What drivers said after Cup playoff race at Miami

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Joey Logano — Winner: “No, I told you we weren’t and showed you why were not (the underdog). We were the favorite like I told you before the race started. I am so proud of everybody for rising to the occasion. We executed down the stretch like nobody’s business. … I can’t wait to break that Mustang out.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 2nd: “I just needed time. That’s all I needed. They were faster than us for 15 or 20 laps all day long. It was like a reverse scenario from last year. Last year we took advantage of the short run car at the end – the 18 (Kyle Busch) car should’ve won the race and tonight we should’ve won the race and they (Joey Logano) took advantage of the short-run car. I don’t know what else we could’ve done. Honestly, we worked our guts out all weekend and just to get here, I told you earlier we shut a lot of people up and made them eat crow and that felt good. To come here and almost upset the field and almost win it back to back was really awesome. I just wish that last caution hadn’t come out. Other than that, I don’t know what we could’ve done.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 3rd: “Obviously, we got loose as the night went on. Really, it was a great pit call there in position to win the race if the caution doesn’t come out and we came down to a pit stop and a restart and we didn’t do either good. I just hate it for all our guys on our Jimmy John’s Ford.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 4th: “Just not at all what we wanted obviously and not what we expected either. We knew the 22 (Joey Logano) was fast, but man, I thought we were way closer than that. We kind of held up the first half of the race, but after that we were just never close. I don’t know what happened, just didn’t have the feel in the race car that I needed tonight. Just all night long, as soon as we got out of the gas and into the corner we were just sideways, just turning to the right and trying to save it. You do that for 50 or 60 laps, whatever it is on tires and you just can’t hang on. I couldn’t hang after eight laps, let alone the 50. Bummed for all of our guys, Adam Stevens (crew chief) and my guys did a phenomenal job. This M&M’s Camry team was really, really good – just not good enough on the night we wanted the most. We finished fourth, last of the Playoff guys. That’s not what it takes these days.

Chase Elliott — Finished 7th: “Man, if we make this (Championship) 4 one day, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 8th: “I want to congratulate everyone at Ford Performance. I wish it were Kevin (Harvick) winning the championship, but I’m glad we kept it in the Ford family. That was a decent way to end the season tonight for us. We didn’t qualify like we wanted Friday, but we had a good car tonight. We’ve had a good year. My guys have worked hard and had a lot of fun and a lot of success. We’re ready for a break, but it won’t be long, and we’ll be ready to go to Daytona and start the new season.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 9th: “It was a great year for us, our first year working together. That was quite an accomplishment for us to battle the way we battled and to come out of here with a top five in points, I’m just really proud of everybody on this Smithfield team. Ford had an amazing year. We won 19 races, so just an incredible year and I’m really excited about getting ready for 2019.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 11th: “Man, I really wanted a top-10 finish today to finish out the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and we came so close. Our Dow UCON Camaro ZL1 had handling issues for most of the race, but I had confidence in crew chief Justin Alexander and the Dow Racing team that they would be able to work on our Camaro ZL1 during pit stops. They’ve been great at that all season long. We knew half the battle was gaining track position and we worked hard to do that both on the track and on pit road. By the final stage, the handling improved a lot. I was digging at the end but came up just short of a 10th-place finish. That was fun. I want to thank everyone at RCR and ECR and all of our partners for a great 2018 season. We were able to accomplish a lot together and I’m looking forward to next year.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 13th: “I didn’t push it too early because I ran up there every lap, but I don’t know… I guess lost focus or whatever and hit the wall. I’m pretty mad at myself about that because I felt like we had a really good shot to win there and I just gave it away.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 14th: “It’s tough. When you think of the relationship with Lowe’s, I hate to see that come to an end. Seventeen, 18 years really when you look at my first three races that I ran for them, everything we accomplished together, their belief in me and the company’s support of me and this team over the years. So that is one piece and then the other piece obviously with Chad (Knaus), you know it’s time for us to move on and have a new project and have new people to work with. But he is my brother, there is just no way around it. So, not an easy situation it sure has not been easy, especially the second half of the year. We knew this was coming prior to the release or the announcement, I should say, but the season is behind us now and I look forward to a good off season and get geared up for 2019.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 15th: “Our E-Z-GO Camaro ZL1 was consistent all weekend. We turned in a great qualifying effort, made it to the final round and started eighth. No matter what changes we threw at it tonight, our Camaro ZL1 was tight through the middle of the corner and crazy loose off. I want to thank Richard Childress for giving me this opportunity to drive for him these last five seasons. To my crew chief Luke (Lambert), my crew, my teammate Austin (Dillon), and all the RCR team members, I want to say thank you. It was an honor to work with so many incredible people and partners over the years. We did great things together and it sure was fun to run for championships and give Luke his first ever Cup win.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 22nd: “I appreciate all of the hard work that this Germain Racing team put in all year long to get our GEICO Camaro ZL1 to the track every week. Our road crew leaves their families behind each weekend, and all of our guys put in countless hours at the shop. We didn’t have the results this year that we wanted, but we had a lot of great racing moments and this team never gave up. That hard work mentality isn’t going to end just because the season is over. They will all be back in the shop tomorrow morning to start building our cars for the 2019 season. We’re in this together, and there’s nobody else that I wanted battling with me tonight in Homestead and come February for the Daytona 500.”

William Byron — Finished 24th: “It was a good effort today, but things didn’t go our way. Overall, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs this season, but it’s been a good learning experience. We’ll get back after it in 2019.”

 

What each Xfinity Championship 4 driver would accomplish with title

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The day before the Cup Series title is decided, the Xfinity Series will do the same with the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN).

The four drivers who make up the Xfinity Championship 4 are rookies Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick and sophomore drivers Daniel Hemric and Cole Custer.

Regardless of who claims the title, the series will have its seventh different champion in as many years. They’ll also be the 13 different champion in 14 years.

Here’s a further breakdown of what would be accomplished by each driver should they emerge as the 2018 Xfinity champion.

YOUNG MAN’S SERIES

If Bell (23 years old), Reddick (22) or Custer (20) win, they’ll be the eighth consecutive champion 25 or younger.

Hemric (27) would be the first champion over 25 since Brad Keselowski (26) in 2010.

CALIFORNIA KIDS

If Reddick or Custer win, they’ll join Kevin Harvick as the second California natives to win the title.

Reddick hails from Corning while Custer is originally from Ladera Ranch. Harvick, who won the title in 2001 and 2006, is from Bakersfield.

ROOKIE ROYALTY

If Bell or Reddick claim the title, they’ll join Chase Elliott (2014) and William Byron (2017) as the only rookies to win the title.

Bell enters the race with a rookie record seven wins this season

CHAMPIONSHIP POTION No. 9

If Reddick wins the title – in his last race with JR Motorsports before moving to Richard Childress Racing next season – he would deliver JR Motorsports its third Xfinity title. All three  – Elliott in 2014 and Byron in 2017 – have come from the No. 9 team.

A Reddick title would also mean all three JRM titles have been with drivers in their first full-time year with the team.

Reddick won the pole for this race last year with Chip Ganassi Racing and placed fourth.

WINLESS CHAMPION?

Hemric will take part in his last Xfinity race as a full-time driver before departing for RCR’s No. 31 car in the Cup Series.

If he wins the race Saturday, it would not only be Hemric’s first career Xfinity win (in 66 starts), it would be his first career NASCAR win (in 118 starts across all three national series).

Should he not win the race but win the title, Hemric would join Austin Dillon (2013) as the second winless Xfinity champion.

He would also become the first Xfinity champion without any series wins to his name.

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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

Bump & Run: Should Kyle Busch have let Aric Almirola by at Phoenix?

2 Comments

Should Kyle Busch have allowed Aric Almriola to pass him for the lead late in Sunday’s race so that Almirola could have possibly won and bumped Kevin Harvick from the Championship 4 field?

Nate Ryan: This would be a much tougher question if there had been only a few laps remaining, but with 12 laps left, Almirola almost certainly wouldn’t have held on for the victory (as Adam Stevens, Busch’s crew chief, noted afterward). It still raises an intriguing ethical conundrum about the playoff structure, and it was telling that Busch said on the NBCSN postrace show that the thought had crossed his mind. That might have been surprisingly for a star who is as driven to win as anyone currently in NASCAR, but letting Almirola go might have been the smarter play with the restart had it occurred with two laps to go.

Dustin Long: I wouldn’t do it in any circumstance. Not because of ethics or anything like that, but who is to say you aren’t helping the driver that beats you the next week? Sure, Kyle Busch likely would be a favorite over Aric Almirola but Almirola would have the full backing of Stewart-Haas Racing for that race and that team has been strong. Trying to do something like that often backfires in ways one can’t see at the time. Just race.

Daniel McFadin: No. That’s not in Kyle Busch’s DNA and it would just lead to a week of people complaining about Busch not racing at 100 percent and who wants that?

Dan Beaver: Absolutely not. NASCAR has big enough issues with mid-week penalties and the perception outside the sport that cheating is endemic without adding manufactured finishes.

Which is more surprising: William Byron has led more laps this season than Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson is winless this season or Matt Kenseth scored his first top 10 of the season Sunday in his 14th start for Roush Fenway Racing.

Nate Ryan: Johnson’s disappointing season still surprises, and it’ll still seem just as unfathomable that the season finale will end Sunday with either Johnson or Denny Hamlin – and very likely both – winless during a full season for the first time in their Cup careers.

Dustin Long: All of them are shocking but will have to admit I didn’t see Kyle Larson going winless, especially with how close he came early in the year to winning. 

Daniel McFadin: Kyle Larson not having a win. It’s almost unfathomable that he’s finished in the top two six times this season and led 737 laps and not been to Victory Lane. 

Dan Beaver: Kyle Larson’s winless streak. He seemed so dominant on 2-mile tracks in 2017 and was improving across the board. He ran well in a number of races this year and should have been able to capitalize on a mistake by the Big 3 at some point during the year.

Toyota is the only manufacturer with drivers in each of the three championship races this week: Noah Gragson and Brett Moffitt in Trucks, Christopher Bell in Xfinity and Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. in Cup. What odds do you give Toyota of sweeping all three driver titles?

Nate Ryan: With 42 percent of the aggregate championship field, let’s call it slightly less than 50-50. Though TRD has the fewest number of entries in Xfinity, I think that might be the manufacturer’s best shot at the championship.

Dustin Long: I agree with Nate in that Christopher Bell is the favorite in the Xfinity Series. I think it could be tough for the Toyotas to beat the Fords in the Cup race. Still, I give Toyota about a 40 percent chance of winning all three driver titles this weekend.

Daniel McFadin: I’ll put it at 50 percent. If Brett Moffitt doesn’t win in Trucks, it’ll probably be Johnny Sauter. Even though there’s two Toyotas in that series, I think they’re at a bigger disadvantage there.

Dan Beaver: Fairly high: 80%. Gragson and Bell have been dominant at times in their respective series. Busch is going to have a spirited battle with Kevin Harvick that will ultimately come down to track position on the final stop.