Who’s Hot, Who’s Not heading into NASCAR Cup championship race (video)

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This is it, the championship-deciding finale of the 2017 NASCAR Cup season: Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

After the third and final elimination race this past Sunday at Phoenix, four drivers remain to battle it out for the championship: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski.

Here’s how those four drivers shape up against other drivers and who’s hot or not heading into Sunday’s race:

WHO’S HOT:

 No. 78 Martin Truex Jr.

  • Second Championship 4 appearance
  • Finished second at Martinsville and Texas, third at Phoenix
  • Finished top five in eight of the nine playoff races this season
  • Seven wins in 2017, the most by a driver since Matt Kenseth had seven in 2013
  • Finished in the top five 18 times and the top 10 25 times this season, both are the series-best
  • Led a series high 2,175 laps in 2017, led the most laps in nine races
  • Best Miami finish is second in 2006
  • Best Miami finish in the last three races is 12th, worst in the prior eight races there was 11th
  • Won six of the 10 races on 1.5-mile tracks this season
  • Top-10 finishes in all 10 1.5-mile races this season
  • Finished top two in the last five 1.5-mile races

No. 4 Kevin Harvick

  • Third Championship 4 appearance
  • Fifth at Martinsville, won at Texas, fifth at Phoenix
  • Will compete for the Championship at Miami for the third time in the last four years
  • Six top-10 finishes in the playoffs and three finishes of 17th or worse
  • One Miami win, 2014 to win the championship
  • Finished top 10 in the last nine Miami races including top three in the last three
  • Top-10 finishes in the last eight 1.5-mile races including winning the last one at Texas
  • 11 career 1.5-mile wins

No. 18 Kyle Busch

  • Third Championship 4 appearance
  • Won at Martinsville on last-lap pass, his third win of the playoffs, 19th at Texas, seventh at Phoenix
  • Five wins this season, all in the last 15 races
  • Failed to lead at Phoenix, snapping a 17-race streak of leading at least one lap
  • One Miami win, 2015 to win the Championship
  • Finished top 10 in four of the last five races at Miami
  • Only one top-10 finish in the last four 1.5-mile races, 10th at Kansas

No. 2 Brad Keselowski

  • First Championship 4 appearance (won 2012 championship under old format)
  • Finished fourth at Martinsville, fifth at Texas and 16th at Phoenix
  • Got some help and luck at Phoenix to make the Championship 4 at Miami for the first time
  • Advanced to the Round of 8 with his win at Talladega
  • Winless at Miami in nine starts, best finish of third, twice
  • Only three top-10 finishes at Miami, all came in the last four races
  • Only two top-10 finishes in the last six 1.5-mile races

No. 11 Denny Hamlin

  • Finished seventh at Martinsville, third at Texas, 35th at Phoenix after an accident after finishing second and first in the first two stages
  • Finished top 10 in nine of the last 12 races
  • Finished Round of Eight fifth in points, -19 to the cutline
  • Two Miami wins, 2009 and 2013
  • Finished top 10 in the last four races at Miami
  • Finished top five in the last six 1.5-mile races

No. 21 Ryan Blaney

  • Finished eighth at Martinsville, sixth at Texas and 17th at Phoenix
  • Finished top 10 in three of the last four races
  • Finished sixth in points in the Round of 8, -23 to the cutline
  • Two series starts at Miami, finished 17th and 26th
  • Worst finish on a 1.5-mile track in the last five races is 11th at Chicago

No. 24 Chase Elliott

  • Finished 27th at Martinsville after late-race wreck with Denny Hamlin while leading. Finished eighth at Texas, second at Phoenix
  • Now has seven career runner-up finishes without a win, tied for the most all-time
  • Five top-five finishes in the playoffs is tied for second to Martin Truex Jr. (eight)
  • Finished seventh in points in the Round of 8, -25 to the cutline
  • One series start at Homestead, started fifth, finished 11th last year
  • Top-10 finishes in the last five 1.5-mile races; best finish of second, twice

No. 20 Matt Kenseth

  • Won at Phoenix, the 39th victory of his career
  • Won at least one race 14 different seasons
  • Left the Round of 12 10th, -30
  • One Miami win, 2007
  • Top-10 finishes in six of the last seven Miami races including the last four
  • 12 career 1.5-mile wins, second most among active drivers

No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.

  • On best streak of season
  • Finished 10th at Phoenix, finished top 12 in six of the last seven races this season
  • Best Miami finish is third in 2013, his only top five at Miami and one of only two top-10 finishes
  • Miami will be the 631st and last start of his Cup career; he has won 26 times

 WHO’S NOT:

No. 42 Kyle Larson

  • Finished 39th at Kansas (engine), 37th at Martinsville and Texas (accidents), 40th at Phoenix (engine), his worst four consecutive races in his career
  • Left the Round of 12 ninth in the standings, -9
  • Eight runner-up finishes this season
  • Four wins in 2017, had one entering this season
  • To- five finishes in the last two races at Miami including runner up last year
  • Finished runner-up four times on 1.5-mile tracks this season

No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

  • Finished eighth at Phoenix, best finish since his Daytona win in July
  • Left the Round of 12 in 11th, -46
  • Best Miami finish is 22nd, three times
  • Only two career 1.5 mile top-10 finishes in 57 starts (three percent)

No. 3 Austin Dillon

  • Finished 14th at Phoenix, fourth straight top-15 finish
  • Finished 14th in the first round, -4
  • Only four top-10 finishes this season, had 13 at this point last year
  • Won on fuel mileage at Charlotte earlier this year
  • Best Miami finish is 12th, last year
  • Only one top-10 finish in the last 12 1.5-mile races, his win at Charlotte in May

No. 1 Jamie McMurray

  • Finished sixth at Phoenix, ended four straight finishes of 18th or worse
  • Left the Round of 12 in 12th, -48
  • Seventeen top-10 finishes this season, six more than this point last year
  • Seventeen top-10 finishes is his second most in a single season (23 in 2004)
  • Five DNF for accidents in 2017
  • Best Miami finish is third in 2008
  • Finished top five in two of the last three races at Miami
  • Top-10 finishes in eight of the last 11 1.5 mile races

No. 48 Jimmie Johnson

  • Finished 12th at Martinsville after starting at the rear, 27th at Texas after a loose loose wheel, 39th at Phoenix for a wreck
  • Only one top-five finish in the last 22 races
  • Finished outside the top 10 in the last five races
  • Four top-five finishes this season, three were wins
  • Finished the Round of 8 eighth in points, -70 to the cutline
  • One Miami win, 2016 to win the Championship, led only three laps
  • Finished top 10 in the last four races at Miami
  • Twenty-eight career 1.5-mile wins, most all-time
  • Only three top-10 finishes in 10 starts on 1.5-mile tracks this season

No. 5 Kasey Kahne

  • Finished 19th at Phoenix, his worst finish in the last seven races
  • Only three top 10 finishes in the last 25 races
  • Finished 15th in the first round, -23 to the cut line
  • Six DNFs accident this season
  • Won at Indianapolis ending a 102 race winless streak, took a super lucky timed caution and turned it into a win.
  • Best Miami finish is 4th in 2006
  • Finished 12th or worse in the last five Miami races

No. 31 Ryan Newman

  • Finished 20th at Phoenix, only one top-10 finish during the playoffs
  • Finished Round of 16 13th in the standings, -2 to the cut line
  • Best Miami finish is second in 2014
  • Two top-three finishes in the last five Miami races but finished 16th or worse in the other three

No. 41 Kurt Busch

  • Finished 21st at Phoenix, six finishes of 20th or worse in the last eight races
  • Only two top-10 finishes in the playoffs
  • Finished 16th in the first round, 25 points below the cut line
  • One Miami win, 2002
  • Last top-five finish at Miami was 2009

No. 14 Clint Bowyer

  • Finished 13th at Phoenix, only three top-10 finishes in the last 13 races
  • Was 88 points out of a playoff spot
  • Finished runner-up three times in 2017
  • Thirteen top-10 finishes in 2017, had three in all of 2016
  • Best Miami finish is second in 2012
  • Finished top 12 in eight of his 12 Miami starts

No. 22 Joey Logano

  • Finished 12th at Phoenix
  • Thirteen finishes outside the top 20 in the last 26 races
  • Won at Richmond after starting in the rear due to a transmission change, but win was ruled 
encumbered due to illegal suspension
  • First time he missed the playoffs with Team Penske
  • Best Miami finish of fourth, twice
  • Finished top 10 in three of the last four Miami starts

 

 

Watch: Championship 4 drivers share thoughts on Miami outcome

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After 200 laps Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, William Byron claimed the Xfinity Series championship in his rookie year by finishing third in the Ford EcoBoost 300.

He finished ahead of his JR Motorsports teammates, Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier, and Richard Childress Racing’s Daniel Hemric.

Watch the above video for Byron’s first interview as a NASCAR champion.

Below are interviews with the remaining Championship 4 drivers.

Elliott Sadler

Sadler placed eighth in the race after contact with Ryan Preece with less than 10 laps to go cut a tire on his No. 1 Chevrolet. It Sadler’s fourth runner-up result in the points in his Xfinity career.

Justin Allgaier

Allgaier finished 12th in the race after struggling for most 300-mile event. He was competing without his primary crew chief, who had been suspended for the race. Chad Knaus, the seven-time champion crew chief in the Cup Series with Jimmie Johnson, helped out on the pit box for the No. 7 Chevrolet.

Daniel Hemric

Hemric finished last among the Championship 4 drivers in 34th after his No. 21 Chevrolet experienced battery problems early in Stage 2. Hemric spent 12 laps on pit road before returning to the race.

JR Motorsports sweeps top three in final Xfinity Series standings

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William Byron finished third in Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 to give JR Motorsports its second Xfinity title.

The team, co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., swept the top-three spots in the final standings with Elliott Sadler placing second and Justin Allgaier in third.

Daniel Hemric placed fourth after finishing last among the Championship 4 drivers in the race.

Race-winner Cole Custer ends the season in fifth.

Click here for the points results.

Results, stats for Xfinity season finale at Miami

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Cole Custer led 182 laps to win the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It’s his first Xfinity win and the first series win for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Custer swept all three stages of the race and beat Sam Hornish Jr., William Byron, Tyler Reddick and Ryan Preece.

Byron clinched the Xfinity title with his third-place finish.

Click here for results.

Devastated Elliott Sadler watches another title chance go away

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HOMESTEAD, Florida — Elliott Sadler’s fourth runner-up finish for the Xfinity title in the last seven years was a pain he had not felt before.

“I’d say tonight is the most devastating and down and out I’ve ever felt in my career,’’ Sadler said after finishing second to JR Motorsports teammate William Byron for the championship.

Sadler’s anger was directed at Ryan Preece, who slowed Sadler by challenging him for position and stalling Sadler’s momentum as Sadler tried to hold off Byron for the championship in the final 10 laps.

“We were in position to win this championship,’’ Sadler said. “We were there. He raced me hard and held me down and (Byron) got a run on us and he let (Byron) go. Very frustrating.’’

Byron took advantage by diving under Sadler and passing him. Sadler tried to get by Preece but made contact that caused his right front tire to go down. Sadler finished eighth, losing the championship to Byron, who placed third.

“To be that close and not win a championship is frustrating,’’ said the 42-year-old Sadler, who has not won a title in any of NASCAR’s top three national series. “I don’t have many years left, and I wanted to try to fulfill a childhood dream. I didn’t know it was going to come down to a guy that’s not even racing for anything to hold us down like that. No respect at all.’’

Preece said he was racing for something. He was in the No. 18 for Joe Gibbs Racing to compete for the car owner’s title.

“I’m just doing what I’m doing for Joe ,’’ Preece said. “They told me to race for the owners championship.’’

Sadler didn’t buy it when told what Preece said..

“He wasn’t because (Sam Hornish Jr.) was half a lap ahead of him,’’ Sadler said, referring to the Team Penske car that won the car owners title. “He wasn’t racing anybody.’’

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