The Championship 4 is set.
Denny Hamlin took the win in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix to secure his shot at battling for his first Cup Series title. He’ll join 2014 Champion Kevin Harvick, 2015 Champion Kyle Busch and 2017 Champion Martin Truex Jr.
On paper, it would appear that Hamlin, who only has one previous Championship 4 appearance (this championship format has been around since 2014) and who has never hoisted a Cup Series title, would be the obvious after thought to win it all.
However, Hamlin has been really good at Homestead over the years.
In fact, Hamlin is the only driver in the 2019 Championship 4 who has multiple wins at Homestead.
Hamlin, 38, has two wins at the Florida track, and he has a career average finish of 10.6. Over his last six starts at the 1.5-mile speedway in South Beach, Hamlin has scored a win and five top-10 finishes to go along with three poles.
Having just proved at Phoenix that he can win with his back up against the wall, Hamlin could very well do what is needed to win that elusive first Cup championship.
While Hamlin has the most wins of anyone inside the Championship 4 at Homestead, it is actually Kevin Harvick who sports the best career average finish at the race track.
Harvick, who won the 2014 title by winning Homestead, has a career average finish of 6.6 at the facility. Overall, Harvick has 10 top-fives (at least double the career total for any other driver in the Championship 4) and 16 top-10s.
With three Joe Gibbs Racing cars in the finale, Harvick will not be the main focus, but don’t let him fool you. The No. 4 car should be in the mix for the championship for sure.
While Harvick and Hamlin are really good at Homestead, Martin Truex Jr. is no slouch either.
The driver of the No. 19 Toyota has a win, five top-fives and nine top-10s throughout his career at Homestead. Overall, Truex has an average finish of 10.8 through his career at the track.
However, Truex has finished inside the top-two in each of the last two seasons with a championship on the line.
Pretty damn good.
Kyle Busch, surprisingly, has the worst career tack record at Homestead of anyone inside the Championship 4.
His career average finish is a paltry 17.4, and he has less top-10s at the track than anyone else vying for the 2019 crown.
However, Busch is hungry — it’s been 21 races since he last won — and while he doesn’t have an incredible record at Homestead overall, he’s been great there lately.
In his last seven starts at Homestead, Busch has racked up a win, four top-fives and six top-10s.
So, who is the favorite to win the championship this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway? Your guess is as good as mine. All four drivers have shown they have what it takes at the track, and you could literally craft the career and recent stats at the track to fit any narrative you want.
It’s to the point where there is no absolute clear-cut favorite. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see all four Playoff drivers battling inside the top-four in the closing laps of Sunday’s race.
Regardless of who takes the championship, it really feels like this is shaping up to be one of the closest Championship 4’s we have seen since this format was instituted in 2014.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.