Sizing Up the NASCAR Championship Fields
Three races left. Three championships on the line. Three days of action to sort it all out. That’s what NASCAR fans have to look forward to this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway as the season wraps with champions in all three of its major touring series.
With all 12 Championship 4 drivers capable of taking home the trophy for his respective series, let’s break down the stat that says this is the guy who will get it done in 2019:
MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
His 9.2 average finish and 1,462 laps led in 2019 both lead the Cup Series. His 26 top-10 finishes this year are also one more than Harvick and three more than either Truex or Hamlin. If excellence from start to finish is to be rewarded, expect Busch to be near the front as the race winds down. He’s also the only driver to make the Championship 4 the past four years.
The No. 11 Toyota has been frequently spotted near the front of the pack this year. His 19 top-five finishes is three more than any other driver, and six of them have come in the playoffs. In a playoff format where the top finisher in the finale wins the championship, riding around up front is of the utmost importance.
Despite being below the cutline before his win at Texas Motor Speedway in the Round of 8, Harvick has been the most consistently great driver in the 2019 playoffs. His average finish in nine playoff starts is 6.1, better than anyone in the Cup Series. He’s also the only driver in this year’s Championship 4 with an average finish in the single digits (6.6) at Homestead.
Martin Truex Jr.
The series leader in wins (7) has been the class of the field in this year’s playoffs. He’s won three times in the nine playoff races so far with eight finishes in the top seven. He’s also led a playoff-high 654 laps, highlighted by his dominant 464 circuits up front at Martinsville.
NASCAR XFINITY SERIES
Coming off a win to clinch his spot in the Championship 4, Allgaier is trying to become the third consecutive JR Motorsports driver to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship. His worst finish in six playoff races was sixth at Texas Motor Speedway, and his average of 3.7 is tops in the Xfinity Series.
Bell leads the series in two very important categories: wins and laps led. His eight wins are impressive, but the 1,968 laps led are more than twice the total of any other driver. His eight Xfinity Series wins are also the most by a non-Cup Series driver since Sam Ard and Jack Ingram both did it in 1984.
Custer’s 5.5 average finish in playoff races raises the bar from his season average of 9.2, and he won the 2017 finale at Homestead by an incredible 15.405 seconds, the largest winning margin in the Xfinity Series since October, 2002 at Charlotte.
The 2018 Xfinity Series champion is the most consistent frontrunner this year, even if it hasn’t been in full effect in the playoffs. His 23 top-five finishes are four clear of anyone else, and his 6.5 average finish leads the way as well. That number is also half what his average finish (12.9) was in last year’s championship season.
NASCAR GANDER OUTDOORS TRUCK SERIES
The melon man has been a top 10 machine in 2019, pumping out 18 of them in 22 races, best in the series. He’s done so while not just giving Niece Motorsports its first championship contender, but its first win overall. In fact, Niece had never even had a top-five finish before Chastain’s nine this season.
The 43-year-old two-time series champion would be the oldest driver to win any of the top three series since Todd Bodine took the Trucks title at 46 years old in 2010. Crafton hasn’t won in 2019, and no driver has ever won a Gander Trucks title without winning at least once, but the last one to take the championship with a single win was Matt Crafton in 2013.
Out of all the Gander Trucks regulars, no one has a better average finish than Friesen’s 8.4. If he wins the championship, the Canadian will also be the first non-American to win the Gander Trucks and just the second non-American behind Daniel Suarez (Xfinity Series) to win a major NASCAR championship.
The 2018 Gander Trucks champion is trying (as is Tyler Reddick in the Xfinity Series) to become the first driver since Buck Baker in the Cup Series (1956-57) to go back-to-back with different owners. He’s in prime position, too. His four wins and 4.5 average start are best among Gander Trucks regulars in 2019.