Thirty-five races and nearly nine months after the Daytona 500 kicked off the the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, the final lineup of the four drivers who will compete for the series championship is at last set.
Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski will decide the championship next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. All four drivers will enter the final race tied in points, and whichever one of the four has the best finish at Homestead will be the 2017 Cup champion.
It should be an epic battle.
Here’s how the final four combatants measure up:
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing
After a frustrating start to the season, in which he led a lot of laps but didn’t win, Busch has come on strong, with three playoff race victories and five overall. In addition, Busch has 13 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes.
This year, Busch has won at Pocono Raceway, Bristol Motor Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Dover International Speedway and Martinsville Speedway.
Busch won the finale at Homestead in 2015 to claim his first and so far only Cup championship. That said, his average finish there is 19.83, second worst of any Cup track for the Las Vegas native. In this year’s playoffs, Busch’s average finish is 12.22.
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing
The 2014 champion locked himself into Homestead with a clutch, late-race charge to victory at Texas Motor Speedway, when he ran down Martin Truex Jr. in the final 10 laps to win just his second race of the season.
Harvick’s first victory of 2017 came in June on the Sonoma Raceway road course in Northern California. Through the first 35 races of the year, Harvick has earned 12 top fives and 21 top 10s. In the playoffs this year, Harvick’s average finish is 10.89.
Known as a racer who is at his best in pressure situations, Harvick won the 2014 championship, the first contested with the final-four format at Homestead. In fact, to win the 2014 title, Harvick had to win the final two races of the year, which he did. Statistically, Homestead is Harvick’s best track. His average finish there is 6.94 and he has the 2014 victory and eight top-five finishes in 16 Homestead races.
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske
The 2012 Cup champion has had an up-and-down season, but he has performed well enough in the playoffs to make it to Homestead and that’s what really matters. Keselowski won early in the season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway, but didn’t win again until last month, when he was victorious at Talladega Superspeedway.
On the year, Keselowski has 15 top fives and 20 top 10s in his No. 2 Team Penske Ford. His average playoff finish is 7.57.
This will be Keselowski’s first time as a member of the final four since NASCAR adopted the winner-take-all format in 2014. Homestead historically has not been a great track for him; his average finish there is 15.89, with a best finish of third.
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing
After making the final four in 2015 and having a strong 2016 campaign, Truex has been the breakout star of 2017, winning the regular-season Cup championship. He leads the series in race victories (7), top fives (17), top 10s (24), playoff points (69) and laps led (2,175) and has led the points standings since race No. 18 at Kentucky Speedway.
Six of Truex’s seven victories have come at 1.5-mile tracks, the same distance as Homestead, and he’s won three playoff races. Truex swept at Kansas Speedway this year and won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kentucky, Watkins Glen International, Chicagoland Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
In 12 career starts at Homestead, Truex has an average finish of 12.23, with three top fives and seven top 10s. His average finish in the nine playoff races so far is 4.67.