HOMESTEAD, Fla. – For the first time in the elimination era, the Championship 4 swept the top four finishing positions in the final race of the season, but Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch left Homestead-Miami Speedway with little to celebrate.
The power trio – dubbed the Big Three by pundits throughout the season due to their combined 20 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victories during the year – dominated NASCAR’s premier circuit for 10 months but ultimately came up short of their goal of winning the championship on Sunday night.
Joey Logano won the season finale to secure his first Cup Series crown, defeating the opposition after calling his shot earlier in the week during the pre-race media blitz that led up to Sunday night’s race.
Truex was hoping to deliver Furniture Row Racing a second series title in the team’s final race before closing the doors, and he came the closest of the three to doing so.
The Mayetta, N.J., native and defending Cup Series champion took the race lead away from Kyle Busch on the final restart of the night with 15 laps left, but couldn’t hold off Logano’s final charge and was passed for both the win and the title three circuits later.
Truex finished a bittersweet second in the race and the series standings.
“Man, that’s a tough way to lose,” Truex noted. “You know, it really reversed the tale from last year. Last year, we did the same thing that they did tonight. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes.
“Things just didn’t play out the way we needed it to. We were terrible for 10, 15 laps on new tires,” Truex noted. “I was able to get a good restart there at the end and get out front; I just had nothing for him at the end. I needed 15 or 20 more laps. I’m not sure what else to say.”
Truex will move to Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 Toyota next season, but lauded Furniture Row for all their efforts and said he’ll look back fondly on his time with the organization.
“To go from a two‑race winner to a 19‑race winner, win a championship, finish fourth in points and second in points … it’s just been amazing. Everything about it has been great,” said Truex. “Everything about it has been the best thing I’ve ever been a part of. I feel good about my future and I’m going to a great place, and I know we’ll have more success, but it’s going to be different. It’s going to be a different team, a different cast of characters, and these guys were a special group.
“It’s just been a good ride. I hate to see it come to an end, but everything ends somewhere.”
Harvick looked to be in the catbird’s seat for the title before the last caution flag, but didn’t have the speed in his car when the sun went down to be able to challenge for the victory.
“We had a daytime race car,” said Harvick, who finished third. “As soon as it got dark, we never could get our car tightened up there at the end. The crew made a great call to put us in position to win the race, and then the caution came out when the 2 car (Keselowski) spun the 19 (Suarez) out. We came off pit road fourth, and restarts weren’t our strong point tonight. We wound up on the wrong side of it.”
Busch struggled to contend against the top three as the final stage wore on and moved to a strategy play during the final round of pit stops, staying out and ultimately catching the caution he needed to restart as the leader when the green flag waved for the last time.
However, Busch didn’t have the speed he needed and faded back to fourth at the checkered flag, worst among the title contenders. Prior to that, pit road issues plagued him all night.
“I don’t know where we missed it; I thought we were way closer than that yesterday and I felt pretty decent about things … but today we weren’t even close,” lamented Busch. “We just had no grip all night long. … On the long runs, I just couldn’t enter the corner, and we were getting smoked entering the corners because I wasn’t able to turn the steering wheel. Overall, this was just a frustrating night.
“Adam called a great race and got us in position there, where we long ran and caught that lucky caution,” Busch added. “Everything came to fruition, but when you’re half a second off, you’re not going to hold anybody back and you all saw that tonight.”