Nascar

NASCAR at Homestead-Miami LIVE updates: Kevin Harvick takes Stage 1 in championship race

It all comes down to this: The NASCAR Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday where Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano will compete to cement their place in history. Green flag for the final race of the season is set for 3 p.m. ET in South Florida. 

This year’s NASCAR finale is jam-packed with storylines as “The Big 3” of Busch, Truex and Harvick — the most dominant drivers this season — are set to face off in pursuit of a second championship. Logano, who stirred up emotions in the Round of 8, is also motivated as he seeks his first career title coming off one of the worst seasons of his career in 2017. 

You can follow along with live updates below, but first, here’s viewing information for the big race. 

How to watch the NASCAR Championship Ford EcoBoost 400

Location: Homestead-Miami Speedway
Date: Sunday, November 18
Time: 3 p.m. ET
Length:  400.5 miles/267 laps
Stage 1: Ends on Lap 80
Stage 2: Ends on Lap 160
Final stage: Scheduled for Lap 267
TV: NBC
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90)
Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free) 

Odds to win the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series title

Here are the odds for the NASCAR Championship 4, per VegasInsider.com

  • Kevin Harvick 9/4
  • Kyle Busch 9/4
  • Martin Truex Jr. 11/4
  • Joey Logano 7/2

Starting lineup for Ford EcoBoost 400

Live blog

Follow along with all the action. If the live blog isn’t working for you, click here.

The Case for Kevin Harvick

Harvick has driven neck-and-neck with Kyle Busch for supremacy in NASCAR this season. The No. 4 driver is tied with Busch for the series lead with eight wins. Where Harvick has the edge over Busch is in top-five and top-10 results (and not by much). Harvick has 22 top-five finishes and 28 top-10 finishes compared to Busch’s 21 and 27. 

However, two of Harvick’s wins this season were deemed encumbered due to post-race penalties. The most recent came after Harvick’s win at Texas, when he was stripped of his guaranteed shot at the title and saw his crew chief, Rodney Childers, suspended for the rest of the season.

Obviously, Harvick was able to right the ship and secure his spot in the Championship 4 after running well at Phoenix without Childers, who he’ll be without again on Sunday. Tony Gibson will be atop the pit box, calling the shots for Harvick in Childers’ absence once again.

Aside from being one of the top two drivers in the sport this season, another reason Harvick is co-favorite for the title is due to his previous success at Homestead. In addition to winning the race in 2014 to secure his first title, Harvick boasts the best average finish of the Championship 4 drivers (6.76) at Homestead. He also has four consecutive top-five finishes there, including that 2014 win. 

The Case for Kyle Busch

We mentioned the small margin between Busch and Harvick this season, but many could argue it was actually Busch who was more dominant this season. Busch has two less encumbered wins, which allowed him to take home the regular season championship. 

He’s also the hot driver on the track, having won the Round of 8 closer at Phoenix. Busch is nearly a decade younger than Harvick, and has six more wins in his career already. Some, including Busch at media day, would argue that Rowdy hasn’t even hit his prime yet and a second career title would certainly help cement his case as one of the best drivers in the sport’s history at such a young age.

Busch also knows the taste of defeat at Homestead, having finished second to Truex last season. Busch had an opportunity to bump-and-run with a faster car, but elected to race Truex fairly and it cost him the title last season. You’d have to imagine being that close to the Cup hasn’t vacated his thoughts. 

We mentioned Harvick’s success at Homestead earlier. Well, Busch may not have the same average finish (18.46), but he has been much better lately. He has five top-seven finishes in his past six races there, including the championship clincher in 2015 and the runner-up showing last season.

The Case for Martin Truex Jr.

Last year, we saw Truex complete a dominant season with a checkered flag in South Florida. However, this season hasn’t been as dominant for the No. 78 team. Truex has 4 wins, 19 top-five finishes and 20 top-10s this season, which is an incredible season most years, but compared to the other two it pales in comparison. 

That being said, Truex has something else other than a second title to race for: pride. Furniture Row Racing, the team that gave Truex a shot and championship, will be closing its doors after this race with Truex set to make the move over to Joe Gibbs Racing. That said, if you were looking for motivation, Truex’s desire to deliver a championship to the team that put him on the map is all you could ask for. 

There will also be eyes on how Truex races Logano in this one. Remember, Logano wrecked Truex to punch his ticket to Homestead at Martinsville and Truex has been vocal in saying that he will get Logano back if given the opportunity. For example, last season when Truex and Busch raced each other, one could have wrecked the other but they chose to race cleanly. If the situation arises with Truex and Logano this time, Truex has made it clear that Logano won’t get that same courtesy.

In addition to winning that race last season, Truex has an average finish of 11.46 at the track. He finished 17th when Harvick won his title and 12th when Busch took home his first championship.

The Case for Joey Logano

Now this may be the most interesting storyline of all. To tell it, we need to back track just a little bit. Logano entered the NASCAR scene as someone many thought would already have multiple championships at this point. He got extremely close, finishing runner-up to Jimmie Johnson in 2016, before having a nightmare year in 2017 where Logano missed the playoffs.

Logano showed resiliency though, rebounding in 2018 and fighting his way all the way to the Championship 4. Despite winning just two races this season, Logano’s average finish in the playoffs (9.4) is better than Truex (9.8), Busch (10.8) and Harvick (12.4). 

The No. 22 team has been consistent all year, preparing for this moment. The big difference between Logano and the others is Logano has never tasted a NASCAR championship. He has the worst odds to win out of the four drivers and is considered the underdog.

Logano will also have to deal with Truex’s revenge on Sunday. Remember, Logano punched his ticket to Homestead at Truex’s demise, with the No. 78 team vowing to get Logano back if given the opportunity. That being said, Logano is prepared to race Truex similarly to earn that first title. 

He may have an average finish of 14.89, but has finished in the top 6 in his past three starts at Homestead. 

Other storylines to watch

Last year we watched Dale Earnhardt Jr. run his final race at Homestead in the midst of Truex winning his championship. This year, we’ll watch Jimmie Johnson run his final race in a Lowes-sponsored No. 48 Chevrolet and his final race with seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion crew chief Chad Knaus. 

If that wasn’t enough motivation for Johnson, he’ll also be looking break the longest winless streak of his career. Johnson hasn’t won since Dover in 2017, which was 59 races ago. He’s never gone a full season without winning. 

Another driver looking to end a winless streak is Denny Hamlin, a two-time Homestead winner. Hamlin has won a race in every season of his career as well over 13 years. While Johnson has been up and down most of the year, Hamlin has shown speed — just not enough to go to Victory Lane — en route to three poles, six top-three finishes and a pair of runner-up showings.

Odds to win the Ford EcoBoost 400

Here are the odds to win Sunday’s race, per VegasInsider.com

  • Kevin Harvick 5/2
  • Kyle Busch 3/1
  • Kyle Larson 13/4
  • Martin Truex Jr. 4/1
  • Joey Logano 9/1
  • Brad Keselowski 12/1
  • Chase Elliott 16/1
  • Denny Hamlin 20/1
  • Clint Bowyer 25/1
  • Kurt Busch 25/1
  • Erik Jones 28/1
  • Aric Almirola 40/1
  • Ryan Blaney 40/1
  • Jimmie Johnson 66/1
  • Austin Dillon 75/1
  • Daniel Suarez 100/1
  • Alex Bowman 100/1
  • William Byron 200/1

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