- Five Previous Cup Series Champs Remain Primary Round Of 12 Contenders
This is the fourth feature/video vignette of a weekly series that will appear each Thursday that focuses on contenders in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. The series will run up to the AAA Texas 500, the middle race of the Round of 8, set for Sunday, Nov. 4, at Texas Motor Speedway.
FORT WORTH, Texas (October 11, 2018) – Of the 12 drivers still alive in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, seven are looking to be champions for the first time.
There are five, however, that are vying for the second Cup Series title of their career.
Martin Truex Jr. is the reigning Monster Energy champion; Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick won in back-to-back years in 2014 and ’15, respectively; Brad Keselowski won the title in 2012; and Kurt Busch was the first driver to win a championship in the Chase era that began on 2004.
“I don’t know if (a second title) would be very emotional, but I think I would be extremely excited and proud of the year that we’ve put together,” said Harvick, who will be defending his AAA Texas 500 title on Sunday, Nov. 4 at Texas Motor Speedway. “We’re fortunate to do the things that we do on a weekly basis and being able to achieve what you’ve set out as a goal would be pretty gratifying.”
Heading into the second race of the Round of 12 on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, all five are currently above the cutline to advance to the next round. Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Truex Jr. hold down the top three spots in the championship points, respectively, while Kurt Busch is sixth and Keselowski seventh. The only driver that has secured a berth in the next round thus far is Chase Elliott, who won last week at Dover to advance.
With seven wins already this season and 16 career victories at the six remaining tracks on the NASCAR Playoffs schedule, Harvick remains one of the heavy favorites to reach Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Championship 4 title race on Sunday, Nov. 18.
So is Kyle Busch, who also has won seven times this season and owns nine career victories at the remaining six tracks, including three at Texas Motor Speedway. He is looking at a Texas sweep after edging Harvick for the win in April’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.
“Obviously we’ve been close the last three years (for the series championship),” Busch said. “In 2015, we won. In 2016, we were third. Last year, we were second. It would certainly mean a lot to get back to Homestead and have an opportunity to race for the championship, but more importantly bring home another one.”
Kyle’s brother, Kurt, has been waiting 14 years to return to the championship stage in South Florida. He also is the last driver to pilot a Ford to a Cup championship.
“It would be an incredible situation to have that as a championship again for myself, for Stewart-Haas, the first championship for Ford in a long time,” said Busch, who has won back-to-back poles at Texas Motor Speedway. “The good news, bad news is I’m the last Ford champion – and that was a few years ago. So it would be wonderful to deliver a championship to them and to get my second one. I think I’d appreciate this one that much more so than I did my first one.”
Keselowski, who piloted a Dodge to the championship in its final season in the sport for Team Penske in 2012, also is in the Ford camp and vying for that second series title. And while he has cooled off a tad following his three consecutive wins – two to close out the regular season and one in the first race of the postseason – the driver of the No. 2 is still among the favorites to win championship No. 2.
“I think to win a second championship with Team Penske would be, to me, very much a validation of the first one we were able to win in 2012,” Keselowski said. “(It would) kind of solidify a spot in my career.”
Truex Jr. is looking to become the first repeat champion since Jimmie Johnson captured five crowns from 2006-10. With four wins on the season, he has been part of the “Big 3” with Kyle Busch and Harvick, and another favorite for a second championship.
It would be especially emotional for Furniture Row Racing after it was announced in September that the organization would be ceasing operations at the conclusion of this season due to a lack of sufficient sponsorship funding.
“As a group as a whole, I feel like we’re ready for the challenge,” Truex Jr. said. “We understand the situation we’re in. We want to make the most of it. We know what last year felt like. We want to all do it again.”
The AAA Texas 500 on Sunday, Nov. 4, at Texas Motor Speedway is the middle race of the three-event Round of 8 segment of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Texas Motor Speedway also will play host to a Round of 6 Camping World Truck Series Playoff race – the JAG Metals 350 – on Friday, Nov. 2, and a Round of 8 Xfinity Series Playoff race – the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 – on Saturday, Nov. 3.
For NASCAR Playoff tickets or additional information, please visit www.texasmotorspeedway.com.