Season finale lived up to the championship billing

HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 18: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2018 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

As NASCAR prepares to honor its newly-crowned 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano in Las Vegas Thursday night (at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN), it will also recognize the fantastic seasons of its two eight-race winners, Kevin Harvick and regular season champion Kyle Busch as well as the fourth member of the Championship 4, Martin Truex Jr., who finished runner-up to Logano in the season’s championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway two weeks ago.

As has developed into tradition, these four drivers settled the title among themselves – with the champion winning the season finale race. But for the first time ever, the four championship-eligible drivers finished 1-2-3-4 in the Homestead-Miami finale.

Logano beat Truex by 1.75-seconds for the win – the largest margin of victory since Denny Hamlin’s 2.632-second win over Jeff Burton in 2009. Harvick and Busch finished third and fourth behind Truex.

This marks the fifth consecutive time that the champion won the Homestead-Miami season finale race. In all five instances, however, there was plenty of late race drama.

Logano passed Truex with 12 laps to go for this year’s season trophy. In 2017, Truex took the lead from Busch with 51 laps remaining and had to hold Busch off in the waning laps for the win.

In 2016, Johnson took the race lead from Kyle Larson – who was not championship eligible – with only three laps remaining and motored on to his record-tying seventh Cup title.

Kyle Busch took the lead from Brad Keselowski with only seven laps remaining and held on to take the checkered and first ever championship in 2015. A year earlier, Harvick took the lead with only eight laps remaining and managed to hold off the field for his first title.

Four of the five drivers in the Playoff format earned their first Cup trophies. Johnson is the only repeat winner in that time.