Today marks the final race of the 2017 NASCAR season and the sport will crown its champion this evening. But it's not just the end of the season. It's also the end of the careers for three of the sports biggest names, something no one saw coming at the beginning of the season.
Over the last couple of weeks Matt Kesenth and Danica Patrick joined Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in announcing that this will be their final full-time season in the Cup Series. You can say what you want about all three. They all had varying levels of talent an success in NASCAR. But there is no denying their affect on the sport. All three brought something to the sport that wasn't there before.
"I’m so glad I get to run this last year. It was always this is the last year. And I’m glad I get to run it," said Earnhardt, Jr. "I confided in my friends and family and my wife that I was worried that I could get another concussion and how disappointing that would be. So, I’m sitting here healthy. And I’m going to run this last race. And I got all the way through the year, so I feel blessed. I feel really good with it.”
Kenseth and Patrick are leaving less on their terms, but both also seem to be at peace with this being the end.
"I’m not feeling like I was pushed into this...I feel like I should be doing this. I feel like this is where my life should be headed. And sometimes we just get kind of nudged there," said Patrick.
Added Kenseth, " I've been pretty blessed my whole career to be in really good cars with really good people and cars that could win races any given week. We went through some years where we couldn't, but most years in my whole entire career I've had cars where if we did everything right we could win. I've been racing long enough where I don't want to do anything else except for that. So if I can't be in a situation that feels right and feels like I can go out and win races and contend for a championship, I'd rather not do it."
Oh yeah, back to that championship thing. Martin Truex, Jr.,Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski are the four drivers in this 'best finish takes the crown' battle. Each of the last three years the champion has won this race and of the four contenders, only Kyle Busch has a win at Homestead.
"That's obsolete. That's gone. That was gone last year, actually," said Busch." Every year you come into the final race of the year, things change so much in six months, let alone 12 months, that this is a completely different deal right now."
And right now all signs seem to point to Martin Truex, Jr. He has the most point, the most wins and he has been the king of the intermediate tracks this season. The 78 car has a history of finding bad luck at the worst times, but this title seems like it is sitting there for Truex to take.
"I feel like we're in the best position possible." said Truex. "But you've still got to execute. You've still got to bring the right stuff. You've got to be fast. You've got to make the right decisions. It's a good position to be in, but it doesn't guarantee anything. So it is what it is."
Truex will have the best starting position of the Championship Four, rolling off second. Busch will start third, Keselowski fifth and Harvick ninth. Denny Hamlin starts on the pole.
The green flag drops on the Ford EcoBoost 400 will drop at about 3pm. You can watch the race on News 5 WCYB.
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