The race, the moment, is here.
Sundayâs Championship Weekend finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Ford EcoBoost 400.
267 laps to determine the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.
The race â NASCARâs final championship race at Homestead for the foreseeable future â begins at 3 p.m. and will be televised on NBC.
The quartet vying for the cup series title has proven to be among the best in the cup series this season. The four have combined to win 21 of 35 races â with everyone winning at least four. They also have 63 top-five finishes and each has led anywhere from 912 to 1,462 laps this season.
âChampionships are what we race for,â Harvick said. âYou put a lot of effort into the season and week after week of trying to be competitive and I think the more championships you win, the more it solidifies everything that you do on a week to week basis.â
But championships have been hard to come by for this generation of drivers as they continue to break out of Jimmie Johnsonâs shadow.
Johnson won seven titles over an 11-year span from 2006-2016, including five in a row from 2006-2010. No driver has finished as the cup series champion more than once otherwise in that span and only Tony Stewart (2002, 2005, 2011) with three has accomplished the feat this century.
Three of those drivers â Busch (2015), Harvick (2014) and Truex (2017) â are in the Championship 4 on Sunday and are looking to join the multiple championship club.
âJohnson scooping up five in a row was certainly hard for the rest of us to beat,â Busch said. âThey were on top of it and on top of their game, in different cars for that matter, but that just means we all didnât put it, do the job and put it all together the way we needed to.â
The playoff format NASCAR uses now plays a factor, too. The top 16 drivers after the regular-seasonâs 26-race season remain in contention for the title. The ensuing nine races are then divided into three-race rounds. A win by a championship-contending driver during the postseason guarantees a spot in the next round. The four drivers with the fewest points without a win after each round is eliminated from contention.
Points for the remaining playoff-eligible drivers are reset at the beginning of each round.
A win at Homestead on Sunday isnât needed to clinch the title. The winner will simply be the driver who finishes first among the Championship 4.
Consistency gets you to the championship. Chance plays a factor from there.
âAnything can happen,â said Hamlin, who has the pole position for Sundayâs championship race and is seeking his first Cup Series title. âI mean, if you have a mechanical failure on lap 25, does that mean youâre not good enough? You made the final four. Making the final four is the culmination of your whole year. That is what deems your year a success. … I donât want to discredit anyone thatâs won under this format. For the most part the best still came out and won. But certainly it is a little by chance any time you deal with a oneârace winner take all.â
So should championships alone be the end-all, be-all when it comes to judging a a driverâs career? Thatâs up for debate.
âIs it harder or easier? I donât know,â Truex said. âI would say the odds are a lot worse in this system to win. I donât know how to view that, to be honest. I donât know if itâs final four appearances, straightâup race wins. Championships are huge. I think itâs harder to win now than ever.
âMaybe one means more than one used to.â