away his automatic berth. Harvick then finished fifth in Arizona, which was good enough to get him into the top group.

The postseason hasn’t been great for Harvick, though. Since the postseason began, Harvick’s average finish has been 12.4 after spending much of the season near the top of the standings. His regular season gave him enough of a cushion to make the top four.

His track record in South Florida is a good one, too. Harvick has finished in the top four at Homestead-Miami for four straight years and has five more top-five finishes to his name. His lone victory came in the 2014 season.

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Martin Truex Jr. celebrated in Victory Lane after winning the 2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series championship by holding off Kyle Busch to win the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Terry Renna Associated Press

Martin Truex Jr.

Truex is the reigning champion in Homestead and the reigning champion on the Cup Series, but his path to the Championship 4 was as uneven as Harvick’s. Like Harvick, Truex dominated throughout the regular season before struggling a bit in the postseason. Depending how Sunday goes, Truex could become the first driver since 2005 to win the title without a postseason win.

Also like Harvick, Truex sealed his spot in the top four thanks to his great regular season. He won four races, but hasn’t been in victory lane since July. He’s thrice finished third in the postseason, most recently last month at the First Data 50 – the first race in the Championship 4 round.

Since his strong performance at Martinsville Speedway, Truex has particularly struggled. He finished ninth in Texas, then 14th in Arizona on Sunday. Despite this, his odds of winning the title are better than Logano’s because of his track record.

Sunday will mark the end of an era for Truex, too. The 38-year-old is running his last race with Furniture Row Racing, which will shut down following the season finale.