Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have earned some separation from the rest of the Monster Energy Series field entering the NASCAR Playoffs. Their regular-season performances — winning 17 of the 26 races — make the three drivers favorites to compete for the championship in the Homestead-Miami finale Nov. 18.
With three rounds of eliminations and a juggled 10-race slate for the postseason, there are no guarantees that the Harvick-Busch-Truex triple threat stays solvent. Or are there?
With nine races to go before the Championship 4 field is set, NASCAR.com’s writers in place for the Las Vegas Motor Speedway opener debate the question: Will the Big 3 stay intact all the way to Homestead?
Yes: Perhaps there’s not a long-odds bonanza with this pick, but there’s something to be said for betting the chalk and staying with the favorites. The three fastest cars are part of that mix. Three experienced drivers — champions, all — competing at their highest level is in that equation, too. Top that with a sustaining bounty of playoff points — 50 each for Busch and Harvick, and 35 for Truex — and there’s reason to believe in conventional wisdom. The road to Homestead won’t be a waltz for the front-running trio, but almost all postseason indicators suggest three familiar faces on the final stage.
No: Nine races and three rounds of elimination races to set the Championship 4 contenders means ample opportunity for the Big 3 to either achieve more success or make huge mistakes. With that said, let’s pump the brakes on giving Busch, Harvick and Truex three of those four coveted spots right away. All three drivers experienced their fair share of DNFs during the regular season (Busch: 2, Harvick: 3, Truex: 5). Although they have plenty of playoff points to use as a bandage if something catastrophic occurs, it’s still not enough insurance to have more than one bad race. It’s the playoffs and too much can happen, which is why at least one of the Big 3 drivers will find themselves out of the championship battle in Homestead.