Special Edition Championship 4 News and Notes – Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway

Last year we said goodbye to Smoke…

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Championship Race: Ford EcoBoost 400
The Place: Homestead-Miami Speedway
The Date: Sunday, Nov. 19
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, 2 p.m. ET
Tickets: NASCAR.com/tickets
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps), Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 80), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 160), Stage 3 (Ends on Lap 267)

… this year we have to say goodbye to Jr.

By The Numbers: Homestead-Miami Speedway
1 – Tony Stewart is the only driver in series history to win at the famed 1.5-mile speedway in his first appearance (1999).
2 – Number of Coors Light poles at Homestead-Miami Speedway by the series leaders: Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne.
4 – Number of times the winner of the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway has won the title during the Playoff Era; including the last three seasons in the elimination-style format of the Playoffs (Tony Stewart, 2011; Kevin Harvick, 2014; Kyle Busch, 2015; Jimmie Johnson, 2016).
10 – Number of Playoff races at Homestead-Miami Speedway that were won by Playoff contenders; three times a non-Chase contender has won season finale: Greg Biffle (2004 and 2006) and Denny Hamlin (2013).
12 – Number of different Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winners at Homestead-Miami Speedway; led by Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart with three each.
13 – Number of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff races Homestead-Miami Speedway has hosted (2004-2016).
14 – The most cautions in a single Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (11/21/2004; the inaugural Playoff race in Miami)
14 – Number of different Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coors Light pole winners at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
15 – The worst finish by the eventual series champion in a Playoffs race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (it happened three times: Tony Stewart in 2005, Jimmie Johnson in 2008 and Brad Keselowski in 2012).
18 – Total number of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races held at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
18-20 – The degrees of banking in all four turns of Homestead-Miami Speedway.
22 – The age of the youngest Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coors Light Pole Award winner at Homestead-Miami Speedway: Joey Logano (11/18/2012 – 22 years, 5 months, 25 days).
24 – The age of the youngest Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race winner at Homestead-Miami Speedway: Kurt Busch (11/17/2002 – 24 years, 3 months, 13 days).
26 – The most number of lead changes in a single race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (11/20/2011).
38 – The lowest starting position by a race winner at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Denny Hamlin, 2009).
46 – The age of the oldest Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coors Light Pole Award and race winner at Homestead-Miami Speedway: Bill Elliott set both records in 2001 (11/11/2001 – 46 years, 1 month, 3 days).
67 – Total number of NASCAR national series races held at Homestead-Miami Speedway, second-most by a track in the state of Florida: MENCS (18), NXS (22) and NCWTS (21).
150.0 – The highest score in driver rating scale, considered a perfect performance, and has only been accomplished at Homestead-Miami Speedway once, in 2010 by Carl Edwards.
267 – Number of laps scheduled for this weekend’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
449 – Number of laps led at Homestead-Miami Speedway by the active series leader (Matt Kenseth, 17 starts).

Happy At Homestead: Recent Title-Clinching Performances
Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will mark the conclusion of the 69th NASCAR season. Below are how the last seven season finales at Homestead-Miami Speedway turned out:

2010 – Jimmie Johnson Tracks Down Denny Hamlin For Fifth Straight Title
Denny Hamlin held a comfortable 15-point lead on Jimmie Johnson for the championship heading into the season finale. However, Hamlin could not close out the title. Hamlin damaged his Toyota with an early-race spin and finished 14th as a result. Kevin Harvick, who was third in points entering the race, finished third. Johnson placed runner-up to take home his fifth consecutive championship.

2011 – Tony Stewart Wins Third Championship In Epic Race
Trailing leader Carl Edwards by three points entering the 2011 finale, Tony Stewart virtually needed a win to capture the title – especially considering that Edwards ultimately finished runner-up in the race.

Stewart drove to the front from the back of the field twice and edged out Edwards to get to Victory Lane.

The pair finished the season tied in points, but Stewart held the tiebreaker over Edwards of most wins during the season (five to one).

2012 – Brad Keselowski Fends Off Jimmie Johnson For First Championship
Brad Keselowski entered the 2012 season finale 20 points ahead of second-place Jimmie Johnson in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings.

Keselowski, who won two Playoff races to help put himself in championship-clinching position, didn’t produce his best performance with a 15th-place showing.

But problems in the pits for Johnson caused the five-time champion to finish 36th and helped Keselowski secure his first championship, as well as the first title for Team Penske.

2013 – Jimmie Johnson Closes In On Earnhardt And Petty With Sixth Title
After building up his points lead on the strength of six wins, 16 top fives and 23 top 10s, Jimmie Johnson needed to finish 23rd to capture his sixth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.

Following an incident on a restart just shy of the 200-lap mark, Johnson ended up 23rd when it all sorted itself out.

By the end of the race, he worked his way up to finish ninth, earning Hendrick Motorsports a record 11th championship.

2014 – Harvick Rides To Two ‘Do Or Die’ Victories To Earn First Series Title
Kevin Harvick started the penultimate race of the 2014 season needing a win to get into the Championship 4 race at Phoenix. He dominated the contest, leading 264 laps to earn the victory and a spot in the Championship 4. After playing mind games throughout Homestead week with the rest of the field, Harvick held off runner-up Ryan Newman to earn his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title.

2015 – Kyle Busch Overcomes Injury For Improbable Comeback
Just ninth months after breaking his right leg and fracturing his left foot, Kyle Busch edged out defending champion Kevin Harvick for the Homestead race win and his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship. Busch missed the first 11 races of the season after sustaining his injuries in a crash in the season-opening race NASCAR XFINITY race at Daytona. He came back to win five races and cement his name in NASCAR history.

2016 – Johnson Ties Series Record With Seventh Championship
Jimmie Johnson proved once again to not count him out in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. He won his way into the Round of 8 with a victory at Charlotte, then took the checkered flag at Martinsville to punch his ticket to Homestead. He provided a walk-off win at Homestead to capture his seventh championship, tying Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series record.

A Spoiler At Homestead?
Under the “win and you’re in” elimination-style Playoff format, the eventual champion has won at Homestead the last three years (Kevin Harvick, 2014; Kyle Busch, 2015; Jimmie Johnson, 2016). Still, a driver out of championship contention can win the race. Below are some candidates:

Kyle Larson: Kyle Larson often calls Homestead-Miami Speedway his best track. The 25-year-old NASCAR Next alumnus finished runner-up at Homestead last year after leading a race-high 132 laps and placed fifth at the 1.5-mile track in 2015. Larson has had a breakout season in 2017, setting career highs in wins (four), top fives (14), top 10s (19) and average finish (13.6).

Matt Kenseth: Matt Kenseth, who’s likely competing in his final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race this weekend, spoiled Chase Elliott’s championship hopes last Sunday by winning an emotional race at Phoenix. He’ll try to finish his career on a high note by winning again at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 17 starts at Homestead, Kenseth owns one win, four top-five and nine top-10 finishes. He has finished seventh or better in his last four starts at the South Florida track.

Denny Hamlin: Hamlin is a two-time winner at Homestead. In addition to his two wins, he has four top fives and eight top 10s, with 213 laps led. He was eliminated from the Playoffs at Phoenix due to a wreck, even though he led a race-high 193 laps.

Junior’s Final Ride

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will make what will likely be his final career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The 14-time Most Popular Driver hasn’t raced up to his standards in his final full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, but will try to get one last win. He has struggled at Homestead throughout his career with only one top five, two top 10s and a 21.5 average finish in 16 starts at the 1.5-mile track.

Earnhardt enters the race weekend running as well as he’s had all season. He has finished in the top 11 in six out of his last seven races, including three seventh-place showings and a 10th-place result last Sunday at Phoenix.

For his career, the No. 88 Chevrolet driver has made 630 starts, won 26 races, logged 149 top fives, recorded 260 top 10s and posted a 15.8 average finish.

Earnhardt is a two-time Daytona 500 champion (2004, 2010).

Kenseth’s Swan Song

Dale Earnhardt Jr. isn’t the only driver likely competing in his final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. 2003 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth may compete in his final contest at Homestead.

Kenseth, who won at Phoenix last Sunday, will try to visit Victory Lane for the second consecutive week at Homestead where he owns one win, four top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 17 starts.

Heading into Sunday’s race, Kenseth claims 39 wins, 181 top fives and 326 top 10s in 649 career starts. He boasts a 14.1 career average finish.

Monster Energy Bellator MMA Fights

Before Sunday’s Championship 4 battle, fans at Homestead-Miami Speedway get to see another fight beginning at 11:30 a.m. – actually four fights – when the Monster Energy Bellator MMA Series returns to a NASCAR track for the fourth time this season. The fights will take place at the Monster Energy Fan Zone in the display area on the north side of the track. Admission to the event is free and open to fans.

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