Rounding the Curve to the NASCAR championship - South Dade News Leader: Opinion

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Rounding the Curve to the NASCAR championship

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Posted: Friday, August 17, 2018 1:07 pm

We are officially less than 100 days away from Ford Championship Weekend, November 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. As we

continue preparing for the 17th consecutive year of hosting NASCAR’s championship races in each of its three national series – Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – we can’t wait to showcase our track and what we have in store.

There are only three races before the Monster Energy Series playoffs commence, and as the drivers battle it out for the remaining coveted spots in the field of 16, I can’t help but think of the magnitude of our event each year and how it has grown. The drivers in our races are always eager to finish the season on a high note, but for the Championship 4 competitors in each of the three national series, they are looking to make NASCAR history.

During the 2017 Ford Championship Weekend, the three champions who were crowned each had a different journey to becoming a NASCAR champion. Martin Truex Jr. won the Monster Energy Series title, while William Byron took home the XFINITY Series

trophy and Christopher Bell collected the Camping World Truck Series championship. While each of last year’s champions were first-time title winners in their respective series, hoisting the trophy meant something different to each driver’s legacy. As we rapidly approach Ford Championship Weekend, let’s take a look at how last year’s event impacted the three reigning

champions and where they are now.

Martin Truex Jr. was crowned the 2017 Monster Energy Series champion after leading 78 laps during the Ford EcoBoost 400 and ultimately winning the race, just ahead of Kyle Busch. After winning consecutive XFINITY Series championships in 2004 and 2005, Truex’s journey for a Cup series championship was a long one. Having overcome so much adversity on and off the track throughout his racing career, Truex’s celebration following the championship was one of the most emotional we’ve seen at the conclusion of any NASCAR season.

This season, Truex has built off the momentum of being a first-time champion. He captured his first victory of the year at Auto Club Speedway and has since scored three more wins. Truex has separated

himself from most of the other drivers in the Cup series, joining Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick as NASCAR’s ‘Big 3.’ Truex currently sits third in both the regular season and playoff points standings, as well as being among NASCAR’s

leaders in wins, top-5s, top-10s and laps led. Truex looks primed for another playoff run and one of the favorites to make the Championship 4. If Truex can maintain the level of success he’s had so far during the 2018 season, he might very well arrive at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a chance to defend his title.

William Byron, the 2017 XFINITY Series champion, was the youngest champion crowned during Ford Championship Weekend last year, and one of the youngest drivers in NASCAR history to win a title in any of the three national series. After scoring the most wins ever by a rookie in the Truck Series (7) in 2016, Byron proved that his initial NASCAR success was no fluke by capturing the XFINITY Series title as a rookie the following season. After his two strong seasons, Byron joined the stable of Hendrick Motorsports Cup drivers, replacing veteran Kasey Kahne for the 2018 season.

This season has been one of steady progression for Byron. After struggling to crack the top-20 for most of the beginning of the season, the 20-year-old has seen his stock rise over the last few weeks. Byron has finished in the top-15 in three of the last four races, including top-10 finishes at Pocono Raceway and Watkins Glen. As Byron has found speed in recent weeks, he’s continued to lead Monster Energy Series rookies in points this year.

2017 Ford Champion-ship Weekend opened with Chase Briscoe capturing the checkered flag in the Ford EcoBoost 200, but it was young phenom Christopher Bell who took home the first Camping World Truck Series championship of his career. After finishing third in the Truck Series in 2016, it was the second straight season that Bell proved he was one of series’ elite performers.

Bell was rewarded for his sustained success, landing a full-time ride in the 2018 XFINITY Series with Joe Gibbs Racing after racing for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the 2017 Truck Series. Bell has continued to flourish, even in a series where he competes against Cup drivers on a fairly regular basis, as he currently leads the XFINITY Series in points and wins. On the heels of putting his name into the NASCAR record books by winning the 2017 NCWTS

championship, Bell made history this season by becoming the first series regular to win three XFINITY races in-a-row since Dale Earnhardt Jr. almost 20 years ago. Bell is hoping to return to 2018 Ford Championship Weekend with another opportunity to make NASCAR history by becoming the first driver to win Truck and XFINITY championships in consecutive seasons.

The NASCAR season is certainly intensifying as the drivers begin to prepare for the playoffs. Not only does winning the remaining races and stages allow drivers to finish the regular season with momentum, but it also allows them to bank points for the playoffs, ultimately helping them to advance to the next round. The 2018 playoffs for each of NASCAR’s national series will

culminate during Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, November

16-18. While the champions from the 2017 season are hoping to be a factor in the championship races again this year, there will be a number of other competitors with the same goal in mind – to win a NASCAR

championship.

NASCAR ACTION THIS WEEKEND

Saturday, August 18 at 7:30 PM (ET)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway

Tune In: NBCSN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90

Friday, August 17 at 7:30 PM (ET)

NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway

Tune In: NBCSN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90

Thursday, August 16 at 8:00 PM (ET)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway

Tune In: FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90

UPCOMING EVENTS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY

August 17 Fast Lane Friday

August 18 NASCAR Watch Party at Texas Roadhouse, Florida City Location

August 25-26

FARA Summer Challenge

September 7

Fast Lane Friday

September 8-9

Miami Exotic Auto Racing

2018 HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY NASCAR DATES

Nov. 16

Ford EcoBoost 200 Camping World Truck Series Championship

Nov. 17

Ford EcoBoost 300 XFINITY Series Championship Race

Nov. 18

Ford EcoBoost 400 Monster Energy Series Championship Race

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