If form holds, the same four drivers who raced for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship last year at Homestead-Miami Speedway—Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch—will do so again this year.
But as Joey Logano well knows, we’re not there yet.
Logano, the defending series champion, enters Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) with a 20-point edge over Denny Hamlin. Logano and Hamlin are fourth and fifth in the Playoff standings, respectively.
Martinsville winner Martin Truex Jr. and Texas winner Kevin Harvick have clinched two of the four available berths in the Championship 4 race at Miami, to be contested on Nov. 17. Kyle Busch and Logano currently hold the other two title-eligible positions, with Sunday’s race still to be run.
Logano is taking nothing for granted.
“I’d use the word cushion a little easily,” Logano said of his edge over Hamlin. “Twenty points is nice, but the fact that you’re fourth in points means if one of those other four cars that are not in wins (Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson or Chase Elliott), you’re first out. The good news is we’re only a couple points from the 18 (Busch) that’s right in front of us, so we have to race him to really kind of control our destiny.
“Really, winning the race is the best way to control your own destiny, obviously, but I like our position. It’s better than being outside looking in. I’d rather be on the inside still trying to move forward, so we’ll kind of have to wait and see. I’m interested to see in practice the speed we have in our car. I’m excited to work on it and see what we can do and try to score as many points as possible through each stage and have the best finish.”
In fact, Logano showed excellent speed right off the truck in Friday’s opening Cup practice, posting the fourth fastest single lap at 137.075 mph.
The bad news? Busch, the driver Logano is chasing for the security of third place, topped the speed chart in the session at 137.562 mph.