HOMESTEAD, Fla. – It has been a long season, 35 races, that all began in February of 2019. On that Sunday afternoon the Daytona 500 ended with a very emotional victory by Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 Fed Ex team. With the recent passing of J.D. Gibbs and the close relationship between Denny Hamlin and J.D. the win was the beginning of a story that could have an amazing end, if Denny Hamlin wins his first championship.
Hamlin has been close before, but never quite closed the deal on a championship. This time Hamlin rolls into Homestead with a lot of momentum. With a win in Kansas and last week in Phoenix he will finish at a track where he is the only driver in the championship four with more than one win, and the only driver without a championship.
Martin Truex, Jr. has been to championship victory lane at Homestead just two short years ago, a year where Truex had truly dominating performances. At the end of last season Truex was without job, but landed at Joe Gibbs Racing where he recovered from a lackluster 2018 season by picking up seven wins, 14 top fives and 23 top tens to make it to the championship four. Truex has only one win at Homestead, but has the third-best driver rating of 105.5.
The other Joe Gibbs Racing driver that will race for the championship on Sunday is Kyle Busch. Busch is also familiar with championship victory lane at Homestead and is coming to the final race of the season with four wins, 16 top fives and 26 top tens. Kyle Busch and the 18 team can never, ever be counted out to pick up a win, but he is the driver that comes into the final race without a win in the second half of the season. He was consistent enough to get to the championship race, based on points, but really doesn’t seem to be running consistently enough to pose a threat for his second championship.
The final of the championship four, Kevin Harvick, of Stewart-Haas Racing has a tall order on Sunday. He has to race against three Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, who have compiled 18 wins on the season. Harvick does have a win in the last round of the playoffs and has had a great season with four wins, 14 top fives and 25 top tens, getting to his second championship is going to be next to impossible having to get through the 11, 18 and the 19 teams.