|The Final Four|
The best finishing driver on Sunday will be the next champion. Who will that be?
You know, I would be remiss if I did not note how bad I have been with my predictions thus far in this Chase (read them here, here and here). I had Truex being eliminated after both the Contender and Challenger rounds, as well as Kyle Busch being knocked out after Phoenix. Most notably, I had Jeff Gordon getting eliminated all three rounds. In short, it's probably a good thing I haven't gotten into gambling yet.
As noted already, Gordon will be getting the focus of the attention in the run-up to Sunday afternoon and he was the sole driver to get to the championship via a win as he won at Martinsville. The fact that Gordon is even in this position to finally conclude the Drive for Five is pretty impressive considering that he will finish this season with the fewest amount of top fives in any season of his illustrious career. Gordon has had some success at Homestead, winning this race three years ago.
If you are one to make note of this, Harvick would be leading the points standings if there was not a Chase format. Harvick, just as he did a year ago, has shown a ton of speed this season with 14 top-two finishes and 22 top fives, both of which are tops in the series. Harvick won this race a year ago and has not finished outside the top ten at Homestead since 2007, with only two non-top-ten finishes overall.
This is the closest that Busch has come to a championship thus far in his career and that is pretty crazy to think about considering that he missed the first eleven races of the season after suffering a major leg injury in the opening Xfinity Series race at Daytona. Busch then put on a crazy run in the summer as he won four of five races and did just enough to crack the top 30 in points and thus enter the Chase. Homestead is not one of his better tracks with an average finish of 23rd and only one top five in ten starts.
Arguably the biggest underdog in this Championship is Truex as he would be the first single-car champion in over two decades (the late Alan Kulwicki being the last in 1992). Truex has rallied well from his summer slump and has shown the consistency in the Chase that he showed at the start of the season with five top tens and a worst finish of 15th. Homestead is one of Truex's best tracks with three top fives and seven top tens in ten races and an average finish of tenth.
You could make cases for all four drivers and there is no question that a Gordon title would be incredibly cool, but I have got to go with Kevin Harvick. He has shown the most speed all season long of the four and thus I think he will come out on top.
1. Kevin Harvick (projected winner and champion)
2. Kyle Busch
3. Jeff Gordon
4. Martin Truex Jr.