Dominant season doesn’t end in title for Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. — In a season where Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick combined to win nearly half the races, they weren’t good enough to beat Joey Logano for the Cup championship Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“It’s all for naught,” Busch said of a season where he tied his career-high with eight wins and had career highs in top fives (22) and top 10s (28). “We won eight races, that’s great, but forget about it now.”

Busch struggled with an ill-handling car and spotty pit work at times that forced crew chief Adam Stevens to make a gamble on staying out late, hoping for a caution.

When the team got it, Busch kept the lead off pit road but had nothing on the restart and fell back, finishing fourth.

“I don’t know what happened to it,” Busch said of his car’s handling. “I thought we were way better than that. We wouldn’t have unloaded today if we thought we were that far off.

“Adam gave a great call for strategy there. I didn’t think it was going to work. I thought we were going to finish about 12th of 13th and the pit stop fell in our lap. I didn’t get the best of restarts, but it didn’t matter, they were gone.”

Harvick won a career-high eight races, tied his career best with 23 top-five finishes and had a career-high 29 top 10s.

“It’s been a great year and we just got beat tonight,” said Harvick, who ran without suspended crew chief Rodney Childers on the pit box for the second consecutive week.

He struggled with his car at times during the 267-lap race before finishing third. 

“Good in the day and not good enough at night” is how Harvick described his race.

Harvick led 58 laps – most of those before the sun set.

“As soon as it got dark we never could get our car tightened up there at the end,” Harvick said. “Then they made a great call to put us in position to win the race, and then the caution came out when (Brad Keselowski) spun (Daniel Suarez) out and came off pit road fourth, and just our strong point was not the restarts tonight, and wound up on the wrong side of it.”

Friday 5: Tony Gibson seeks to win Cup title four months after hospitalization

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Four months after suffering what he called a “mini-stroke” that impacted his vision and hearing, Tony Gibson could help lead Kevin Harvick to the Cup title.

The 54-year-old Gibson, as affable and easygoing as anyone who has worked a lifetime in the Cup garage, will be on Harvick’s pit box Sunday in Miami as crew chief Rodney Childers sits out his last race of a two-race suspension.

Gibson will be there after spending more than a month off from work recovering from his health issues.

“I was actually just driving home from work (July 6) and just had a real, I just could not get my brain to function with my hands and my feet, and I could not drive any further and knew something was wrong,” Gibson said. “Just wasn’t sure, and ended up going to the emergency room and put me in for observation that night, and then about one in the morning they came back and they had done several scans and told me I had a blood clot in my vertebral artery.”

Gibson said he was hospitalized more than a week before he was released. The blood clot started to dissolve but then it caused what Gibson called a mini-stroke, leaving him without 85 percent of his hearing in his left ear and cost him most of the function of his left eye.”

He went through therapy. He continues to see doctors. Gibson had an appointment with his neurologist today that had to be canceled since he’s in Miami.

“I was very lucky, and I don’t take that for granted,” Gibson said. “There’s a lot of people out there that are way worse than me, so it’s just something that I’ll overcome and I’ll get used to it and go on.”

When Stewart-Haas Racing asked him to fill in for Childers after his penalty for an infraction discovered in Harvick’s winning car at Texas, Gibson had to consult his doctors to make sure it was OK for him to fly.

“They said I’m probably safer than anybody on the plane as far as blood clots with the medicines that I’m on,” Gibson said.

“Other than having to get up and walk around on the plane and do my normal stuff that I do, they were pretty satisfied with me doing it, and if all possible, I was going. There was no way I was going to let those guys down.”

Gibson was a natural choice to fill in for Childers. Gibson has faced championship pressure before. The Daytona Beach native was on Alan Kulwicki’s crew when Kulwicki won the 1992 title. Gibson was the car chief for Jeff Gordon’s team when Gordon won crowns in 1998 and 2001. Gibson was a crew chief from 2003-17, winning the 2017 Daytona 500 with Kurt Busch.

But Gibson decided in December he wanted off the road, writing on social media “Traveling 4 days a week for 31 years can take a toll on you.”

He took a role in the shop, coordinating the work on the cars for all four Cup teams as production manager. That kept him at home with family and gave him plenty of time for fishing.

Then again, it’s hard to keep racers from the track. That’s where he’ll be Sunday.

2. Got his back

For as much success as Kevin Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers have had in their time together since 2014, their winning percentage (12.5 percent) is just slightly better than what Martin Truex Jr. and Cole Pearn have accumulated (12.0 percent) since 2015.

So how have Truex and Pearn achieved such success? It started when Pearn was Truex’s engineer at Furniture Row Racing in 2014 when the team struggled.

“Our cars were not very good,” Truex said. “We had some major issues that took a while to figure out. But he never pointed the finger at me.  He did a lot of the setups and a lot of the work on the cars, and he was the one writing down the notes and taking all my feedback.

“As far as I know, and as far as I could tell, he believed in me 100 percent in that time when we were running 20th. I felt like (he) always had my back and was always willing to go the extra mile to figure it out. Once we did, obviously, you’ve seen what happened. But that just gave me the trust and the confidence that he had my back and he was my guy, and we figured it out together.”

3. Success of failure?

Kyle Busch has tied his career-high for wins in a season with eight, already has a career-high in top fives (21) and top 10s (27) and has the best average finish (8.4) of his career.

But can such a year be successful if it doesn’t come with a championship?

 “I would say it’s certainly been a successful year, but I don’t think it would be truly successful without being able to bring home that championship,” Busch said.

Busch was asked if it would be more disappointing to lose the title this year after the season he’s had.

“I guess it depends on who you lose it to,” he said. “Obviously, Harvick’s done a phenomenal job. Those guys and that group have been so good all season long, even in the late stages of last year. You lose it to him, and it’s like, yeah, okay, I can see why they got it. In all honesty, I feel like we’ve been right there toe-to-toe with them. He wins a week, I can win a week, he wins a week, I can win a week. Truex wins a week, I win a week, he wins a week. That’s kind of the way this season’s gone.”

Busch was asked if it would be more disappointing to lose the title to Logano since Logano hasn’t had the overall season Harvick and Truex have had.

“I would agree with that statement,” Busch said. “(Logano has) been there. He’s been consistent. He’s been good. He hasn’t necessarily performed to the level of the big three, and that’s no shake on them at all. 

“It’s just the fact of the matter. So if he wins the title over the rest of us, then that would certainly be a little bit more disappointing.”

4. Back in time

The past four years, the driver who won the championship won the race. If that trend continues this year, then Joey Logano would need to win on a 1.5-mile track for the first time in 2015 at Kansas in the playoffs – a span of 34 races on 1.5-mile tracks.

Logano is encouraged with how his team has performed in recent races on 1.5-mile tracks.

“I think we were really good at Kansas this year,” Logano said of a race he led 100 of 267 laps before placing eighth. “We may not have won the race, but we sat on the pole, led most laps that race.

  “We ran pretty well (at Homestead-Miami Speedway last year), as well. I feel confident in that. I feel confident we’re going to make a lot of pit stops because the tires wear out really quick. I have so much confidence in this pit crew to do their job that we’re going to go out there and do our things, have fun with that.”

5. A special celebration

If Kevin Harvick wins the championship Sunday, 6-year-old son Keelan has a special celebration he wants to do.

Harvick said Keelan asked him Wednesday night that if he won the championship could they do anything they wanted.

“If you win the championship, you can do pretty much anything you want,” Harvick told his son.

“He’s like, We’re going to climb the fence, dad. I said, Okay, I’ll watch. You climb the fence.”

NASCAR America: Rodney Childers’ suspension takes some of No. 4 team’s ‘edge’

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Kevin Harvick‘s No. 4 team will be without its mastermind atop the pit box this weekend during the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Rodney Childers, the team’s crew chief, will complete his two-race suspension stemming from a penalty after the Texas race two weeks ago.

MORE: Rodney Childers can celebrate with team if Kevin Harvick wins title

In Childers’ place will be long-time crew chief Tony Gibson.

On NASCAR America, Kyle Petty and former crew chief Ray Evernham discussed how Childers’ absence will impact Harvick’s quest for a second Cup title in the best season of his career.

“I think without Rodney Childers there it takes a little bit of that edge away from the 4 car for Kevin,” Evernham said. “Because no matter how good Kevin is, he can’t control and see everything from inside that car. … There’s just a lot of intangible stuff that a crew chief makes a decision on that Rodney won’t be able to see.”

Watch the above video for more.

Viewers guide to Miami Championship Weekend

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Sunday will be a life-changing day for one driver. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano will race for the Cup championship in Miami (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC and NASCAR Hot Pass on NBCSN).

Harvick, Busch and Truex look to become the 16th driver in NASCAR history to win multiple Cup championships. Logano seeks his first series title.

“It’s just one of the greatest joys in the world,” Busch said of winning a NASCAR Cup title.

While one will celebrate Sunday, the other three will experience what Busch calls “one of the greatest defeats in the world.”

Here’s a guide to the final weekend of the NASCAR season:

FAMILIAR FACES

Kyle Busch races for a championship for the fourth consecutive year after failing to advance to the title race in 2014, the first year of the elimination format.

Kevin Harvick makes his fourth appearances in the championship race in five years. This is reigning champion Martin Truex Jr.’s third appearance. Joey Logano also makes his third appearance.

The four drivers have combined to win more than 60 percent of the races this season — the first time the Championship 4 drivers have won more than half the races in a season in the elimination format. They also rank first through fourth in top fives and laps led this year. This is clearly the best four for the title this season.

FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTEMPT

When one races around each other enough, things happen and drivers never forget.

Joey Logano upset Martin Truex Jr. by bumping him out of the way on the last lap to win at Martinsville last month. Had Logano not won that day he would not have advanced to the championship race.

Logano said he was doing what he had to win that day. Asked how he’d retaliate, Truex said: “I’m just not going to let him win (the title). I’m going to win it.”

Logano and Busch have their history in this race. Busch was upset with how Logano raced him at the end of the race last year.

“He held me up,” Busch said of Logano after last year’s title race. “He was there blocking every single chance he got. Got a real buddy there.”

Of course, it was March 2017 at Las Vegas when Kyle Busch walked up to Joey Logano and threw a punch at him for a last-lap incident between the two.

Harvick bumped Busch out of the lead with seven laps to go to win at New Hampshire in July. Said Busch after the race: “I’m not sure he (Harvick) had to do it, but he did. It’s fine. How you race is how you get raced.”

MUST-WIN SITUATION

In the first four years of this format, the champion had to win the race to claim the crown.

Logano is still haunted by the 2016 race. He restarted third on the inside line behind Carl Edwards with eight laps left. Logano dived low to get by Edwards, who blocked. They made contact, triggering a multi-car crash. While Logano was able to continue, he could not get to the lead again and finished fourth.

“Every time I watch that race, I get so mad I slam my laptop closed,” Logano said. “That moment will forever be burned into my mind of how close we were to winning a championship that day, but we’ve got another opportunity to right that, so here we go.”

The streak of a champion needing to win the race at this 1.5-mile track is likely to continue. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have combined to win 16 of the last 20 races on 1.5-mile tracks.

LAST RIDE TOGETHER

Sunday’s race marks the final race for Furniture Row Racing. The team, based in Denver, Colorado, is shutting down after this season.

Furniture Row Racing, owned by Barney Visser, made its Cup debut in 2005. The team did not compete in every Cup race until 2010. Furniture Row Racing scored its first Cup victory in 2011 when Regan Smith won the Southern 500. That was the organization’s only win until Martin Truex Jr. won in 2015 at Pocono. Truex has won 17 races with the team.

“We understand it’s here, (this) week is our last week, but it’s cool that we’re going to Homestead with a chance to win it in his last race,” Truex said.

Said Visser: “For me personally, my emotions are all over the board. I am sad not to be able to continue. I am going to miss the guys for sure, miss this whole thing. I don’t know what it’s going to feel like exactly when it’s over. And I don’t know what the emotions will be like when the Daytona 500 rolls around next year and we’re not in it. I just don’t know how emotional it will be. I am afraid it will be enormous.”

The team’s hauler left the shop late Tuesday night for its trip to Miami. It was an emotional time for the team.

“I don’t think any of us were prepared for how emotional it was (Tuesday) night when we loaded up,” crew chief Cole Pearn said. “I think we’ve just been head down, kind of pushing super hard, trying to do everything we can to get ready for this weekend, and once it was in the truck and saw the lift gate up, there was a lot of tears shed and a lot of sad faces, and I think all of us really realized that that was the last time we were going to do it together as a group.”

NEW (OLD) FACE ON THE PIT BOX

Tony Gibson, who is nicknamed “Old Man,” will be Kevin Harvick’s crew chief again this weekend in place of Rodney Childers, who was suspended the final two races by NASCAR for an infraction found on Harvick’s winning car at Texas.

That the 54-year-old Gibson is on the pit box is a story itself. He suffered a blood clot July 6.

“I was actually just driving home from work and just had a real, I just could not get my brain to function with my hands and my feet, and I could not drive any further and knew something was wrong,” Gibson said. “Just wasn’t sure, and ended up going to the emergency room and put me in for observation that night, and then about one in the morning they came back and they had done several scans and told me I had a blood clot in my vertebral artery.”

He said he was in the hospital for a little more than a week before being released. As the blood clot dissolved, it caused a mini stroke. He returned to the hospital. Gibson said he lost about 85 percent of the hearing in his left ear and most of the function in his left eye. He’s been doing rehab and returned to work Aug. 20.

Gibson has an appointment scheduled with his neurologist Friday but will miss it because he will be in Miami, leading Harvick’s team.

“I was very lucky, and I don’t take that for granted,” Gibson said. “There’s a lot of people out there that are way worse than me, so it’s just something that I’ll overcome and I’ll get used to it and go on.”

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

There will be many changes after Sunday’s race, particularly among drivers.

Matt Kenseth does not have plans to race next season, so Sunday’s race looks to be his final Cup race.

Daniel Suarez will run his last race for Joe Gibbs Racing. He is being replaced by Martin Truex Jr. after this season. Suarez has not announced where he’ll drive next year but is expected to sign with Stewart-Haas Racing.

Kurt Busch will drive his final Cup race for Stewart-Haas Racing. His seat is expected to be filled by Suarez. Busch is expected to move to Chip Ganassi Racing and replace Jamie McMurray, who has an offer from car owner Chip Ganassi to drive in next year’s Daytona 500 before moving to a position in the front office.

Ryan Newman will run his final race for Richard Childress Racing and move to Roush Fenway Racing to drive the No. 6 car next season. Newman will be replaced by RCR Xfinity driver Daniel Hemric.

Matt DiBenedetto will drive his final race for Go Fas Racing. DiBenedetto moves to Leavine Family Racing to drive the No. 95 next year. Go Fas Racing has not announced a driver for next year.

AJ Allmendinger will drive his final race for JTG Daugherty Racing this weekend. He will be replaced by rookie Ryan Preece next season in the No. 47 car. Allmendinger has not announced plans for next year.

This also will be the final weekend seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson races with crew chief Chad Knaus. They’ve been together since Johnson’s rookie year in 2002 but will split after this season. Knaus will be the crew chief for William Byron next year. Kevin Meendering will be Johnson’s crew chief next year.

PIT CREW CHANGES

Kevin Harvick’s team announced this week that it is changing its rear tire changer.

Chris McMullen, who had been teammate Aric Almirola’s rear tire changer all season, moves to Harvick’s team this week and replaces Michael Johnson.

The move was made because Almirola was eliminated from title contention last weekend at Phoenix. McMullen becomes the team’s third rear tire changer this season. Daniel Smith had the role until health issues forced him out. Johnson took over at the Southern 500.

That’s not the only team that has made changes in the playoffs. After teammate Ryan Blaney was eliminated last month at Kansas, his jackman, Graham Stoddard, went to Joey Logano’s team.

“That group has been stellar,” crew chief Todd Gordon said of the revamped unit. “If you look at Martinsville, I would give them a fair amount of credit for putting us in position to win that race.”

Kyle Busch’s team changed fuelers before last weekend’s race at Phoenix. John Eicher moved over from Erik Jones‘ team in a temporary role. He filled in for Matthew Tyrrell, who stayed home on baby watch. Crew chief Adam Stevens said that he had not heard as of Wednesday if Tyrrell’s baby had arrived but said that Tyrrell would be in Miami with the team and resume his fueling duties.

Martin Truex Jr.’s team has had the same pit crew since Richmond, the second playoff race. Clay Robinson had been a backup front tire changer at Joe Gibbs Racing and moved over to Truex’s team, which gets its pit crew from JGR.

ONE LAST CHANCE

Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson, drivers who each won last year, have a final chance to score their first victory of this season.

Johnson has scored at least one win in 16 consecutive season, which is tied for the third-longest streak in series history (Richard Petty has the record at 18 consecutive seasons).

Hamlin has scored at least one victory in 12 consecutive seasons, which ranks 13th on the all-time Cup list.

Larson has finished runner-up six times this year but has yet to win. He’s had at least one win in each of the past two seasons.

NEW TIRE

Cup and Xfinity teams will have a new left-side tire this weekend compared to what was run in Miami last year.

The left-side tire features a construction update. It is the same left-side tire teams ran at Chicagoland in July. The multi-zone right-side tires have not changed since last year. Cup and Xfinity teams have run this combination of left- and right-side tires at Auto Club Speedway in March and at Chicagoland Speedway in July.

“Because of the high wear we see, these compounds provide the endurance and tread wear needed for Homestead’s track surface, while at the same time giving the cars enough grip,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing.

TWO OTHER CHAMPIONSHIPS AT STAKE

The Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series also will crown their champions this weekend.

The Truck series will race Friday. Former champion Johnny Sauter, Brett Moffitt, Justin Haley and Noah Gragson will compete for the title.

The Xfinity Series will race Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Cole Custer, Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, Daniel Hemric will compete for the crown. Custer won this race last year but was not eligible to win the championship, having been eliminated from title contention earlier in the playoffs.

The 23-year-old Bell, who drives for Joe Gibbs Racing, won the Truck series title last year.

Who is hot and not entering Cup finale at Miami

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Here’s a look from Racing Insights on who is hot and who is not heading into Sunday’s Cup race at Miami (3 p.m. ET on NBC):

Kevin Harvick

Round of 8 – Hot, But Penalized at Texas

• Finished fifth at ISM Raceway (20th in Stage 1, 4th in Stage 2, 73 laps led); pitted from the lead on Lap 73 due to flat right front tire (2 laps left in Stage 1); not eligible for wave around after Stage 1 caution for pitting while pit road was closed; caught one lap down on Lap 228 after caution came out during green flag pit stops; spun David Ragan on Lap 239 while battling for eighth
• Won at Texas (1st in Stage 1, 1st in Stage 2, 177 laps led); team assessed L1 penalty after spoiler was found at R&D Center to not be proper; docked 40 driver and owner points; Harvick lost ability to lock into Championship 4 with win; crew chief Rodney Childers and car chief Robert Smith suspended for final 2 races of season; Childers fined $75,000
• Finished 10th at Martinsville (9th in Stage 1, 15th in Stage 2)

Championship 4 – Great

• Advances to Championship 4 for fourth time in career (missed 2016)
• Won championship in 2014
• 2014: won race and championship
• 2015: finished second in race and second in championship standings
• 2017: finished fourth in race and third in championship standings

2018 Season – Great

• Won eight of last 34 races
• Eight wins in a season is a career best
• Finished in Top 10 in 14 of last 17 races
• Finished in Top 5 in 13 of last 22 races

Miami – Red Hot

• Finished fourth or better in four straight races at Miami (including win in 2014)
• Finished in Top 10 in 10 straight races at Miami
• Finished in Top 5 in nine of 17 career starts at Miami
• Finished in Top 10 in 15 of 17 career starts at Miami
• Since joining SHR in 2014, avg. running position at Miami has been fourth or better in all four races
• Started 9th, fourth in Stage 1, third in Stage 2, finished fourth in this race one year ago; had a hole in the fender from debris while running fourth on Lap 189; pitted from fourth to patch hole on Lap 199

1.5-Mile Tracks – Red Hot

• Won five of last 12 races on 1.5-mile tracks
• Finished top 10 in 16 of last 19 races on 1.5-mile tracks
• Harvick, Kyle Busch and Truex Jr. combined to win 16 of last 20 races on 1.5-mile tracks

 

KYLE BUSCH

Round of 8 – Hit or Miss, With A Win

• Won at ISM Raceway (seventh in Stage 1, first in Stage 2, 117 laps led)
• Finished 17th at Texas (seventh in Stage 1, 25th in Stage 2); penalized for speeding in pits on Lap 32 while running fifth; pitted for a second time under green on Lap 140 due to vibration and was trapped two laps down
• Finished fourth at Martinsville (third in Stage 1, third in Stage 2, 100 laps led)

Championship 4 – Great

• Advances to Championship 4 for fourth straight season and fourth time in career
• Won championship in 2015
• 2015: won race and championship
• 2016: finished sixth in race and third in championship standings
• 2017: finished second in race and second in championship standings

2018 Season – Great

• Won eight of last 29 races
• Last seven races: four top 10s and three finishes of 17th or worse
• Finished in Top 5 in 14 of last 23 races
• Finished in the Top 10 in 27 of 35 races in 2018
• Finished in the Top 5 in 21 of 35 races this season

Miami – Very Good

• Finished sixth or better in three straight Miami races (including win in 2015)
• Finished top 10 in five of last six races at Miami (39th in in 2014)
• Started third, (third in Stage 1, fourth in Stage 2, 43 laps led), finished second in this race one year ago; missed pit road during green flag pit stops on Lap 123 while running second

1.5-Mile Tracks – Red Hot
• Won three of last eight races on 1.5-mile tracks
• Finished in Top 10 in nine of 10 1.5-mile races in 2018
• Busch, Harvick and Truex Jr. combined to win 16 of last 20 races on 1.5-mile tracks

Wild Cards Entering Miami

 

Joey Logano

Round of 8 – Great Until Phoenix

• Finished 37th at ISM Raceway (21st in Stage 1, 37th in Stage 2); DNF – spun on Lap 96 and backed into wall after losing left-rear tire while running 16th
• Finished third at Texas (sixth in Stage 1, fifth in Stage 2, 54 laps led)
• Won at Martinsville (second in Stage 1, first in Stage 2, 309 laps led); knocked Truex out of the way exiting Turn 4 on last lap to win

Championship 4 – Not Great

• Advances to Championship 4 for third time in career (2014, 2016, 2018)
• Looking for first career championship
• 2014: finished 16th in race and fourth in championship standings
• 2016: finished fourth in race and second in championship standings

2018 Season – Great Until Phoenix

• ISM Raceway ended a streak of six straight Top 10s
• ISM Raceway was tied with his worst finish in the last 17 races of 2018
• Finished in Top 10 in 10 of last 13 races
• Finished in Top 5 in seven of last 12 races

Miami – Very Good

• Finished sixth or better in the last three races at Miami
• Finished top-10 in four of last five races at Miami (16th in 2014)
• Started 19th, ninth in Stage 1, eighth in Stage 2, finished sixth in this race one year ago

1.5-Mile Tracks – Very Good

• Finished in Top 10 in five straight 1.5-mile races
• Finished in Top 10 in 11 of last 12 1.5-mile races

 

Martin Truex Jr.

Round of 8 – Going In The Wrong Direction

• Finished 14th at ISM Raceway (12th in Stage 1, third in Stage 2, 8 laps led)
• Finished ninth at Texas (fifth in Stage 1, third in Stage 2); started in rear due to engine change; pitted to address vibration on Lap 247 while running seventh
• Finished third at Martinsville (seventh in Stage 1, fourth in Stage 2, 18 laps led); qualifying time disallowed after failing post-qualifying inspection; Logano knocked Truex out of lead exiting Turn 4 on last lap

Championship 4 – Good

• Advances to Championship 4 for third time in career and second straight season
• Won championship in 2017
• 2015: finished 12th in race and fourth in championship standings
• 2017: won race and championship

2018 Season – Hit or Miss Recently

• Finished top 10 in three of the last four races
• Last nine races: 5 top 10s and four finishes of 14th or worse
• Finished in Top 5 in 14 of last 25 races

Miami – Mixed Results Recently

• Won in 2017, but finished 12th or worse in three of last four races at Miami
• Finished in Top 10 in eight of 13 career starts at Miami
• Three of five career finishes outside Top 10 have come in last four races
• Started second, fifth in Stage 1, second in Stage 2, 78 laps led, won in this race one year ago

1.5-Mile Tracks – Red Hot

• Won eight of last 20 races on 1.5-mile tracks
• Finished top 10 in 20 of last 21 1.5-mile races
• Truex Jr., Harvick and Kyle Busch combined to win 16 of last 20 races on 1.5-mile tracks

 

Non-Playoff Drivers

Who is Hot Entering Miami:

Brad Keselowski

• Finished second at ISM Raceway (5th in Stage 1, 2nd in Stage 2, 32 laps led)

2018 Season – Warming Up

• Finished sixth or better in three of last four races
• Last 11 races: seven top 10s and four finishes of 12th or worse

Miami – Good

• Finished seventh or better in four of last five races at Miami (35th in 2016)
• Started 5th, second in Stage 1, fifth in Stage 2, 1 lap led, finished seventh in this race one year ago

 

Austin Dillon

• Finished eighth at ISM Raceway (10th in Stage 1, sixth in Stage 2)

2018 Season – Warming Up

• Top 10 in back to back races for the first time in 2018
• Last eight races: four Top 10s and four finishes of 11th or worse
• Finished outside Top 10 in 28 of 35 races since Daytona 500 win

Miami – Not Good

• Never finished in the top 10 in four career starts at Miami
• Started 17th, 13th in Stage 1, 13th in Stage 2, finished 11th in this race one year ago

 

Aric Almirola

Round of 8 – Good

• Finished fourth at ISM Raceway (11th in Stage 1, 10th in Stage 2)
• Finished eighth at Texas (10th in Stage 1, 6th in Stage 2); started in the rear due to unapproved body modification
• Finished 11th at Martinsville (10th in Stage 1, 12th in Stage 2)

2018 Season – Very Good

• Reached the Round of 8 for first time in career
• Finished in top 10 in two straight races and four of last five races

Miami – Very Bad

• Finished 16th or worse in five straight races at Miami
• Finished 40th or worse in two of last three races at Miami
• Started 20th, 19th in Stage 1, 18th in Stage 2, finished 18th in this race one year ago

 

Kyle Larson

• Finished third at ISM Raceway (6th in Stage 1, 5th in Stage 2); pit from second on Lap 289 with a possible loose wheel

2018 Season – Hot

• Finished in Top 5 the last two races and three of last four
• Last seven races: three Top 5s and four finishes of 11th or worse

Miami – Red Hot

• Finished top 5 in three straight races at Miami
• Miami is his self proclaimed “best track”
• Started seventh, first in Stage 1, first in Stage 2, 145 laps led, finished third in this race one year ago

 

Wild Cards Entering Miami:

Jamie McMurray

• Finished sixth at ISM Raceway (24th in Stage 1, 20th in Stage 2)

2018 Season – Pretty Bad, But Bright Spot in Phoenix

• ISM Raceway ended a streak of five straight finishes of 16th or worse
• Last 14 races: five top 10s and nine finishes of 16th or worse
• Finished 15th or worse in 26 of 35 races this season

Miami – Hit or Miss

• Last four races at Miami: two 5th-place finishes and two 13th-place finishes
• Started 13th, 11th in Stage 1, 12th in Stage 2, finished 13th in this race one year ago

 

Chase Elliott

Round of 8 – Good Until Phoenix

• Finished 23rd at ISM Raceway (first in Stage 1, seventh in Stage 2, 16 laps led); penalized for speeding entering pits on Lap 231 while leading; collected in multi-car accident on Lap 269 when Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin wreck on backstretch while battling for lead
• Finished sixth at Texas (ninth in Stage 1, 10th in Stage 2)
• Finished seventh at Martinsville (11th in Stage 1, seventh in Stage 2)

2018 Season – Good

• Eliminated in Round of 8 for second straight season
• ISM Raceway ended a streak of three finishes of seventh or better
• Finished top-10 in 12 of last 16 races in 2018

Miami – Hit or Miss

• Two career starts at Miami: fifth in 2017 and 11th in 2016
• Started 18th, sixth in Stage 1, ninth in Stage 2, finished fifth in this race one year ago

 

Ryan Blaney

• Finished 34th at ISM Raceway (second in Stage 1, eighth in Stage 2, 3 laps led); DNF – had an issue with radiator on Lap 237 while running second

2018 Season – Hit or Miss

• Last five races: two top 10s and three finishes of 20th or worse
• Last 17 races: eight top 10s and nine finishes of 11th or worse

Miami – Very Bad

• Finished 17th or worse in three career starts at Miami
• Started 11th, 29th in Stage 1, 28th in Stage 2, finished 29th in this race one year ago

 

Erik Jones

• Finished 17th at ISM Raceway (eighth in Stage 1, 14th in Stage 2, 11 laps led); penalized for speeding on Lap 136

2018 Season – Hit or Miss

• Finished 17th or worse in two of last three races
• Finished top-10 in four of last six races

Miami – Not A Good Start

• Started 14th, 17th in Stage 1, 21st in Stage 2, finished 21st in this race one year ago, his only career start at the track

 

William Byron

• Finished ninth at ISM Raceway (17th in Stage 1, ninth in Stage 2)

2018 Season – Awful Until Phoenix

• ISM was his first top 10 since Watkins Glen (12 races between)
• Finished 12th or worse in 31 of 35 races this season

Miami – No Cup Experience, Very Good in Lower Series

• Finished third in only career Xfinity Series start at Miami (2017)
• Won only career Camping World Truck Series start at Miami (2016)

 

KURT BUSCH

Round of 8 – Good Until Phoenix

• Finished 32nd at ISM Raceway (fourth in Stage 1, 23rd in Stage 2, 52 laps led); DNF – involved in multi-car accident on Lap 269 after contact with Denny Hamlin on backstretch while battling for lead
• Finished 7th at Texas (second in Stage 1, eighth in Stage 2)
• Finished 6th at Martinsville (fifth in Stage 1, fifth in Stage 2)

2018 Season – Hit or Miss

• Eliminated in Round of 8 for third time in career
• Last nine races: four top 10s and five finishes of 14th or worse
• Finished top-10 in 12 of last 17 races

Miami – Not Good

• Finished outside the top 10 in four of last five races at Miami
• Only six Top 10s in 17 career starts at Miami
• Started eighth, seventh in Stage 1, 6th in Stage 2, finished 22nd in this race one year ago; spun while running 10th on Lap 228

 

BUBBA WALLACE

• Finished 10th at ISM Raceway (25th in Stage 1, 16th in Stage 2)

2018 Season – Terrible Until Phoenix

• ISM Raceway was first Top 10 since Texas in April (27 races between)
• Finished 14th or worse in 27 of last 28 races and 23rd or worse in 15 of last 17 races
• Finished 20th or worse in 26 of 35 races in 2018

Miami – No Cup Experience, Mixed Results in Lower Series

• Two career Xfinity Series starts: 10th in 2015 and 11th in 2016
• Two career Camping World Truck Series starts: Won in 2014 and 15th in 2013

 

Who is Not Hot entering Miami:

DENNY HAMLIN

• Finished 13th at ISM Raceway (third in Stage 1, 12th in Stage 2); involved in multi-car accident on Lap 269 after making contact with Kurt Busch on backstretch while battling for lead

2018 Season – Bad

• Finished 13th or worse in three of last four races
• Last 14 races: six top 10s and eight finishes of 12th or worse

Miami – Very Good

• Finished in top 10 in five straight races at Miami (including win in 2013)
• Finished in top 10 in nine of 13 career starts at Miami
• Started first, eighth in Stage 1, 10th in Stage 2, finished ninth in this race one year ago

 

Clint Bowyer

Round of 8 – Ice Cold

• Finished 35th at ISM Raceway (13th in Stage 1, 35th in Stage 2); DNF – scraped the wall on lap 45 while running 16th; lost left-rear tire entering Turn 3 on lap 133 and hit wall hard while running seventh
• Finished 26th at Texas (30th in Stage 1, 28th in Stage 2); contact with Hamlin on Lap 1; pitted on Lap 10 with flat right-rear tire after contact with Hamlin; penalized for crew over the wall too soon on Lap 164
• Finished 21st at Martinsville (fourth in Stage 1, 8th in Stage 2, 1 lap led); damaged right-front fender after contact with William Byron on pit road on Lap 133; spun after contact with Jimmie Johnson on Lap 457 while running 10th

2018 Season – Ice Cold

• Eliminated in Round of 8 for first time in career
• Finished outside Top 20 in four of last six races
• Last 12 races: five top 10s and seven finishes of 13th or worse (3 DNFs)

Miami – Slumping

• Finished 12th or worse in three straight races at Miami
• Started 16th, 10th in Stage 1, 15th in Stage 2, finished 12th in this race one year ago

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

• Finished 33rd at ISM Raceway (15th in Stage 1, 19th in Stage 2); DNF – crashed hard in middle of turn 1 and 2 on lap 263 while running 14th

2018 Season – Bad

• Finished outside the top 10 in four straight races
• Finished 14th or worse in 26 of 35 races in 2018

Miami – Very Bad

• Finished 15th or worse in six career starts at Miami
• Finished 22nd or worse in five of six career starts at Miami (two DNFs)
• Started 6th, 15th in Stage 1, 11th in Stage 2, finished 15th in this race one year ago

 

Daniel Suarez

• Finished 36th at ISM Raceway (19th in Stage 1, 36th in Stage 2); DNF – ran into back of Matt Kenseth after Joey Logano spun on Lap 96 and the damaged vehicle clock ran out on Lap 102

2018 season – Very Bad

• Finished 28th or worse in last two races and 24th or worse in three of last four
• Finished 16th or worse in six of last eight races
• Finished outside the top-10 in 10 of last 13 races

Miami – Awful Start

• Started 10th, 14th in Stage 1, 14th in Stage 2, finished 34th in this race one year ago, his only career start at the track; DNF – hit debris on Lap 225 while running 14th and lost brakes

 

Paul Menard

• Finished 29th at ISM Raceway (32nd in Stage 1, 34th in Stage 2); started in the rear after going to backup car (crashed in final practice)

2018 Season – Very Bad

• Finished 22nd or worse in three of last four races
• Finished 13th or worse in seven of last eight races

Miami – Very Bad

• Finished 14th or worse in three straight races at Miami
• Only one top 10 finish in 12 Miami starts (fourth 2014)
• Started 15th, 26th in Stage 1, 25th in Stage 2, finished 16th in this race one year ago

 

Ryan Newman

• Finished 11th at ISM Raceway (14th in Stage 1, 11th in Stage 2)

2018 Season – Bad

• Finished outside the top 10 in seven of last eight races

Miami – Hit or Miss

• Last eight races at Miami: four Top 10s and four finishes of 12th or worse
• Finished 16th or worse in two of last three races at Miami
• Started 21st, 18th in Stage 1, 16th in Stage 2, finished 10th in this race one year ago

 

JIMMIE JOHNSON

• Finished 15th at ISM Raceway (16th in Stage 1, 13th in Stage 2); damaged in multi-car accident lap 269

2018 Season – Cold

• Finished outside the top 10 in four straight races and five of last six
• Last 12 races: 4 top-10s and eight finishes of 12th or worse
• Currently on a 58-race winless streak (longest of career)

Miami – Good

• Finished top-10 in four of last five Miami races (27th in 2017)
• Finished in Top 10 in 11 of 17 career starts at Miami
• Started 22nd, 32nd in Stage 1, 31st in Stage 2, finished 27th in this race one year ago

 

Alex Bowman

• Finished 30th at ISM Raceway (ninth in Stage 1, 15th in Stage 2); DNF – penalized for uncontrolled tire on Lap 136; collected in multi-car accident lap 269; spun in Turn 2 from 15th and hit wall with engine failure

2018 Season – Bad

• Finished 14th or worse in three straight races and five of last six

Miami – Very Bad

• Never finished better than 16th in three career starts at Miami