Monster Energy Cup Series News

Monster Energy Cup Series News (14596)

I can't think of a race where all of the main storylines and things that were being hyped up to get people to tune in, actually happened. Let's just go through and show how this statement is true. Let's start with the winner, Matt Kenseth. It broke during final practice last week at Texas that Matt Kenseth would not be returning to the cup series in 2018, likely ending his career. This talk continued throughout the week, even Kenseth himself saying these next two races were likely his last behind the wheel. Well, Kenseth scored an emotional win on Sunday, passing must win driver Chase Elliott with under ten laps to go in Sunday's race. Likely Kenseth's final career win, Sunday was everything a Kenseth fan would want, and quite a way for the driver himself to wrap up his illustrious career.

Now, the story that everyone was talking about was the retribution for Chase Elliott versus Denny Hamlin yesterday. Elliott, in a must win position, spared no room or patience when it came to passing the 11 car late in yesterday's race. Elliott used the bumper to move Hamlin up the hill in turn 3-4, riding Hamlin all the way to the outside wall, which caused Hamlin to blow a tire late in the race. This eliminated Hamlin, who had led the majority of the race Sunday, and had held the final spot in the championship four for the majority of the day as well. This prompted a clearly agitated Hamlin to drop the soundbite of the day.


In his NBC interview, Hamlin said this. "It just proves to the people who thought I was a bad guy that he would do the exact same thing under the same circumstances." I have a serious concern with this quote. Hamlin said "exact same thing" referring to Hamlin's contact that sent Chase Elliott spinning into the wall in Martinsville. That just is not true. Hamlin spun Chase Elliott with two laps to go for the lead, likely the win, in Martinsville. What Elliott did to Hamlin yesterday was just hard racing with a tad more extra curricular activity. Obviously Martinsville was on Elliott's mind when he got to the rear bumper of the 11 car, but for this instance to be the exact same as Martinsville, Hamlin would have had to have been turned into the wall by the 24. Minimal contact and a cut tire ten laps later with under fifty to go for a top five spot is not the same as blatantly wrecking somebody for the lead with two to go. It's just that simple.

We head to Homestead to wrap up the season with four drivers that you cannot really pick a favorite. The cop-out answer to me is to pick Martin Truex Jr, but in recent years, they have not shown me that they have the speed at Homestead, which is not your average cookie-cutter 1.5 miler that Truex has dominated on this year. Brad Keselowski surprisingly is making his debut appearance in the championship four, and is in the best shape to get his second title since his first in 2012. I cannot get a solid read on the 2 team, who had a lackluster appearance at Phoenix. He has Chase Elliott to thank for his berth in my opinion, because he knocked Denny Hamlin out of contention, allowing Keselowski to coast home to finish 15th. Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch are toss-up's in my mind. Both of these drivers can win the race in my opinion. Harvick has the best average finish of the championship four drivers at Homestead with 6.94 in 17 starts. Kyle Busch has been in this position three times now, and came home with the trophy once in 2015. Harvick won the inaugural championship four race in 2014 to win his first title. Both are my favorites to bring it home on Sunday, with the edge going to Harvick in my eyes going back to his average performance at this track. Clearly, this championship race has the possibility of being the best in the fourth year of this format being used. There is no clear favorite, what else could you want? No more stage points, playoff points, just go out there and win, or at the very least, beat the other three eligible drivers.

Stage 1
Cole Whitt qualified 34th to start the Can-Am 500 (k) at Phoenix International Raceway
 
Lap 10: Running 33rd, Whitt relayed the No. 72 was tight through the center
 
Lap 37: Maintaining 33rd, Whitt fell one lap down from the leader
 
Stage 1 Completion Caution Lap 75: Whitt completed the stage 32nd, one lap down from the leader. Whitt pitted for four tires, fuel, air pressure and wedge adjustments
 
 
Stage 2
Whitt took the Stage 2 green flag restart 30th, one lap down. Soon thereafter, Whitt relayed he felt a bad vibration
 
Stage two ultimately became one long green flag run until an incident brought out the caution as Stage 2 neared completion
 
Caution Lap 150 (incident) / Stage 2 Completion Caution: Running 31st, two laps down, Whitt continued to experience a vibration. He pitted for four tires, fuel, and air pressure adjustment
 
  
Stage 3
Whitt was scored 29th, two laps down for the start of Stage 3
 
Caution Lap 230 (incident): Running 28th, three laps down, Whitt relayed he was having brake issues and tight in the center. He pitted for four tires, fuel, air pressure and wedge adjustment. He restarted 25th, 3 laps down
 
Caution Lap 240 (debris): Whitt relayed t brake issue was worsening. He pitted for four tires and fuel
 
Caution Lap 253 (incident) ultimately brought out the red flag stopping the field for track clean-up. Cole Whitt took the green flag 22nd, three laps down.
 
Lap 261: Whitt incurred a left front tire failure causing him to make contact with the wall. The contact caused significant damage to the No. 72 resulting in a shortened day for the him and the team. He completed a total of 258 laps and finished 36th in the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
 
Tri-Star PR

Erik Jones continued his rock solid performance at Phoenix Raceway by taking Furniture Row’s No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota to a fourth-place finish in the NASCAR Cup Series Can-Am 500.

The 21-year-old series rookie kept alive a streak of now 12 consecutive top-10 finishes in as many starts on the one-mile oval, including two victories in the Camping World Truck Series. He finished eighth in the Cup race in March.

Jones also moved up on spot, to 18th, in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings after 35 races. His 847 points is 47 points behind Joey Logano for 17th, two ahead of Clint Bowyer for 19th and 73 points ahead of Daniel Suarez in 20th.

“Today was a good day for us,” said Jones. “The 5-hour ENERGY Camry was good. Definitely had the speed to run up front and contend for the win – so thanks to TRD for that – but I just didn’t really execute 100 percent on the last restart to really give myself the shot I needed. Kind of a bummer, but overall really strong day for us – another day we needed. It had been a minute since we had really ran in the top-five competitively and had a shot and that is what we did today. Nice to get back on track. Nice momentum for next week and hopefully being able to close the season out with a win.”

Jones was a mainstay in the top 10 throughout the 312-lap race. After starting 11th, he finished seventh in Stage 1 and third in Stage 2 despite chasing the handling of the No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Toyota from tight to loose and back again.

Crew chief Chris Gayle called for a 2-tire stop under caution on Lap 256 while running fifth. Most of the leaders stayed out so Jones restarted 11th with just more than 50 laps remaining. He was back to fifth by Lap 273 and into fourth on Lap 275. He crossed the finish line just behind Furniture Row Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. 

Matt Kenseth won the race. The balance of the top-10 finishers were: Chase Elliott, Truex, Jones, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Aric Almirola and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The race had seven cautions for 41 laps and one red flag for five minutes. There were nine lead changes among five drivers.

The final race of the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series is Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

FRR PR

After having to start at the rear of the field due to a tire issue in qualifying, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. overcame adversity and drove his Robert Yates Tribute Ford to an eighth-place finish in Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway.

“I’m really happy with that after starting last from my mistake in qualifying,” Stenhouse said. “We kept working on our Ford throughout the race. It was really good on the long runs and then we got it decent on the short runs as well. It was a good day for our guys, and I look forward to trying to carry this momentum into Homestead and hopefully finish 11th in points.”

After flat-spotting his tire in round one of qualifying, Stenhouse Jr. had to forfeit his qualifying position and start at the tail end of the field. With a caution free stage one, the Olive Branch, Miss. patiently maneuvered his Ford through the field gaining 17 positions in the first 75 laps but lost a lap to the leaders just three laps shy of the green checkered.

Stenhouse Jr. restarted stage two in the 24th position and battled with numerous cars to earn the lucky dog position. With another caution free stage, the Roush Fenway Racing driver worked his way into the free pass position when the green checkered waved on lap 150.

Back on the lead lap, the two-time XFINITY champion steadily worked his way forward and with a flurry of late-race cautions found himself in the top-10 with 40 laps to go. When the final green flag waved on lap 281, Stenhouse was scored in the ninth position but newer tires prevailed forcing Stenhouse to settle with an eighth-place finish.

Next up for Stenhouse and the No. 17 team is the Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 19. Race coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. (EST) on NBC. Coverage can also be heard on MRN and NASCAR SIRIUS/XM radio channel 90. 

TSC PR

Just two races remained on the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule when Ty Dillon and Germain Racing headed out west for the final time this year. With Veterans Day weekend as a highlight for the NASCAR community, Dillon's No. 13 Chevrolet was draped in the GEICO Military paint scheme in honor of our nation's veterans and military service members.
 
Practice offered little hope for Dillon and Germain Racing after they were 30th, 32nd and 30th in the three sessions. Qualifying followed suit and would tame any optimism after the team failed to advance to round two and was relegated to a 29th place starting position. At the close of qualifying, crew chief Bootie Barker assured Dillon that he would have the No. 13 GEICO Military machine ready to race. Barker would remain true to his word when racing got underway on Sunday.
 
A packed house and perfect weather conditions watched over the Cup Series field as they took the green flag for 312-laps of door-to-door racing action. Dillon started 29th, but would not take  up residence in the spot, as he began charging the GEICO Military Chevy forward and gathering positions in bulk. By the conclusion of the race's opening stage, the young gun had climbed his way up to 17th, netting a 12-position gain and making clear that he possessed the speed to continue his trek to the front of the field.
 
Dillon continued hustling around the close-quarters one-mile oval and by the close of stage two, he was another position to the good in 16th. Dillon was happy with his No. 13 GEICO Military Chevy and he indicated over the team's radio frequency that the car was "pretty good right there." Dillon continued to compliment the car while collecting positions one at a time. He would ultimately break into the top-10 on lap 238 when he jumped to the ninth position.
 
When the checkered flag brought 312-miles of racing to a halt, Dillon and his No. 13 GEICO Military Chevy crossed the finish line in the 11th position. Dillon's effort accounts for Germain Racing's eighth top-15 finish of the 2017 season and matches the best finish (Talladega - October 15, 2017) of his very young Cup Series career.  
 
"It was a good day.  I wish we could have had some more of these throughout the season," Dillon said after exiting his GEICO Military Chevy.  "When you are running good like that, you get to learn a lot more.  We had a couple of mistakes that might have kept us from running even better than what we ended up, but proud of our effort.  I learned a lot about what it takes to race good here in the Monster Energy Cup Series.  I feel like all-in-all it was a great finish, but I feel like I learned more than what this finish is going to show.  Excited to keep going and it is great momentum going into the last race of the year."
 
The final race of the season is next on the calendar for the Germain Racing team, as they pack up and head to south Florida for race number 36 of 36.
 
Ty Dillon and the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS will hit the track at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the weekend's opening practice session on Friday, November 17th, at 12:30 PM (ET). Qualifying will follow at 6:15 PM (ET).
                                                     
The Ford EcoBoost 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is on Sunday, November 19th, and it will be televised live on NBC beginning at 2:30 PM (ET). The Motor Racing Network (MRN) will carry the live radio broadcast, along with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.
 
PMI PR

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-75):

Danica Patrick started 24th and finished 33rd.

● The No. 10 Code 3 Associates Ford Fusion team struggled from the drop of the green flag, and Patrick was scored 33rd at lap 50.

● Crew chief Billy Scott called for wholesale changes when the team pitted between stages at lap 80. The crew changed four tires, added fuel and made wedge, air pressure and packer adjustments.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 76-150):

Started 33rd and finished 30th.

● The Code 3 Associates Ford fired off better in Stage 2, and Patrick was able to gain several positions.

● The team pitted between stages at lap 154 for tires, fuel and adjustments.

 

Final Stage Recap (Laps 151-312):

Started 28th and finished 25th.

● Patrick ran as high as 26th before making contact with the outside retaining wall just after lap 200. The team pitted under green-flag conditions at lap 223 for tires, fuel, adjustments and repairs, which put the No. 10 Code 3 Associates Ford back to the 31st position. Scott called for Patrick to wave around when the caution flag came out at lap 228.

● The team pitted under caution at laps 240, 256 and 277 for tires, fuel and adjustments. In the closing laps, Patrick was able to gain several positions and took the checkered flag in 25th.

 

Notes:              

● This was Patrick’s 11th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Phoenix Raceway and her 189th career NASCAR Cup Series start.

● Patrick earned 12 points in Sunday’s race at Phoenix Raceway, which puts her at 510 total points for the season thus far. She is ranked 27th in the driver point standings.

● There were seven caution periods for a total of 41 laps.

● A total of 18 of the 40 drivers in the Can-Am 500k finished on the lead lap.

● Matt Kenseth won the Can-Am 500k to score his 39th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his first of the season and his second at Phoenix Raceway. His margin of victory over second-place Chase Elliott was 1.207 seconds.

● The Championship 4 contenders, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., enter the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with 5,000 points each.

 

Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Nov. 19 Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The event starts at 2:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by NBC.

 

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Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-75):

● Clint Bowyer started 20th and finished 12th.

● Bowyer started fast, climbing to 15th by lap 10.

● Bowyer said No. 14 needed “a little bit of turn” in turns one and two.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 76-150):

● Started 11th and finished 10th to earn one race point.

● Climbed into the top-10 for the first time in the opening laps of the stage.

● Said his car was loose into the corners and tight off.

 

Stage 3 Recap (Laps 151-312):

Started seventh and finished 13th.

Moved from 10th to seventh on the pit stop before the final stage started.

Drifted back to 10th in the opening laps because he “couldn’t turn” and had no rear grip.

With 80 laps remaining Bowyer pitted under caution from ninth for fuel, tires and adjustments to loosen the handling of his No. 14.

A penalty for speeding seconds after exiting his pit stall dropped him to 19th for the restart.

Bowyer took four new tires when he pitted under caution with 55 laps remaining and restarted the race in 15th.

The No. 14 suffered damage when another driver missed a shift at the front of the field on the final restart with 30 laps remaining.

Bowyer had climbed to 13th when the checkered flag fell.

 

Notes:

● There were seven caution periods for a total of 41 laps.

● Eighteen of the 39 drivers in the Can-Am 500k finished on the lead lap.

● Matt Kenseth won the Can-Am 500k to score his 39th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his first of the season and his second at Phoenix.

● The Championship 4 contenders, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. enter the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with 5,000 points each.

 

Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 14 USA Network DAMNATION Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“We weren’t very good on Friday, and my guys worked hard overnight and came up with some changes that made us a heck of a lot better Saturday, and that carried over to today. We had a good car and good pit stops. The speeding penalty hurt us. Dropped us back to 19th, but we fought back. I thought we were going to get a really good finish, but we got messed up with a lot of cars on that restart near the end.”

 

Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 on Sunday, Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The final race of the 10-race playoffs starts at 2:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by NBC beginning at 1:30 p.m.

 

TSC PR

Martin Truex Jr. had another strong playoff run, finishing third in Sunday’s Can-Am 500 NASCAR Cup Series race. The result was a career best for the Furniture Row Racing driver at Phoenix Raceway.

"We go into each race with the same attitude and that is to be a contender for the win,” said Truex. “You can’t turn it off and on in this sport. We’ve had trouble at this track in the past but had a good game plan coming in.

“We stuck with the plan all weekend and we were right there all day. It was a good day for Furniture Row Racing (teammate Erik Jones finished fourth) and I hope this put a smile on the face of our owner Barney Visser. We’re all thinking of him during his recovery.”

Truex will close out the 2017 season next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway as one of the Championship 4 drivers vying for the season title. He will be joined by Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. The driver who scores the best finish among the four finalists will be crowned the NASCAR Cup Series champion.

“We’re all excited about going to Homestead with the opportunity of winning the championship,” stated Truex. “This is what we set out to do at the beginning of the year.”

Truex, who started the Phoenix race fifth in the blue No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry, powered by a TRD engine, basically ran in the top-five for the entire race.

“We were right there all day long,” said Truex. “Had a sniff at the lead a couple times – just couldn’t quite get it – but I’ve got to say I’m so proud of (race winner) Matt (Kenseth) and his team and the year they’ve had and really the position they’re in right now. To go out and win that race was unbelievable, so I was really, really happy for him. He did an awesome job.”

With one race remaining, Truex has garnered seven wins, 18 top fives, 25 top 10s and 2175 laps led — all series leading numbers.

Take away the Talladega wreckfest race, Truex’s average finish in the other eight playoff races is 2.37.

Following Kenseth to the checkered flag were: Chase Elliott, Truex, Erik Jones, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Aric Almirola and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The race had seven cautions for 41 laps and one red flag for five minutes. There were nine lead changes among five drivers.

FRR PR

Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 SKF/Quick Lane Ford team came up short of being among the four drivers and their teams that will compete for the Monster Energy Cup Series championship at Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway next week.

But despite fading to 17th place at the finish of Sunday’s Can-Am 500 and coming 23 points shy of advancing, they left Phoenix Raceway with their heads held high after a season full of amazing accomplishments.
 
“It’s disappointing, but at the same time we have a lot to be proud of for sure,” Blaney said in his post-race comments. “The nine weeks that we had [in the playoffs] is something to be proud of. 
 
“It’s a shame we’re not racing for the championship, but we can still try to win the race.”
 
Blaney started Sunday’s 312-mile race from the pole and led the first 11 laps, but it was soon apparent that his SKF/Quick Lane Fusion wasn’t fast enough to win the race, which was his most realistic option for advancing to the championship round at Homestead.
 
Still, he and the team battled hard throughout the race and found themselves in the top five as the laps wound down. But to keep that track position meant staying on the track during late-race cautions, and staying on the track ended up putting him at a disadvantage to drivers behind him with fresher tires.
 
“We were debating whether to pit or not there and just didn’t, so that made us fall back,” he said. “I thought we could have stayed up and you never know what could have happened, but we just never had the car all day to compete up front.”
 
That’s not to say Blaney and the team didn’t put forth a 100-percent effort.

 “We did a good job on restarts,” Blaney said. “I thought we were decent on restarts all day. We were able to start up towards the front and just didn’t work out for us. 

 “We still have one more race to go with the Wood Brothers group, so hopefully we can go and have a good run at Miami.”  
 
Team co-owner Len Wood echoed Blaney’s comments about the team having a lot to be proud of, including a win at Pocono, poles at Kansas and Phoenix and a nine-week run in the playoffs.

“We came within one race of making the championship round,” Wood said. “It’s been an amazing season, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the alliance we have with Team Penske.”
 
Wood also said he’s proud to have two Ford teammates among the four competing for the title in Ford Championship Weekend.

 “We’re proud to have Team Penske’s No. 2 team and their driver Brad Keselowski among the final four along with Kevin Harvick from Stewart-Haas Racing,” Wood said. “It’s good to see half the championship contenders carrying the colors of Ford Motor Company, and we hope to have a great run ourselves in the Ford 400 as we say goodbye to Ryan Blaney and Jeremy Bullins, who have made major contributions to Wood Brothers history in their three seasons with us.
 
The No. 21 Fusion will carry its familiar Motorcraft/Quick Lane colors in the season-ending Ford 400 on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

WBR PR

Austin Dillon Drives No. 3 Realtree Chevrolet to 14th-Place Finish at Phoenix Raceway
"We had a really fast Realtree Chevrolet today. We struggled with a tight-handling condition on the front end, but Justin Alexander and everyone on the team did a good job making adjustments. We made an unscheduled pit-stop for a flat left-rear tire during a caution and ended up losing a little bit of track position. Later in the race, we ended up with a little bit of damage during a late-race restart that got pretty crazy and I think it hurt us a little bit. We ended up finishing 14th. Still, a pretty good day at Phoenix Raceway."
- Austin Dillon

Paul Menard Brings Home 15th-Place Finish at Phoenix Raceway In Duracell/Menards Chevrolet
"We had a strong No. 27 Duracell/Menards Chevrolet on the long runs today, but it took a while for it to fire off on the initial start. The guys on pit road did a great job gaining spots throughout the day. We got hit from behind and suffered some damage to the nose when the field stacked up on that late-race restart, and that hurt the handling of the car over the final run. We still came out of here with a top-15 finish and we will go to Homestead and try to end the season on a high note." 
- Paul Menard

Solid Top-Five Run Foiled by Late-Race Restart Results in 20th-Place Finish for Ryan Newman and the Cat MineStar Team
"We had one hell of a Cat MineStar Chevy today. We could have won this thing again. The pit crew did a great job when we needed, and it was just a lot of fun out there. There is not much more that I could have done on that restart. We just got rear ended and had to pit. We went back out there and out ran the leader with fast lap times. I told Richard Childress we have a lot to be proud of. We struggled all weekend and to go out on race day and run with cars this capable of winning, eventually they will win. Good job again to my entire team."

- Ryan Newman

RCR PR

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-75)

Kevin Harvick started sixth, finished fifth and earned six bonus points.

Busch Light Ford Fusion raced up to fourth by lap 19 while fighting a loose-off handling condition.

Harvick fell to the fifth position just before the end of Stage 1.

The No. 4 teampitted at the end of the stage for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 76-150):

Started sixth, finished sixth and earned five bonus points.

Harvick advanced as high as the fourth position, but the car started to get tight in the center of the corner and loose off.

The No. 4 team came to pit road at the conclusion of Stage 2 for four tires, fuel and air pressure and wedge adjustments.

 

Final Stage Recap (Laps 151-312):

Started fifth and finished fifth.

The No. 4 Ford came to pit road under caution on lap 231 for four tires, fuel and air pressure and chassis adjustments.

The team gained a position on pit road during the lap-231 pit stop and restarted in the fourth position.

Harvick elected to stay out under caution in the third position on lap 240, but he fell to sixth following the restart.

The team came to pit road under caution on lap 255 for tires, fuel and adjustments, but several cars opted to stay out, and the No. 4 Ford restarted in the 13th position.

The Busch Light Ford came to pit road under caution on lap 277 for four tires and fuel, while most cars opted to stay out. He restarted with fresh tires in the 12th position.

Harvick raced his way from 12th to fifth  in the closing laps.

 

Notes:

● This was Harvick’s 13th top-five and 22nd top-10 of  the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season.

● This was Harvick’s 14th top-five and 19th top-10 finish in 30 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Phoenix.

● The Championship 4 contenders are Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Brad Keselowski. Each enters the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with 5,000 points.

● Harvick will compete for a championship for the third time in the last four years. He won the championship in 2014.

● Harvick finished fifth in Stage 1 to earn six bonus points and sixth in Stage 2 to earn an additional five bonus points.

● There were seven caution periods for a total of 41 laps.

● Eighteen of the 40 drivers in the Can-Am 500k finished on the lead lap.

 

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

What does it mean to move on with a chance to win another title?

“It means a lot, especially this year switching everything from our manufacturer to Ford and just seeing the steady climb of performance and peaking as the playoffs started and running good on really every racetrack that we’ve been to; and this has by far been our best round – all three top-fives and a win. It’s the right time of the year to be peaking. I feel really good about our mile-and-a-half program. Homestead has been a great racetrack for us through the years, and hopefully we can go down there and contend. I think, for us, you’re really happy with where you are just for the fact that as a company we know what we went through and kind of playing on house money at this point. So we’re gonna go down there and wing it and see what happens.”

 

Team owner Tony Stewart said earlier that he’s seen this script before with you, and you are going to go down to Homestead and win. Is it that easy for you?

“We have every intention of doing that. Our intention is to go down there and win the championship. I think if you’re one of those four and you don’t have that mentality, you’re not prepared for what you’re getting into, because I feel like you’re gonna have to win the race, you’re gonna have to not make mistakes. We’ve seen it year after year, mistakes and circumstances and things happen and you have to be there first, you have to have a chance, and you have to think you can do it. We know we can do it, and I think there are three past champions and a guy that has run well all year and won a lot of races, so it’s not like it’s gonna 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.”

 

From the mental toughness aspect that is required to win a title, is this maybe the strongest field?

“I wouldn’t say it’s the strongest field, because I think as you look at the past, and if I’m not mistaken, I know the 78 has been there before, the 18 (of Kyle Busch) has been there before obviously. I don’t know if Brad (Keselowski) has been there before or not in this particular format, but it’s not something that these guys are just gonna cave in and give up on what they’re doing. Three of us have won championships, and Martin (Truex Jr.) has won a lot of races this year, so the pressure is really on the 78 and the 18. 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. So it’s a lot of fun coming from behind and playing catch-up. And kind of playing that underdog role is much easier than being expected to go down there and win. We expect to win.”

 

Championship 4 Drivers at Homestead-Miami Speedway:

1.  Kevin Harvick (5,000 points)

2.  Kyle Busch (5,000 points)

3.  Martin Truex Jr. (5,000 points)

4.  Brad Keselowski (5,000 points)

 

Failed to Advance to the Championship 4:

5.  Chase Elliott (2,338 points, -2,662)

6.  Denny Hamlin (2,321 points, -2,679)

8.  Ryan Blaney (2,297 points, -2,703)

10. Jimmie Johnson (2,250 points, -2,750)

 

Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 on Sunday, Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The final race of the 10-race playoffs starts at 2:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by NBC beginning at 1:30 p.m.

 

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