So who will heft the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series trophy on Nov. 19 at HomesteadMiami Speedway? There are 16 possibilities.
The motor sports team at USA TODAY Sports offers its analysis.
His astronomical playoff points total is seed money all the way to the final. That’s not to suggest he can cruise through the first three rounds, and the way he’s performed this year, cruising might be another two or three wins anyway. But he and crew chief Cole Pearn can focus solely on the season finale and finally capturing a moment that has come ever with- in their grasp the last three years. A one-off situation offers no guarantees, but Truex has proved capable of dominating days through this season.
Six drivers in the 16-driver playoff field have won the Cup championship. Five — Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth — have won it once. The only driver in the group with more than one is Johnson, and he has seven. He has been the king of the modern playoff format, even as NASCAR has toyed with its details over the years. Does he have a record eighth title in him? The numbers say yes.
ELLEN J. HORROW
It took Busch 21 races to earn his first victory of the season, but it was never really a matter of speed and more about circumstance. His No. 18 Toyota has been one of the fastest cars all season, and that shouldn’t change in the final 10 races, where Busch has won at every track except Charlotte Motor Speedway. The 2015 champion knows how to navigate and succeed in this playoff system — he finished third last season — and will prove it again in November.
He smashes NASCAR’s record of Cup championships with his eighth, dominating at the 1.5-mile tracks he and crew chief Chad Knaus have mastered through the years. And he proves again — in passing Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. — that he can execute in any playoff format NASCAR throws his way.