775075464CH00119_Monster_En

Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota, lead the field past the green flag to start the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 19, 2017 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

HOMESTEAD, Fla.—After 35 races, including nine high-action, high-drama Playoff events the field of four is set with three former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champions – Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch – competing against a highly motivated six-race winner Denny Hamlin who is looking for his first title in 14 fulltime seasons.

There is no shortage of storylines in the build-up to Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Reigning series champion Joey Logano just missed earning a championship berth last week at Phoenix’s ISM Raceway meaning that there will not be a back-to-back series champ. The last time that happened was when Jimmie Johnson won his fifth straight title in 2010. In fact, should the 2014 champ Harvick, 2015 champ Busch or 2017 champ Truex win Sunday it would be only the second multi-time champion besides Johnson currently competing in the series.

A win for Hamlin would mark the eighth different champion in the last nine years. And he shows up at the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami track as the only one among the four with multiple wins — 2009 and 2013. His best ever finish in the championship came in 2010 when he finished runner-up to Johnson.

All four of these drivers bring incredible credentials to the title table.

Truex, Busch and Hamlin are Joe Gibbs Racing teammates marking the first time in Playoff competition three drivers from one team advanced to the championship race. Harvick, who drives the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, will be contending for the big trophy for the fifth time in the six-year history of the Playoff format.

Truex, driver of the No. 19 JGR Toyota, won a series best seven races this season including three in the Playoffs which was also most among the Playoff field. He won at Homestead to claim his 2017 championship for the small Furniture Row Racing team and finished runner-up there last year. This will be his debut for Joe Gibbs in the big race. He has earned 14 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes on the season and scored two (Charlotte and Las Vegas) of his seven wins on 1.5-mile tracks similar to Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Truex’s JGR teammate Kyle Busch won the regular season championship and was the first in the series to accumulate at least four victories. And he started the year with a record-tying streak of 11 consecutive top-10 finishes. The driver of the No. 18 JGR Toyota ultimately earned his title shot, however, based on points. He hasn’t won a race since June 2 at Pocono, Pa. Although he’s led the second most laps (343) among the four title contenders at Homestead, his only win came in his 2015 championship year. His 17.4 average finish at the track is lowest among his four fellow championship competitors.

Of all the drivers – championship eligible or not – Harvick must feel most optimistic. Not only has he led the most laps (373) among the title foursome he boasts the best average finish (5.643) in the field. He earned his championship shot with his third consecutive Playoff victory at Texas two weeks ago. He has four wins on the season and has finished in the top-10 at Homestead for the last 11 consecutive years. He’s finished top-five at Homestead in the last five years.

Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 JGR Toyota, shows up at Miami the most recent winner taking the trophy at Phoenix last week. He has six victories on the year, including the season-opening Daytona 500, which was a very quick confirmation that he and his first-year crew chief Chris Gabehart were a successful combination. Hamlin won at Texas and Kansas 1.5-milers similar to Homestead and already has more Homestead trophies at home than any of the other championship contenders.

Since the current Championship 4 Playoff format began in 2014, a championship-eligible driver has won every year at Homestead.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.