AVONDALE, Ariz.—The three most dominant drivers of this NASCAR season fittingly will race each other for the championship—a chance for Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr. to settle which team truly is the best.
It was Busch who claimed the latest round, winning for the eighth time this year yesterday to tie Harvick for the most Cup victories.
His win at ISM Raceway outside of Phoenix was the final qualifying event for next week's finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where it will be winner-take-all between NASCAR's so-called “Big Three" and the driver once called "Sliced Bread.”
Busch, Harvick, and reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr., coined “The Big Three” because of how they dominated the regular season, advanced into the championship round as expected.
Joey Logano, nicknamed “Sliced Bread" before his NASCAR debut at age 18 because he was predicted to be "the best thing since . . .,” has the fourth spot.
The field is two Ford drivers, two Toyota drivers, and represents four organizations.
Chevrolet was shut out of the finale.
“I don't know how you could pick a favourite necessarily,” Busch said.
“I would predict this is the best four, the closest four, that have been in our sport in a long time,” he noted.
Busch and Harvick have gone win-for-win all year, and Busch could have controlled Harvick's fate late in the race when he was lined up against Harvick teammate Aric Almirola on a restart.
An Almirola victory would have eliminated Harvick from the playoffs, which Busch acknowledged considering.
“I did think about it," Busch admitted. "But I'm here to win the race. They always want it to play out naturally.”
Now Busch just might have the momentum to take the title.
“I'd like to think it gives us a lot [of momentum] but I don't know, talk is cheap,” he remarked.
"We've got to be able to go out there and perform and just do what we need to do.
“Being able to do what we did here today was certainly beneficial," Busch said. ”I didn't think we were the best car, but we survived and we did what we needed to do.
“It's just about getting to next week and once we were locked in, it was, 'All bets are off and it's time to go.'”
Harvick was the favourite to win yesterday and started from the pole, but an early flat tire made the race more eventful than he expected.
He found himself racing late against Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Almirola for the fourth transfer spot to Homestead, but Busch was wrecked late and Almirola had to win the race to snatch the berth away from Harvick.
“We kept ourselves in position all day and there at the end, it was just like everybody wrecking all over the place,” Harvick said.
“We just needed to stay out of trouble and try to find a safe spot there.”
Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson, both already eliminated from the playoffs, finished second and third yesterday.
Almirola was fourth and Harvick fifth.