Denny Hamlin had a fast car this weekend, started third, won Stage 1 and led 143 laps in his battle with Joey Logano and Kyle Busch to fill the final position at the championship race at Homestead.
Hamlin had the worst point position coming in of the three but also has had one of his best seasons. Logano also had a fast car and led 93 laps while winning Stage 2. It became very obvious that it was going to take a win by the whomever was going to transfer to the final four. All of the drivers were bunched together in the Top 10 and the Top 5 was certainly the only place to be if you wanted be considered a championship contender.
There were some serious battles that went on throughout the Top 5. While Joey Logano was leading Stage 2, Hamlin and Chase Elliott battled back and forth, trading paint and position until Elliott eventually spun out, smacked the wall and tore up his car so badly he couldn’t finish the race.
Kyle Busch stayed in the hunt all day and when you think about how he was dominating the early half of the season, it was amazing to see him in danger of not making the championship 4 with Logano and Hamlin in front of him.
Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson made their play for the win but fell short ending the day in 3rd and 4th respectively. Larson had harsh words for Bubba Wallace last week for potentially changing the outcome of the race with an intentional spin. Unfortunately, Bubba doesn’t know how to keep his mouth shut and admitted he spun on purpose to bring out a caution when he had a flat tire. As a driver, you just don’t admit to that. NASCAR quickly responded docking him points and fining him.
Of the four championship drivers, the best performance rating at Homestead are Martin Truex, Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin. Logano won this race last year and led 80 laps. MTJ led 20, Harvick 58, Hamlin 41 and Kyle Busch none.
In 2017, MTJ won and led 78 laps, Kyle Busch 43, Kyle Larson 145, Harvick and Hamlin none.
In 2015, Kyle Busch won with 41 laps led, Harvick 46, MTJ 3 and Hamlin none.
Statistically, Hamlin has led the fewest laps at Homestead, but he has proven that past stats are not indicative of current performance.
If you look at performance, MTJ, Harvick and Hamlin have won recently and Hamlin with two recent wins. Kyle Busch hasn’t won since Pocono in June. You could say he is due. On the other hand, you could wonder if the team is just a little behind their teammates. It would be hard to rule out any of these drivers as a title contender and more than likely you will see them all running in the Top 10 most of the day. It is also likely that a driver like Logano or Larson could steal the win while the title goes to the top finisher of the 4 contenders. But I am putting my money on Joe Gibbs Racing and Denny Hamlin. I think they are fulfilling a dream and they have momentum on their side.
Good luck to all the drivers and thanks to them for a fantastic season. I hope the fans turn out to watch the race.