Monster Energy Cup Series News (16167)
Tanner Berryhill and Obaika Racing are planning to close out the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season on a high note. Berryhill will pilot the No. 97 Brand South Africa Toyota Camry in the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, November 18th, 2018.
Brand South Africa was established in August of 2002 to help create a positive and compelling brand image for South Africa, and to promote the country’s booming tourism industry.
Space Grill will continue to be on board as an associate sponsor. As part of their partnership, Obaika Racing and Space Grill are offering fans the chance to join the team at Homestead-Miami Speedway or any 2019 NASCAR race of their choice. Fans of team can not only be able to purchase a Space Grill at a race team discount, but their purchase also includes an exclusive race weekend experience. The race weekend experience will include all-access passes to the garage and pit road, as well as lunch with the Obaika race team at the team hauler and a meet-and-greet with the driver. Visit the team website to for details.
Berryhill made his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut last Sunday finishing in 31st place in the Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway. He has made 40 starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, including one at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“I’m excited end the 2018 season driving for Obaika Racing,” said Berryhill. “I’m so thankful to Victor Obaika (Team Owner) for the opportunities he’s given me this year, and to Brand South Africa and Space Grill for continuing their support. I’m eager build on what we accomplished last weekend in Phoenix.”
The Ford EcoBoost 400 will get the green flag at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC.
Obaika Racing PR
For many race teams, a different crew chief atop the pit box in a pressure-packed, high stakes race like Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup championship finale (3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90) would be a hands-up, unpredictable situation.
But when Tony Gibson climbs into the hot seat, pit-side at Homestead-Miami Speedway Sunday night, the No. 4 SHR Ford team he will lead and its driver Kevin Harvick will likely feel fortified and ready for the challenge even with the team’s crew chief Rodney Childers and car chief Robert Smith sidelined for a second week by NASCAR after Harvick’s car failed inspection at Texas Motor Speedway two weeks ago.
Gibson, 54, certainly isn’t “new” to the sport, or to the kind of professional pressure he’s got this week filling in for Childers. He is a Daytona 500 winning crew chief (2017 with Kurt Busch). He was the car chief on the late Alan Kulwicki’s 1992 Cup championship team and also on Jeff Gordon’s 1998 and 2001 title winning teams.
The Daytona Beach-native is a longtime, highly respected strategist and personality that SHR is confident can glide into the season’s hottest pit seat and lead the team’s championship contender Harvick a fantastic shot at winning a second title.
“I think personally, all these guys want to step up and show Rodney that, you know what, we are a great team and you have built an awesome race team here and we want to show you that, how mature we are as a group and how we can function as a group even when our leader is not with us," Gibson said Wednesday during a national conference call with the four championship-eligible crew chiefs.
“We can still follow your lead and we can still get this done."
Achieving against the odds is something Gibson is well-versed in.
Just this season, the longtime SHR employee has overcome major health problems. A blood clot put him in the hospital this summer and resulted in a “mini-stroke,” Gibson said, which left him with severe hearing loss and the loss of some function in his left eye. But intense therapy and regular appointments with his doctors have helped Gibson regain his vision and he wears a hearing aid to help with any lingering issues there.
There was actually a follow-up appointment with his neurologist scheduled for this Friday.
“I’m not going to make that one, I’m going to be in Homestead," Gibson said.
“I contacted my doctor and they all released me to go and fly," he said. “…if at all possible, I was going. There was no way I was going to let those guys down. So as long as my doctor said I could go, I was going. That’s what they got me here to do.”
Instead Gibson’s challenge will be guiding this super-achieving No. 4 team to an exclamation point on a stellar season. Harvick’s eight wins is a personal best for the 2014 Cup champion and his 28 top-10 finishes through the first 25 races ties a career mark set in 2015. Gibson would like to help Harvick top that mark with a victory and championship trophy this weekend.
At this point, the team is not on “auto-drive” but certainly knows what needs to be done. And if anything, the big penalty - which also included a loss of 40 championship points and forced Harvick to race his way into the Championship 4 last week – has motivated the team even more.
Gibson said he essentially just wants to keep the season-long good juju going. That’s what they did last week at Phoenix and that’s what they plan to do this weekend.
And NASCAR has given the okay for Childers to come inside the race track should Gibson guide this team to a championship Sunday evening.
“We took each practice, each run, one at a time, thought about changes and what we needed to do, and Rodney had a great plan laid out and we kind of just followed his lead through that," Gibson said. “He has an awesome race team. They all pretty much know what to do. You don’t have to tell them what to do. They follow right along.
“My biggest fear is just making the wrong call or doing the wrong thing. I want those guys to be proud of me. Like I told Rodney, I just want to do you a good job and hope you can be proud of me, so that’s what I want to get done."
As it turns out Gibson and Childers are close friends away from the track and that relationship may turn out to be especially beneficial this weekend.
“Me and Rodney have a really, really good relationship, along with Kevin," Gibson said. “Me and Rodney, we do a lot of things off the track together. … we have a lot of things in common that we love to do, so we’ve got a friendship outside of the racetrack part of it and the racing side of it, which I think kind of helps all that kind of merge a little easier.
“I don’t have an agenda in this whole deal coming in. .. I have a company agenda of winning a championship."
Paul Menard and the No. 21 Quick Lane team will close out the 2018 season in the Ford 400 at one of Menard’s favorite tracks, Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Sunday’s 400-miler is the third race in the Ford Championship Weekend, which will determine the champions of NASCAR’s top three divisions – Monster Energy Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck series.
Menard said Homestead’s progressively-banked, 1.5-mile oval suits him just fine.
“It’s a great track,” he said. “It’s lots of fun to race there. It’s a shame we only go there once a year.”
He said he likes the way the track changes during the race as daylight fades to darkness.
“It’s really wide, so you can fan out and run right next to the wall when the sun’s out,” he said. “Then when the sun goes down, the bottom comes in.”
Menard and the team will be racing for the first time since the death of David Pearson, the iconic driver of the No. 21 back in the 1970s.
“He was a true legend of the sport and a long-time driver for the Wood Brothers,” Menard said. “It’ll be a privilege to honor him.”
The Ford 400 also marks the end of Menard’s first season aboard the No. 21 Fusion. He said it’s been a year of ups and downs, but he’s encouraged about the future as he heads into the offseason.
“We’ve had some pretty good flashes at time, but we need to be more consistent,” he said, pointing out that the team did win a pole at Chicago, score a stage win at Talladega and post one top-five and seven top-10 finishes to date. “We definitely have something to build on, and we’re going to work hard on it over the winter.”
Qualifying for the Ford 400 is set for Friday at 6:10 p.m. Eastern Time with TV coverage on NBCSN, and the race is scheduled to start just after 2:30 p.m. on Sunday with the broadcast on NBC.
Ragan on Homestead
"Homestead is a great racetrack. You can run fast a couple of laps on the bottom. You can move through the middle a little bit. But the fastest line around Homestead is right against that wall. It’s risk versus reward. You know you have to be there to find that extra little bit of grip that the racetrack still has to use that extra banking. But, if you slip just a few inches sometimes, you can get into the wall. And our cars aren’t as tough as they used to be. They’re a lot more sensitive to a little bit of damage here and there.
"Homestead is such a cool weekend for the entire sport with all the championships ending there. I enjoy that weekend. It’s got a little bit of a party atmosphere because everyone’s happy to see the end of the season come. We’ve got a lot of good things to look forward to in 2019, but we still have some unfinished business that last race of the year. We definitely want to have a good run for 1000Bulbs.com and end the season on a high note."
Ragan Homestead Stats
11 starts, 1 top-10, 3 top-20s
Best finish: 10th
Saturday, Nov. 17, 1:05pm - Ford Performance display (Homestead Miami Speedway Fan Zone)
McDowell on Homestead
"Homestead is a great racetrack just because you run all around. You can run the fence, or I was able to run the bottom last year and had a pretty decent finish. You definitely have options there. More than anything, the season’s winding down and there’s a lot of excitement around Ford Championship Weekend. Obviously, we’re not in the playoffs, but hopefully we can do everything we can to get a Ford back into Victory Lane and a championship. They’ve had the speed this year, so hopefully they can finish it off.
"We have Speedco and Shell Rotella on our No. 34 at Homestead, which are part of the Love's family. We've had a great season with Love's Travel Stops. They're such a great partner to work with, and they know how to use their program with Front Row Motorsports to enhance their business relationships. We had a good finish last weekend at Phoenix, and we'll fight hard to end the season with another good finish for them."
McDowell Homestead Stats
8 starts, 1 top-10
Best finish: 10th
Sunday, Nov. 18, 10:20am - Ford Performance display (Homestead Miami Speedway Fan Zone)
Clint Bowyer wishes he was part of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 this weekend in the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He also realizes his No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Haas Automation Ford team has made significant progress since he started at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in 2017.
“We’ve had a great year getting to where we were part of this playoff situation and being in contention to be able to run for a championship,” Bowyer said moments after Sunday’s race at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.
“There’s a lot of pride with (crew chief) Mike (Bugarewicz) and all the guys on the 14 car. It’s been a lot of fun to go to battle each and every week all across the country with these guys. Stewart-Haas Racing – I can’t say enough about the job the men and women have done at Stewart-Haas, getting all four cars in the playoffs and then, obviously, winning and being in victory lane, and everything Ford, Roush-Yates Racing and everybody involved has done for us. I’m proud of our season,”
To appreciate where the No. 14 team is now, it’s essential to know where it’s been.
Bowyer replaced three-time champion Tony Stewart in the No. 14 at SHR in 2017. The year saw the Emporia, Kansas native post three second-place finishes on his way to a year-end tally of six top-fives and 13 top-10s. His average finish of 15.5 was 11th best among full-time drivers competing in 2017, and it left him just shy of a spot in the NASCAR playoffs.
Bowyer was most disappointed the team never made it to victory lane despite a few near misses, but that changed in 2018.
The Bugarewicz-led team dominated the March 26 race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, leading 215 of 400 laps. Video of Bowyer’s young family running down the front stretch to join him in victory lane celebrating the end of a 190-race winless streak top the season’s highlight reel. Moments later, Bowyer went into the grandstands to celebrate with the Martinsville fans.
And his 2018 victory lane celebrations weren’t over.
On June 10, a Bugarewicz pit strategy to take two tires, then some incredible wheel-to-wheel driving by Bowyer with SHR teammate Kevin Harvick led the No. 14 to prevail by a few feel before rain brought the race to an end. Those laps on only two fresh tires, trying to hold off the hard-charging Harvick with rain clouds closing in, might have been the best of Bowyer’s career. His 10 career victories tied him at 59th on the all-time win list with Sterling Marlin and Donnie Allison.
Bowyer’s NASCAR playoffs turned out to be quite a rocky but successful run. An accident in the playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway left him with a 23rd-place finish and doubt as to whether he would advance to the next round. But a 10th-place finish at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, combined with a third-place finish on the “roval” at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, allowed him to squeak into the Round of 12.
Hopes for a good start to the Round of 12 vanished with an extra pit stop, combined with a mechanical issue that led to an accident at Dover (Del.) International Speedway and a 35th-place finish. Again, Bowyer rebounded at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway with a second-place finish. A 13th-place finish at Kansas Speedway near Kansas City paved the way to the Round of 8.
Bowyer’s plans for a good start to the Round of 8 races and a repeat victory at Martinsville fell by the wayside with an ill-handling car and a late-race spin that netted a 21st-place finish. The second Round of 8 race was worse when first-lap contact with Denny Hamlin at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth forced him to the pits for a green-flag pit stop and a 26th-place finish. Knowing the No. 14 had to win at Phoenix, Bowyer raced from 16th to seventh before a cut tire led to an accident that ended his championship hopes.
Sunday won’t be merely an “exhibition race” for Bowyer. He’s 12th in points and would like to climb into the top-10 with a good run at Homestead and reward Rush Truck Centers and Haas Automation, the two partners whose decals have adorned the No. 14 most often in 2108 and again this weekend in the season finale.
And, as Bowyer points out, “A win Sunday will make for a fun off season.”
Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway will be one for the ages – a true clash of the titans.
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is part of what might be the toughest Championship 4 field since the start of the elimination-style playoff format in 2014. That year’s NASCAR Cup Series champion is joined by 2015 champion Kyle Busch, 2016 runner-up Joey Logano and 2017 champion Martin Truex Jr., in a one-race shootout where the highest finisher among the four is crowned the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion.
Harvick and Busch both have four appearances in the Championship 4 at Homestead since 2014, while Truex and Logano are both making their third appearances. In total, the 2018 edition of the Championship 4 have accounted for 22 wins, 13 poles, 80 top-five finishes, 100 top-10s and 5,230 laps led through this year’s 35 points-paying races.
What should make it more interesting is the Championship 4 drivers’ combined resume on 1.5-mile racetracks in 2018. In the 10 Cup Series events on 1.5-mile layouts, the Championship 4 occupy the top four positions in points scored. They’ve combined for eight wins, five Busch Poles, 24 top-fives, 34 top 10s and have led a combined 1,978 laps led on 1.5-mile ovals.
Amazingly enough, Championship 4 drivers finished 1-2 in four of the 10 races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2018. At Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March, Harvick and Busch finished first and second; at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Busch got the better of Harvick; at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City in May, Harvick finished first while Truex was the runner-up; and Busch got the better of Truex in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway the last weekend in May.
Harvick ranks first with four wins and 867 laps led in those 10 races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2018. He’s also second with seven top-five finishes and a 7.1 average starting position.
The No. 4 Jimmy John’s team has set the standard for high performance since its inception in 2014. The 2018 season proved no different as it is tied with Busch and the No. 18 team for a series-best eight points-paying wins. It also leads the Cup Series with a 115.2 driver rating, 22 top-fives, 28 top-10s, 18 stage wins, 51 playoff points, 1,932 laps led, 2,869.12 miles led, 1,258 fastest laps and an 8.236 average running position. The team ranks second with an average starting position of 8.7, average finishing position of 9.0, has 8,398 laps in the top-15 and is tied for second with four Busch Pole Awards.
Harvick is also attempting to claim Ford’s first NASCAR Cup Series championship since SHR teammate Kurt Busch hoisted the Cup in 2004 while a member of Roush Fenway Racing. The Bakersfield, California native is also trying to become just the 16th driver in NASCAR history to win two or more Cup Series championships in a career and attempting to become the first driver since SHR co-owner Tony Stewart to win a NASCAR Cup Series title with two different manufacturers.
Harvick is attempting to make history and become the first NASCAR driver to win multiple Cup Series and Xfinity Series titles. In addition to his 2014 Cup Series title, Harvick won the Xfinity Series championship in 2001 and 2006.
What makes Harvick’s history in the playoffs even more impressive is his eight wins in NASCAR Cup Series playoff races since 2014, tying him with Kyle Busch for the most since the inception of the format. No team and driver have performed better in must-win situations since 2014, and this Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 is the ultimate must-win situation with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title on the line.
The Championship 4 at Homestead is set to become a battle for the ages, which is good since Harvick has age and experience on his side.
The 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship finale will feature arguably the strongest four drivers – top to bottom – in the history of the current Playoff format.
That foursome, comprised of Team Penske’s Joey Logano, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch, Front Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick, account for 22 victories in the 35 races leading up to Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 championship round at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Regular season champion Busch and Harvick have each won eight races this season – either tying a career high (Busch) or establishing a new one (Harvick). Defending Monster Energy Series champion Truex has four wins and Logano has two. The winning percentage of these four drivers is 68.9 percent – the highest in the history of NASCAR’s playoffs – 10 percentage points higher than any previous title-eligible foursome.
Three of the four drivers are former champions – Truex (2017), Busch (2015) and Harvick (2014) - with Logano looking for his first Cup title.
Here’s an in-depth look at the championship contenders in 2018:
By The Numbers
1 – Number of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series titles Kyle Busch has won (2015).
1 – Number of wins Kyle Busch has posted at Homestead-Miami Speedway - 2015 (tied for most among the Championship 4 with Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.)
3 – Number of top-five finishes Kyle Busch has posted at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
4 – Number of times Kyle Busch has made it to the Championship 4 in the current Playoff format (tied with Kevin Harvick for the most Championship 4 appearances).
4 – Number of Busch pole positions Kyle Busch posted in 2018 – tied for second with Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.
6 – Number of top-10 finishes Kyle Busch has posted at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
6 – Stage wins in 2018
7.6 – Busch’s average starting position during the 2018 season
8 – Number of wins Kyle Busch has posted during the 2018 season, including two during the Playoffs (Atlanta, Texas-1, Bristol-1, Richmond-1, Charlotte-1, Chicago-1, Richmond-2, ISM Raceway)
8.4 – Busch’s average finish during the entire 2018 season.
10.9 – Busch’s average finish during the first nine races of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs
18.5 – Busch’s average finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway
21 – Number of top-five finishes Kyle Busch has posted this season.
27 – Number of top-10 finishes Kyle Busch has posted during the 2018 season
98.9 – Kyle Busch’s career driver rating at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
109.3 – Season-to-date driver rating, second-best to Kevin Harvick
322 – Total number of laps led at Homestead-Miami Speedway by Kyle Busch (best among the Championship 4)
1448 - Total number of laps led in 2018 season
Busch Eyeing Multi-NASCAR Championships Club
After winning the 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship in dramatic come-from-behind fashion, Kyle Busch is looking to become just the 16th driver in series history to win two or more championships when he races in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio).
Busch would be joining prestigious company:
Richard Petty – 7
Dale Earnhardt – 7
Jimmie Johnson – 7
Jeff Gordon – 4
Darrell Waltrip – 3
Cale Yarborough – 3
David Pearson – 3
Lee Petty – 3
Tony Stewart – 3
Herb Thomas – 2
Tim Flock – 2
Joe Weatherly – 2
Ned Jarret – 2
Terry Labonte – 2
Buck Baker – 2
Kyle Busch will have to battle two other Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers looking for their second series championship in Martin Truex Jr. (2017) and Kevin Harvick (2014).
The Tale Of Kyle Busch – Career Year
Kyle Busch is hoping to turn a “career year’ into another Monster Energy NASCAR Cup championship year. His eight wins already ties a personal-best mark, set in 2008, and his top-five (21) and top-10 (27) finishes are career bests.
It took him seven races into the season to score that first victory of 2018 at Texas Motor Speedway, but he answered it with wins the next two weeks at Bristol and Richmond, solidifying a championship takeover from another early season over-achiever in Kevin Harvick.
The two drivers quickly showed their championship form, and along with four-time winner, defending Cup champion Martin Truex Jr., were quickly dubbed the 2018 season’s “Big 3.” With good reason.
Busch continued his hot streak with a win in the season’s longest race at Charlotte on Memorial Day weekend – giving him wins at every single Monster Energy Series venue except Charlotte’s new road course. Five weeks after achieving that bit of personal history, Busch won at Chicago – and five weeks after that, in Pocono.
He became the first of the “Big 3” to win in the Playoffs, scoring his Richmond season sweep in the second round of the Playoffs, and he won again in the Round of 8 finale at ISM Raceway in Phoenix this weekend to put an exclamation point on his championship chances.
He has one career win at the Homestead-Miami Speedway 1.5-miler – in 2015 when he won the championship. He was runner-up to Truex last November, just missing out on a second trophy then. He’d like to right the ship this weekend, and after leading the championship standings for 26 weeks so far, he’d like to match his regular season title with a year-end trophy.
For years it appeared the Homestead-Miami Speedway was a thorn in Kyle Busch’s side – a rare venue on the schedule where the certain future NASCAR Hall of Famer struggled to find Victory Lane. He found it when it mattered most, however, winning the 2015 race and his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.
Since hoisting the champion’s trophy, Busch has a pair of top-10 finishes, including a championship near-miss of runner-up to Martin Truex Jr. last November.
Busch has six top-10 finishes in 13 starts at the South Florida 1.5-miler, including five in the last six seasons.
The Man Behind The Champion
Since pairing up in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with Kyle Busch in 2015, crew chief Adam Stevens has been one of the best crew chiefs in the sport.
The pair has combined for the following achievements in 126 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races together since 2015:
- 22 wins
- 63 top fives
- 87 top 10s
- 5,442 laps led
- 14 Busch Pole awards
- One Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship (2015)
- Four consecutive Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 appearances
- Four consecutive Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs appearances
The two will look to capture their second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship together this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Coach Gibbs Pursuing Fifth Championship With Kyle Busch
How do you follow-up a hall of fame football coaching career that included three championships at the highest level of your sport?
With four – and counting – championships at the highest level of motorsports.
Coach Joe Gibbs led the Washington Redskins to Super Bowl titles in 1983, ’88 and ’92. His Joe Gibbs Racing stable has won Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championships with Bobby Labonte (2000), Tony Stewart (2002, 2005) and Kyle Busch (2015). Toss in two NASCAR Xfinity Series crowns in 2009 with Kyle Busch and 2016 with Daniel Suarez, and you can state a good case that he has had a second hall-of-fame-worthy career.
Coach Gibbs’ lone driver in the hunt for the title in Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway is Kyle Busch, but his team had another successful season overall as three of his four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers – Busch, Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones - make the 2018 Playoffs.
By The Numbers
1 – Number of wins Kevin Harvick has posted at Homestead-Miami Speedway (2014)
4 – Number of times Kevin Harvick has made it to the Championship 4 in the new Playoff format.
6.8 – Kevin Harvick’s average finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway – best all-time among drivers with more than one start at the track.
8 – Number of wins Kevin Harvick has during the 2018 season, including one during the Playoffs (Atlanta, Las Vegas-1, ISM Raceway-1, Dover-1, Kansas-1, New Hampshire, Michigan-2,Texas-2).
8.7 – Harvick’s average starting position during the 2018 season.
9.0 – Kevin Harvick’s average finish during the 2018 season.
9 – Number of top-five finishes Kevin Harvick has posted at Homestead-Miami Speedway – most all-time.
12.4 – Kevin Harvick’s average finish during the first nine races of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
13 – Kevin Harvick’s career Playoff wins (second to Jimmie Johnson’s 29).
15 – Number of top-10 finishes Kevin Harvick has recorded at Homestead-Miami Speedway – most all-time.
18 – Number of stage wins Kevin Havick has posted during the 2018 season – most in the series.
22 – Number of top-five finishes Kevin Harvick has logged during the 2018 season.
28 – Number of top-10 finishes Kevin Harvick has tallied this season.
106.8 – Kevin Harvick’s career driver rating at Homestead-Miami Speedway (best among the Championship 4).
115.2 – Kevin Harvick’s 2018 driver rating – best in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
315 – Total number of laps led at Homestead-Miami Speedway by Kevin Harvick (second among the Championship 4).
1932 – Total number of laps led in 2018 – best in series
Happy Hopes To Take Home Second Championship In Miami
Kevin Harvick will attempt to capture his second career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title in Sunday’s season finale Ford EcoBoost 400 Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
The No. 4 Ford driver won the inaugural Championship 4 Race in 2014 at Homestead for his first and only series crown.
In 17 starts at the 1.5-mile track, Harvick claims one win, nine top fives and 15 top 10s. He has the track series-best average finish (6.8), second-ranked driver rating (106.8) and second-best average running position (8.5). His 315 laps led at Homestead ranks second among the championship contenders.
Last year’s fourth-place finish marked the first time he didn’t finish among the top three at Homestead in four championship races there. It was also the first year he did not lead a lap after leading 179 laps in the previous three title races.
Tony Gibson On The Pit Box For Harvick
Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team was penalized following a Playoff win at Texas two weeks ago after failing post-race inspection at the R&D Center for violations involving the spoiler. In addition to monetary fines and point penalties, Harvick’s crew chief Rodney Childers was suspended for the remainder of the season, including this weekend’s race in Miami.
That suspension included ISM Raceway last weekend, and interim crew chief Tony Gibson helped lead the team to an impressive fifth-place finish after going a lap down at the conclusion of the opening stage. It was enough to ensure a Championship 4 slot despite the challenges and it has re-energized the team.
This Sunday will mark the first Championship 4 appearance for the veteran crew chief, who left the road after the 2017 season. He has tallied 441 races, six wins (including the 2017 Daytona 500 with Kurt Busch), 57 top fives and 145 top-10 finishes atop the pit box.
NASCAR’s Intermediate Master
Since 2014, Kevin Harvick has arguably been the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ top driver on intermediate tracks.
He’s led a series-best 3,317 laps at tracks spanning 1.5 or 1.54 miles, and this season added victories at Atlanta, Las Vegas and Kansas. He has nine wins on intermediate tracks since his 2014 championship year. Only Jimmie Johnson (10) has more in that span. Fellow championship driver Martin Truex Jr. also has nine wins on intermediate tracks during that time.
Stewart-Haas Racing Can Win Third Championship In Nine Years
If Kevin Harvick wins the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title on Sunday, he would give Stewart-Haas Racing its third championship in the nine years since Tony Stewart left Joe Gibbs Racing to form the team with Gene Haas.
Stewart won the organization its first championship in 2011, while Harvick earned the second title for it in 2014.
Over the same time frame only Hendrick Motorsports has more titles with Jimmie Johnson’s four.
Championships With Different Manufacturers
Kevin Harvick won his 2014 championship in a Chevrolet, and is attempting to earn his second tiitle driving a Ford. The last driver to win a new championship with a separate manufacturer was Harvick’s team owner, Tony Stewart. He earned the 2002 crown racing a Pontiac, then captured the 2005 and 2011 titles driving a Chevrolet.
Nine drivers have won championships with multiple manufacturers: Buck Baker, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, David Pearson, Lee Petty, Ned Jarrett, Richard Petty, Tim Flock and Stewart.
By The Numbers
2 – Number of top-five finishes at Homestead-Miami Speedway
2 – Number of wins in 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season (Talladega-1, Martinsville-2)
3 – Number of times Joey Logano has made it to the Championship 4 in the new Playoffs format.
4 – Number of top-10 finishes posted at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
4 – Joey Logano’s best career finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway (twice, 2015 and 2016).
5 – Number of stage wins Joey Logano has posted during the 2018 sesaon
9.4 – Joey Logano’s average finish during the first nine races of the 2018 Playoffs (series best).
9.9 – Joey Logano’s average starting position throughout 2018.
10.9 – Joey Logano’s average finish during the 2018 sesaon
12 – Number of top-five finishes Joey Logano has posted during the 2018 season.
14.9 – Joey Logano’s average finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway
25 – Number of top-10 finishes Joey Logano has posted during the 2018 season.
28 – Joey Logano’s age, making him the youngest driver among the four championship eligible competitors.
89.0 – Joey Logano’s career driver rating at Homestead-Miami Speedway (fourth best among four Playoff drivers).
78 – Total laps led at Homestead-Miami Speedway in nine starts by Joey Logano
96.1 – Joey Logano’s 2018 season driver rating (sixth best).
854 – Total laps led in 2018.
Looking For First Miami Win
This will be Joey Logano’s first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Final Four playoff appearance in two years. The Team Penske driver has a career-best showing of fourth place in the title race – twice - in 2015 and 2016. Twice he has started on the front row at Homestead, earning the pole position in 2012 and finishing 14th. He started on the outside of the front row in 2015 and finished fourth.
He has finished eighth or better in four of the last five races at the track. He’s only led laps in two of his seven Homestead starts, including 72 laps in his 2015 fourth place race finish.
But he’s the lone Championship 4 driver without a win in the season finale – which history shows is what he’ll need to capture the title.
Logano Looking To Break Through
Logano’s Team Penske is no stranger to triumph, having earned the 2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup championship with Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski.
And if you look at the Championship 4 drivers – all are from teams who have claimed a driver’s championship in the past: 2015 champ Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing; 2014 champ Kevin Harvick representing Stewart-Haas Racing and 2017 champion Martin Truex Jr.,representing Furniture Row Racing.
Logano is the only Championship 4 driver without a Cup driver’s championship trophy on his mantle. And he is the youngest contender this weekend at the age of 28.
He is, however, surrounded by experience from the legendary Team Penske operation. His veteran crew chief Todd Gordon has collected all 18 of his career Cup wins with Logano, including the 2015 Daytona 500 victory.
Gordon has also recorded 88 top fives and 140 top 10s atop the pit box. As is the same with Joey, he’s still chasing his first Monster Energy Series championship in his third visit to the title bout.
Logano On Hot Streak In Playoffs
Logano certainly raised the title race stakes last week proclaiming himself the championship favorite. His remarks to the media weren’t made in arrogance, however, he was just comparing the Playoff field’s work in the post-season. Logano boasts the best average finish (9.4) in nine playoff races and recorded a victory at Martinsville to earn his title shot at Homestead.
He had a streak of six top-10 Playoff finishes snapped at ISM Raceway on Sunday when his No. 22 Penske Racing Ford crashed a third of the way through the race, sidelining the team with a 37th-place showing. His five top-five finishes in nine Playoff races is best among the championship contenders.
Team Penske Looking To Build On Title Haul
If you had to contend for a championship, there is perhaps no other team in racing than Joey Logano’s Team Penske operation that knows how to win one better. The NASCAR Hall of Famer owner Roger Penske is an iconic name in motorsports and currently fields teams in NASCAR’s Monster Energy Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series levels, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Series and IndyCar.
In addition to its Monster Energy NASCAR Cup championship in 2012, Team Penske has earned 174 NASCAR wins and 175 pole positions in the Cup and Xfinity series. It has two Daytona 500 wins (with Ryan Newman and Logano) and its IndyCar team boasts a record 17 Indianapolis 500 wins, including one this May by driver Will Power.
Martin Truex Jr.
By The Numbers
3 – Number of times Martin Truex Jr. has made it to the Championship 4 in the new Playoffs format.
4 – Number of top-five finishes Martin Truex Jr. has posted at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
4 – Number of Busch poles Martin Truex Jr. has posted during the 2018 season.
4 – Number of wins Martin Truex Jr. has posted during the 2018 season (Fontana, Calif. Pocono, Pa., Sonoma, Kentucky).
8 – Number of top-10 finishes Martin Truex Jr. has posted at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
9.9 – Martin Truex Jr.’s average finish during the first nine races of the 2018 Playoffs.
10 – Number of stage wins during the 2018 season
11.0 – Martin Truex Jr.’s average finish during the entire 2018 season
11.5 – Martin Truex Jr.’s average finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway
19 – Number of top-five finishes Martin Truex Jr. has posted during the 2018 season.
20 – Number of top-10 finishes Martin Truex Jr. has posted during the 2017 season.
101.2 – Martin Truex Jr.’s 2018 season-to-date driver rating.
104.1 – Martin Truex Jr.’s career driver rating at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
189 – Total number of laps led at Homestead-Miami Speedway by Martin Truex Jr.
996 – Laps led by Martin Truex Jr. in 2018.
It’s been another successful year for the defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. and his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota team. His four wins is the second-highest single season tally for the champ and is second this year only to fellow championship contenders Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, who have eight wins each. The “Big 3,” as these drivers were nicknamed, accounted for 20 wins in the opening 35 races and will now settle the trophy between themselves and Joey Logano.
Perhaps most interesting about the victory total is that Truex won on four different kinds of tracks – from the 2-mile Fontana oval to the 2.5-mile Pocono triangular track to the Sonoma road course and the Kentucky 1.5-miler. Twice (at Fontana and Kentucky) he won from the pole position.
Twice in the Playoffs Truex had victory essentially stolen on the last lap – he was involved in a collision with hard-charging Jimmie Johnson while leading at Charlotte’s Road Course and was again muscled out of the lead position in Martinville by Joey Logano in the opening race of this Playoff round.
Martin Truex Jr. arrives at Homestead as the defending race winner, collecting his first victory in 13 attempts and his first top 10 in the last four years at the track – fittingly leading 78 laps in the No. 78 Toyota. It was his series-best seventh win on a 1.5-mile track on the season. His last win this season came 17 races ago at another 1.5-miler, Kentucky Speedway.
Only Kevin Harvick’s (6.8) average finish at Homestead is better than Truex’s (11.5) among the four championship contenders.
As he climbs into his car on Sunday afternoon at Homestead-Miami Speedway to defend his championship, Martin Truex Jr. will undoubtedly have a lot of sentimental motivation. It will be the last race for his Denver-based Furniture Row Racing team, which is closing down its operation.
The team, founded by Denver businessman Barney Visser, remained true to Visser’s Midwestern roots, refusing to relocate to NASCAR’s more traditional Charlotte-area race team hub. And Visser certainly made it work, earning the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup title with Truex.
Furniture Row Racing started racing in the Monster Energy Series in 2005 and collected their first pole in 2008 with Joe Nemechek. They didn’t tally their first win until 2011 (with Regan Smith) and qualified for the Playoffs in 2013 – the first single-car team to do so.
Truex Jr. joined the then one-car operation based in Denver, Colorado, for the 2014 season. Cole Pearn took over atop the pit box in 2015 and the No. 78 Toyota made it to the Championship 4 in his inaugural year with Truex Jr. They shared the championship elation last year and would like nothing more than to close out the team’s storybook success with a second title, making Truex the first driver to win consecutive Cup titles since seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson won a record five straight from 2006-2010.
Kurt Busch endured heartbreak Sunday at ISM Raceway near Phoenix when he was eliminated from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs after being involved in a multi-car accident late in the race, which caused him to finish 32nd.
As a result, Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion, won’t have a shot at the Cup Series championship in this week’s season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
But he can still win the race and end what has been a magical season.
In Olympic hockey, there is a bronze medal game. The “consolation game” is played between two teams that lost their semifinal games against the teams going for the gold medal. Until 1981, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament featured the “third-place game” – who can forget Ray Meyer and the DePaul Blue Demons edging the University of Pennsylvania Quakers coached by Bob Weinhauer in 1979 in a 96-93 thriller?
Busch has two poles, one win, four top-five finishes and six top-10s at Homestead. Additionally, the 40-year-old driver has led 97 laps, has an average starting position of 13.5, an average finish of 18.4, and has completed 89.2 percent (4,054 of 4,545) of the laps he’s contested there.
He’s also had a remarkable 2018 season. In August at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, he scored his 30th career win and his sixth at “Thunder Valley.” Busch has won five poles this season, his most since he scored six in 2006. He became just the 21st driver to lead 9,000 career laps and is now just 223 laps behind Buddy Baker for 19th on the all-time list.
Busch has 21 top-10 finishes this season and if he scores another one this week at Homestead, it will be a career high for him. He had 21 in 2004, 2009, 2015 and 2016.
And a top-10 finish might put Busch fifth in points, which would be his highest finish in the standings since 2009.
After 35 points-paying races and two exhibitions, it’s finally time for the finale. And, as always, Busch hopes to be in victory lane.
The following is a question and answer with Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser, whose team will defend its 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship with driver Martin Truex Jr. Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It will also be the final race for the Denver, Colo.-based Furniture Row Racing. The team announced on Sept. 4, 2018 that it will cease operations at the end of the season due to lack of necessary funding to field a competitive team.
Q: What are the team’s and your personal thoughts going into the final race of the season and also the final race for Furniture Row Racing?
A: From a team standpoint we’re going to try and not get too emotional. We’re going to try and just execute. We don’t want to run our emotions up too high until the race is over. I think at the same time we have a strong chance of winning this thing. Mile-and-a-half tracks are our specialty.
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. We’ll see, just have to live through it.
Q: Do you feel that shutting down was a distraction for the team’s performance?
A: I think Joe Garone (team president) has done a good job managing that as well as it could be managed. I think it’s been difficult. But I believe everyone in that shop wants to win the championship and we still have the common goal and that’s to win it again.
And speaking of Joe, he has been the catalyst in building this team to a championship level. I knew nothing about racing and I depended on Joe and he sure delivered in a big way. He is at the shop every morning, travels with the team – a seven-day-a-week guy who rarely took a day off. He has an uncanny ability to go through mountains of information and sort the unimportant from the important. He filled whatever role needed to be filled. He was the glue of this team and I sincerely appreciate his talent and work ethic. We would not be going to Homestead challenging for a championship without him.
Q: How are the employees at Furniture Row Racing handling the situation of shutting down after the season?
A: The team remained a team during this period and I am proud of the way they handled this difficult and emotional situation. I think everybody who has had an opportunity to work in our shop is probably better for it. I believe they’re better craftsmen and have known or have learned what it takes to be a winner. On the flip side, I do feel a responsibility for moving the guys out here and want to see them get placed. That is very important to me.
Q: For you personally, what is the hardest and most difficult aspect to deal with about shutting down the operation after the season?
A: To get this kind of group of guys pulled together is pretty special. I feel it’s once-in-a-lifetime happening. However, I am fortunate that it has happened to me two other times --- in my retail business and manufacturing business. It’s so rare to get a group of people you like being with, and who accomplish things that other people can’t seem to do. Pretty special to find that chemistry and the success that comes with it. It’s hard to give it up, but sometimes it’s taken away from you without having any recourse. I just couldn’t keep borrowing money over here to feed it over there. Just had to give it up.
Q: Do you have any regrets or second thoughts about shutting down the operation?
A: Once things got far enough along there was no turning back. Only way that could have not happened if a sponsor brought us a big check. We hit the wall and had no choice. The guys needed time to find employment and that’s why we announced our decision when we did. I told Martin (Truex) to start looking around. Martin has been very good to us…always drove for less money than what other teams were paying and brought us a championship. I wish Martin and Cole (Pearn, crew chief) all the best next year at Joe Gibbs Racing. Two outstanding individuals who are extremely talented in what they do. They will be a huge asset to JGR.
Q: You defied all the critics about being based in Denver. Did you ever think when you started your NASCAR journey that Furniture Row Racing would evolve to being one of the elite teams?
A: I always thought we could. For the last five or six years I knew we could. We knew we were building fast race cars and progressing in the right direction. Regan (Smith) won at Darlington, beating Carl Edwards to the finish. That showed everyone that we could build fast cars. Because of that we kept on attracting good people and eventually joined forces with Toyota and forged a successful technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing. The chips were starting to fall in the right place and our record of reaching the final four in three of the last four years is a pretty strong statement about the caliber of our team.
Q: Do you feel there was a singular turning point responsible for Furniture Row Racing’s growth to elite status in the NASCAR Cup Series?
A: I think the real serious turning point was when (crew chief) Todd Berrier came to Denver to join our team (July, 2012). He raised the quality of our race cars and operation. He just brought a lot of things to us, and because of him, we started attracting more good people. We heard that Kurt (Busch) wanted to work with Todd, so we brought in Kurt. Todd and Cole came as a team. So with Todd, Kurt and Cole we had a strong nucleus and knew we were headed in the right direction. We became the first single-car team to make the playoffs with Todd, Cole and Kurt in 2013.
Q: What are some of your special highlights during Furniture Row Racing’s history?
A: There are so many memories, I can’t separate them. Not a good question for me. Losing the Daytona 500 by a thousandth of a second might not be a good memory, but winning the championship last year sure made up for that Daytona loss. The championship was so hard to accomplish and at the same time so satisfying.
Q: Without racing how will you personally fill the void?
A: My seven grandchildren are getting older and I would really like to spend more time with them. I am interested in our machine shop (Visser Precision). We’re doing some interesting things there that really fascinate me. I hope to get to the ranch and farm more often, I love it out there. I am most anxious to get back to church on a regular basis. I really need the worship now. The teachings of Jesus are the only thing holding me together these days.
Q: Do you ever see yourself owning a team again or being part of an ownership group?
A: I don’t see that today.
Q: Do you plan on attending races next year as either a guest or a fan?
A: I hope to attend some races next year. I am a huge racing fan. I love the cars, love the smell, love the sound and love the people. I will be coming as a guest and fan next year and hope to sit in the stands for a few races. Never did that. My wife and I are looking forward to taking weekend trips to races next year.
Q: The most important question, how is your health?
A: My health is really good. I mean really good. I am down 40 pounds and feel better than I have felt in many years.