Homestead Miami has played host to the NASCAR season finale for sixteen years now, and the high speed drama has not slowed. The four championship contenders found themselves putting on a show for the entire 400 miles of the race as they would all race in the top five throughout the night.
Denny Hamlin qualified on the pole leading the first forty laps of the race trying to defend his annual winning streak before being passed by Kevin Harvick who would go on to win stage one. Although stage points did not count towards the championship tonight, it was truly winner takes all. Harvick’s fellow contenders would also finish stage one in the top five.
Early in the second stage Joey Logano, who had the best short run speed all night, would surge to the lead before Kyle Larson passed him with what was easily the most dominating car not racing for the championship. Harvick would find himself back to the lead for the final lap of stage two, but Larson wasn’t done as he passed Harvick for the stage two victory coming off of turn four. Again the four championship contenders would finish in the top five.
The contenders would continue to trade positions early in the third stage as all night we would continue to be delighted with the close competition between these high caliber teams.
When the lights went down the race heated up. With 75 laps to go Larson got into the wall after characteristically running the high line this evening. Now with the caution resetting the race and a race winning threat out a championship showdown was brewing.
The championship contenders would find themselves in the top four positions again after kyle Busch had to battle back from a poor pit stop, although an underperforming car would cause the team to continue to struggle.
With fifty laps to go Martin Truex Jr. would take the lead before a Havick pit stop would bring him and Logano in for their final green flag stops a lap later. Logano would beat Truex off of pit road, but Harvick would cycle past them. Steve Addington, crew chief for the 18, threw a hail mary leaving Kyle Busch out on track to gain position in the event of a caution. Matt kenseth and Jimmie Johnson would also stay out to catch a caution.
Fortunately for the top three drivers Brad Keselowski and Daniel Suarez would get together to bring out a final caution with 20 laps remaining. After one last round of pit stops the final showdown would be set with the final four up front; Busch, Truex, Logano, Harvick in that order.
Busch was unable to hold the lead as Truex Jr. charged to the front. Again it would be Logano shining on the short run as he powered pass Truex Jr. for final lead change of the night giving him his first MENCS championship.
In a year dominated by the “big 3” it was a fourth driver stepping up to claim the ultimate prize for 2018. An accomplishment that could be surprising if you note that the other drivers were better, and consistently dominated the season especially on 1.5 mile tracks. However fans that have followed NASCAR throughout the season know that Joey Logano is more than a deserving champion who has been a top driver all year.