Kevin Harvick showed everyone why he is called The Closer. Just when it looked like Martin Truex, Jr was going to bring home his first Texas win, Harvick was the model of consistency and ran Truex down, passing him on his way to his first ever win at Texas. Harvick joins Kyle Busch and Truex as three of the four drivers to compete for the championship at Homestead.
It was a day when many of the playoff drivers ran well making it tough for anyone that was trying to crawl out of a hole. Hamlin, Blaney and Elliott did everything but win the race. On a day when they needed one of the top drivers to have a bad day, it just didn’t happen. Kyle Busch had a bad race, but he is already going through to Homestead. Jimmie Johnson ran terribly and the team made some questionable pit calls that left them mired 3 laps down. On the other hand, Kyle Busch and team made calls to get them back the lead lap only to have issues that dropped them to one lap down. That was not a Jimmie Johnson/Chad Knaus kind of race.
Phoenix is a place that has been good to Johnson with 4 wins and he had a top 10 in the spring race. He will need that kind of luck to try for his 8th championship this year. Johnson is the bottom playoff driver and will need a win or everyone in front of him to DNF in order to move on. It’s hard to bet against him, but he has certainly not had a great playoff run.
If Kyle Busch, Harvick or Truex win again, or any non-playoff driver, the points battle will be between Keselowski, Hamlin and Blaney. Chase Elliott and Johnson are both over 100 points back and are in a must win situation.
Kyle Larson could really mess things up with a win at Phoenix. Larson had a good car at Texas, led 74 laps but had a bout with the outside wall that ended his day. He is good at Phoenix so he could return to his winning ways or at least throw a real scare into a few playoff drivers.
The Dale Earnhardt, Jr Watch saw Jr flirting with the top 10 when he burned out his left front hub. He returned to the track but finished 30 laps down in 35th. Jr has had some success at Phoenix, so maybe he can still claim one more win for Jr Nation.
Matt Kenseth revealed that he has no plans of racing in 2018 and is planning on taking a hiatus from Cup racing. Kenseth ran up front at Texas, led some laps and ended the day in 4th. But that and 50 cents will get the former champ a cup of coffee. It is hard to believe we are seeing the exodus of some really good drivers right now. Kenseth wishes he had the chance to go out on his own terms like some others, but it is not to be, at least not right now. Losing the open seat at Hendrick was a wake up slap in the face for him. Team owners have a lot invested in the young talent coming up and they come with sponsorship and they are less expensive than former champions. As Dale Jr said earlier this summer, the economics of Cup racing are as much to blame for this veteran exodus as anything else.
As much as I would like to see Elliott or Blaney in the final four, I think it will be Keselowski. He is 20 points ahead of Hamlin and only needs to have a top 10 day to move on if Hamlin doesn’t win.
Who do you think is going to be the 4th driver competing for the championship?