Notes for the NASCAR Championship - South Dade News Leader: Sports

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Notes for the NASCAR Championship

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Posted: Thursday, November 8, 2018 6:10 pm

Playoff Leaderboard Shuffled Up

A major post-race penalty issued by NASCAR to Sunday’s Texas Motor Speedway winner, Kevin Harvick, on Wednesday has resulted in the loss of 40 owner and driver points and the benefits of the victory, which had given the team an automatic berth into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 in the Nov. 18 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

During routine post-race inspection at the NASCAR R & D Center outside Charlotte this week, officials penalized Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford for violations involving the spoiler.

In addition to the loss of points and the automatic Championship 4 slot, the No. 4 team’s crew chief (Rodney Childers) and car chief (Robert “Cheddar” Smith) were suspended for the next two Monster Energy Series races (Phoenix and Miami). Stewart-Haas Racing has announced that former Kurt Busch crew chief Tony Gibson will serve as the interim boss atop the box for the remainder of the season.

Instead of securing a bid in the Championship 4 at Miami, Harvick drops to fourth on the Playoff leaderboard – 25 points behind Kyle Busch, who is second only to Martinsville winner Joey Logano. And he now holds only a three-point edge on fifth-place Kurt Busch, who sits just outside the Championship 4 cutoff.

With Harvick’s penalty, three of the four Playoff finale positions still remain open and that means seven of the eight current Playoff drivers are still vying for that one-race, winner-takes-all title opportunity the four-driver championship lineup will be decided in the Can-Am 500 this Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at the newly renovated ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona.

Despite the setback, Harvick can take some solace in being the

winningest driver in the field at ISM Raceway with nine victories. Kyle Busch and older brother Kurt Busch split the 2005 season wins at the track and Joey Logano, the only driver to have secured a bid in this year’s championship finale, won the 2016 Playoff race. They are the only four drivers among the current Playoff field with wins in the Arizona desert.

A Return To Miami Would Be Sweet For Kyle Busch

With a regular season championship, a solid points advantage and a good record at ISM Raceway, Kyle Busch has to be considered a favorite to move on into the Championship 4.

His 827 laps led at the track is second only to Harvick among the Playoff drivers. He finished runner-up to Harvick earlier this season, and he has five top-five finishes in the last six Phoenix races.

His overall work at the track is second only to Harvick’s 14 race win total (nine Monster Energy Series, one NASCAR Xfinity Series and four NASCAR Camping World Truck Series trophies).

Busch has 13 victories spanning all three of NASCAR’s major series including a Cup win, a record 10 – yes, T-E-N – Xfinity Series wins and two more wins in the Camping World Truck Series. Twice he won three Xfinity races

consecutively (2013-14 and 2015-16).

“I’d like to think our odds are pretty good,’’ Busch said of ISM Raceway. “Obviously, anything can happen. Things didn’t go our way at Texas last weekend and we felt we had a good car, but things just didn’t fall our way after having the loose wheel. You still have to have some luck on your side and have everything kind of go your way.

“It’s tough to rebound, sometimes, after a difficult start to a day or, even if you have trouble later in the day, it’s really difficult to rebound and get a good finish like you need. We’d love to be able to win and automatically lock ourselves through but, if that’s not the case, then you just have to be smart and mindful of a good points day and try not to hurt yourself – just try and keep what happens to you under your own control if you can.”

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