four drivers in each series ready to tee it up at Homestead

NASCAR


If Martin Truex Jr. is going to win his first NASCAR Cup championship, he’ll have to beat three drivers who have experienced winning Cup titles.

That doesn’t bother Truex for one simple reason — he has beaten them throughout this year.

With a series-high seven victories, Truex has more than Kyle Busch (five), Brad Keselowski (three) and Kevin Harvick (two).

Harvick says that puts the pressure on Truex and Busch.

“Those guys have dominated the year, and I feel like if they don’t win at this point, they would probably feel like they’ve had a letdown,” Harvick said.

Truex is fine with Harvick already trying to put the pressure on him.

“That sounds like Harvick,” Truex said. “It doesn’t work on me. If I’m the favorite, perfect, I like that. It’s a better position to be in. I was the underdog before, and I finished fourth, so, yeah, bring it on.”

Here’s how they stack up going into Homestead:

Martin Truex Jr. | Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota

Championships: None

Third-round wins: None

Third-round points: 4,212 (first)

Best Homestead finish: Second (2006)

Why he will win: He has the most wins (seven) and the most laps led (2,175) of any driver this year. He left the Homestead test a few weeks ago a happy man.

Why he won’t: Even though he has won a series-high seven races, it could have been well over 10 if the team had executed or didn’t have mechanical failures. The other three drivers have made a living capitalizing on others’ mistakes.

What he said: “I’ve got a lot of confidence in our team right now and what we’re doing … so [we need to] just keep doing what we’re doing, go down to Miami and just have fun and do what we know how to do, do the best job we possibly can and hopefully come out on top.”

Kyle Busch | Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota

Championships: One (2015)

Third-round wins: One

Third-round points: 4,159 (second)

Best Homestead finish: First (2015)

Why he will win: He’s had two weeks to not worry about his finishes and will go into Homestead with a clear head. Same with crew chief Adam Stevens.

Why he won’t: Truex is just too good this year. Plus, two crummy weeks give him zero momentum going into Homestead.

What he said: “Since we won at Martinsville, we’ve had an opportunity to kind of focus forward, if you will, so hopefully that will go well for us and we can get some solace out of these two weeks next week.”

Kevin Harvick | Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Ford

Championships: One (2014)

Third-round wins: One

Third-round points: 4,155 (third)

Best Homestead finish: First (2014)

Why he will win: He won at the last 1.5-mile track (Texas), and his team will take a similarly built car to Homestead. He has that won’t-be-denied attitude.

Why he won’t: The Toyotas will be just too strong.

What he said: “You have to be there first. You have to have a chance, and you have to think you can do it, and we know we can do it. I think there’s three past champions and the guy that’s run well all year and won a lot of races. It’s not like it’s going to be just check the box and send the check. It’s guys that have done this before and won races. But for us, we’re confident in our team and feel like we should have a chance.”

Brad Keselowski | Team Penske No. 2 Ford

Championships: One (2012)

Third-round wins: None

Third-round points: 4,132 (fourth)

Best Homestead finish: Third (2014, 2015)

Why he will win: His team will grit it out, much like Jimmie Johnson did last year. It might help if they find Johnson’s horseshoe somewhere on property.

Why he won’t: He was fifth at Texas, which shows some speed on the 1.5-mile tracks — but not enough.

What he said: “I just feel glad to make it through (Phoenix), you know, and have a shot next week. You never know how these things are going to play out. “

Xfinity Series

How they got here: William Byron (one win in semifinal round), Justin Allgaier (3,134 points), Elliott Sadler (3,122), Daniel Hemric (3,108)

Past champions: None

Outlook: It is no surprise that three JR Motorsports cars are among the four drivers eligible for the title. It was supposed to be that way when the year started, but it wasn’t supposed to be Byron with the most wins (four) while Allgaier has two and Sadler none. But the biggest win might be Byron’s a year ago, in the Truck race at Homestead. As he said: “It’s good confidence going there. I think it’s worrisome for everybody else, maybe. We’ll see. We’ve just got to go there and do our job and see what we can do.” But Sadler and Allgaier have been waiting to get back to Homestead for a year since losing the title to Daniel Suarez. Hemric? He’s happy to be there and he has yet to win a race in the series, although he has a little bit of momentum with interim crew chief Randall Burnett, who took over for the suspended Danny Stockman and possibly will crew chief Hemric at Homestead despite Stockman’s suspension having ended. Speaking of suspended crew chiefs, Allgaier likely will be without Jason Burdett after an infraction at Phoenix.

Camping World Truck Series

How they got here: Johnny Sauter (two wins in semifinal round), Christopher Bell (3,184 points), Matt Crafton (3,136), Austin Cindric (3,123).

Past champions: Matt Crafton (2013-14), Johnny Sauter (2016).

Outlook: Sauter has won the past two races going into this one, but Bell has the most wins (five) of anyone this year. Bell should be able to put Phoenix behind him considering Homestead is a different beast. It’s a beast, Sauter said, that will eat tires early in a run, and because they only get one set for practice, they don’t get a great feel. Cindric, who had contact with Ben Rhodes at Phoenix, knocking Rhodes out of contention (Cindric said hard racing, Rhodes said wrong move at wrong time), is the driver with the most others angry with him, including Crafton, who got caught up in that wreck.



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