The current elimination format of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs is down to the final weekend of its sixth season, and one thing has been clear during the format’s first five seasons of finales – to the victor go the spoils.
While the rules state that simply the highest-finisher among the four championship-eligible drivers Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway will win this year’s title, it’s been proven thus far it’s about more than being the highest finisher, it’s a must-win situation. Joey Logano was the latest to win the finale at Homestead last season to clinch his first career championship. The winner-take-all scenario rang true as right behind the victorious Logano was fellow Championship 4 contender Martin Truex Jr. in the runner-up spot.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) is a five-time race winner in 2019 and once again among this weekend’s Championship 4, accomplished the same feat in 2015 when he won the 400-mile season finale at Homestead to bring home his first Cup Series championship.
Busch knows the task of winning at Homestead is a big one as he’ll compete primarily against JGR equipment with teammates Truex and Denny Hamlin also vying for the title Sunday. Kevin Harvick, the 2014 series champion, will be the lone driver from outside the JGR fold who will vie for the title in the one-race shootout for the Cup Series championship trophy Sunday afternoon in South Florida. Through this season’s first 35 races, Truex has finished best among the four title contenders 12 times, Busch 10 times, Hamlin seven times and Harvick six times.
With three top-five finishes through this year’s nine playoff races, Busch knows he’ll likely need to find one more victory in order to become the 2019 Cup Series champion and bring home his second title. There have been 15 NASCAR Cup Series drivers who have won two or more championships since the sport was founded in 1959. Not only is Busch hoping to become the 16th on Sunday, so is Truex and Harvick.
While Busch’s average finish of 17.4 at Homestead may not be his best, he has become strong and consistent on the 1.5-mile oval the past four seasons, bringing home three top-fives and four top-10s. His most impressive race at Homestead, of course, was his 2015 championship-winning effort, when he led six times for a total of 41 laps in the 400-mile race.
So, as Busch heads to South Florida with everything on the line Sunday, the M&M’S driver and his team will most certainly be in must-win mode as it’s proven to be the only way to guarantee their second Cup Series championship and their membership in the multi-series championship club.