Big 3 in charge as post­sea­son looms

Orlando Sentinel - - PAGE 2 - By Larry Lage

BROOK­LYN, Mich. — NASCAR’s Big 3 es­sen­tially has lapped the com­pe­ti­tion.

Kyle Busch, Kevin Har­vick and Martin Truex Jr. have com­bined to win 16 of 22 races and haven’t al­lowed the field to win con­sec­u­tive races with points at stake this year. Of the other 56 driv­ers who have started a race, only Clint Bowyer has won twice.

That could po­ten­tially change to­day in the Con­sumers En­ergy 400 be­cause Chase El­liott won last week at Watkins Glen. Chances are, though, one of the se­ries’ top three driv­ers will fin­ish first.

Busch and Truex drive a Toy­ota while Har­vick is in a Ford. Clearly, it helps to have one of those man­u­fac­tur­ers on your side this sea­son.

Toy­ota driv­ers have won 11 races and Ford has nine first-place fin­ishes.

“They got ev­ery­thing to­gether,” Ryan New­man, who drives the No. 31 Chevy, said on Sat­ur­day af­ter prac­tice. “They’ve got great down­force, horse­power, tires. Driv­ers are do­ing their job and col­lec­tively their or­ga­ni­za­tions are strong.

“Ste­wart-Haas Rac­ing as well as the Toy­ota camp seem to be strong right now and have been all year.”

Chevro­let, mean­while, has won just two races and Kyle Lar­son, who is eighth in points, is its only driver among the top 10 in the stand­ings.

“We’re try­ing to catch up,” said New­man, who will start sixth. “We were pre­pared as well as we thought we needed to be.

“As it turns out, we needed to be more pre­pared and you can see the re­sults across the Chevro­let camp.”

Some other things to know for the Cup race:

Bowyer, who will start 16th, has a chance to get closer to the Big 3 and cre­ate more sep­a­ra­tion from the pack. He won his sec­ond race at the se­ries’ pre­vi­ous stop at Michi­gan In­ter­na­tional Speed­way in June. Four other driv­ers have won one race this year.

“It is al­ways ex­cit­ing to go to any race track for the sec­ond time, es­pe­cially when you have had some suc­cess to see how you will stack up when you load again,” Bowyer said.

Denny Hamlin hopes to fin­ish where he’ll start — first — to earn a vic­tory for a 13th straight year. He is on the pole for a sec­ond straight week.

“We’re start­ing to turn back the other way and be pretty fast again,” Hamlin said. “We’ve re­ally worked on the right things to get us to this point and noth­ing is more frus­trat­ing than work­ing as hard as I have and the team has over the last two months and not get­ting any re­sults.”

Hamlin won at Michi­gan in 2010 and 2011.

El­liott won his first Cup race last week, in his 99th start, to put him in the play­offs.

“I’ve been on the other end of the stick these past two years and it’s such a nice feel­ing to come into these last few races and know that you’re locked in to the deal,” he said.

El­liott has had three run­ner-up fin­ishes at MIS.

Many driv­ers have been men­tioned as pos­si­ble free agents af­ter the sea­son. Chip Ganassi in­sisted he wants Jamie McMur­ray back on his team next year af­ter Mo­tor­sport.com re­ported he would be re­placed by Kurt Busch.

Does New­man have a deal for 2019? “Work­ing on it,” he said.

NASCAR MON­STER EN­ERGY CUP CON­SUMERS EN­ERGY 400 LINEUP Fri­day’s qual­i­fy­ing At Michi­gan In­ter­na­tional Speed­way Brook­lyn, Mich.

JERRY MARKLAND/GETTY IM­AGES

Kyle Busch, left, Kevin Har­vick, and Martin Truex Jr. (not pic­tured) have com­bined to win 16 of 22 races this year.

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