The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 is set following Sunday’s race at ISM Raceway, with Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick joining Joey Logano in next weekend’s title race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Three spots were up for grabs in the Round of 8 finale, and fittingly it was this season’s “Big 3” that clinched them in the penultimate race of the season.
Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer were eliminated from the postseason.
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Logano had advanced to Miami with his win in the opening race of the Round of 8 at Martinsville Speedway, when he moved Truex Jr. up the track in Turn 3 on the final lap to pull out the win. And it turns out, it was a move that saved his season considering Logano cut a tire on Lap 95 at ISM Raceway and exited the race thereafter.
Truex Jr. recovered from that disappointing Martinsville finish, though, to clinch his third Championship 4 appearance in the past four years. For “Rowdy,” he got there by virtue of winning Sunday at ISM for his eighth victory of 2018.
“Well, it’s exciting for us, I think, to be in this position again,” Truex Jr. said. “This is our third trip to Homestead in four years, which I think is something we’re all really proud of as a group, and obviously going to be our last race together as a complete group, it’s definitely going to be a special weekend.”
Harvick rallied for his fourth Championship 4 appearance in five years in the playoff elimination format. His run to Miami hit an unexpected speed bump this week due to an L1-level penalty following his win at Texas. The spoiler infraction on the No. 4 cost Harvick 40 points in the driver standings, the result of which sent him from “clinched” to just three points above the cutoff line entering Phoenix.
Harvick had to do it the hard way Sunday, even with starting from the Busch Pole. He had led every lap of Stage 1 before blowing a tire with two laps remaining. A fortuitous caution flag got him back in the lead lap in Stage 2, and a bit of pit strategy earned him the crucial points, and he survived the late-race mayhem that Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch triggered with a Lap 268 (of 312) wreck that also caught Elliott.
“I think we have a chance every time we show up,” Harvick said. “Our guys are doing a great job obviously to accomplish everything we did this weekend was quite the feat without your crew chief and car chief, but (interim crew chief) Tony Gibson and (interim car chief) Nick (DeFazio) did a great job filling in and everybody kept their head about them and we were competitive all weekend.”
Harvick, Busch and Truex Jr. all have one Monster Energy Series championship to their name. Logano will be racing for his first career championship.