NASCAR Championship 4: The best four made it

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season comes to an end on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Four drivers will race for the series trophy and it is hard to argue anyone should not be there.

Combined the quartet of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Kevin Harvick scored a stunning 21 wins in 35 races.

No single driver did it alone either. Leading the way were Truex (7) and Hamlin (6) but Harvick and Busch (4) each had more wins than anyone else on the track.

No matter the metric used, the four drivers in the championship race top the statistics. In top-tens, Busch (26) and Harvick (25) led the way while Hamlin and Truex (23) still managed three more than Joey Logano (20) while Brad Keselowski, who was not in the Round of 8 was next with 19.

Instead of building a case for the championship four maybe summing up the reasons why the other four drivers from the Round of 8 are gone is the way you want to go.

Kyle Larson was unfortunately the victim of Bubba Wallace’s intention spin at Texas but lost in all that is no one really thought Larson was going to win and he rallied to 12th. Instead of speaking about going to ISM Raceway with it all on the line, Larson entered the race still speaking about Wallace’s spin. There is being wronged and being over occupied with a driver well outside the playoff picture, where do you draw the line?

Last years champion, Joey Logano, may have been the driver with the best season to miss the playoffs. The reason Logano missed the championship round is simple. His win total doubled that of Larson but all of those numbers mentioned earlier made him just the fifth best driver on the circuit instead of a championship hopeful.

Ryan Blaney gave it his all at ISM and came up short. Fans of the Penske Racing driver have long claimed on the internet that Blaney was driving the teams “third car” or “experimental equipment.” Maybe they missed the racing on the track. Blaney ran well at times but had a knack for getting lost in the third stage. That his lone win of the season came at Talladega will justify those claims to some, but an average finish of 14th is barely better than last years numbers and actually one spot below teammate Keselowski. If Blaney was truly running inferior equipment to his teammates why would Penske Racing not change that up once Keselowski had been eliminated from the playoffs? That argument does not hold water.

If being popular was the key to being in the championship race Dale Earnhardt Jr. would have been there numerous times during his career. Alas, Earnhardt is gone and his title as most popular has been taken up by Chase Elliott. The reason Elliott did not move on was simple at ISM, he cut a tire. Elliott seemed to be bothered by bad luck throughout the season a blown engine at Dover immediately followed a win at the Charlotte Roval. The worst results for Elliott came in the final three races of his title quest with finishes of 36th at Martinsville, 32 at Texas and 39th at ISM. Elliott’s average finish ranked behind even that of Blaney who only had one win to Elliott’s three.

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