MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — The Latest on NASCAR’s championship weekend (all times local):
Brad Keselowski has an interesting take on what a second championship would mean for him.
“It’s a chance to really make myself a Hall of Fame driver,” Keselowski said Thursday at NASCAR’s championship media day. “That’s not something that anyone takes for granted, I don’t think. It’s not something I take for granted. I know that. That opportunity is one race in front of me.
“I literally only have to beat three people. It’s a little bit kind of, in some ways, hard to really digest and comprehend for me with all the different circumstances in front of me.”
Keselowski will battle Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. for the Monster Cup title Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Busch and Harvick also are going for their second championships.
There have been 15 multiple champions in 69 years of NASCAR.
The others: Herb Thomas, Tim Flock, Buck Baker, Lee Petty, Joe Weatherly, Ned Jarrett, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson.
Gordon, Stewart and Johnson are the only ones not in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
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Kyle Busch wants a second championship to validate his first.
Busch missed nearly half the 2015 season because of injuries sustained before the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. He returned months later and got a waiver that allowed him to compete for the championship. He went on to win his first title.
“No question I think the second championship validates the first one,” Busch said Thursday at NASCAR’s championship media day. “There’s a lot of arguments being made that we didn’t deserve the first one, we should never have been there for the first one. The fact of the matter is we executed and did our job with the rules that were given to us and we achieved.
“This would kind of put ourselves in another elite group of drivers and guys and teams that have been really, really good over the years that have been able to go win championships. I certainly would have loved to have gotten in last year and we could talk about going for three in a row rather than just two of the last three.”
Given Martin Truex Jr.’s dominance all year and Kevin Harvick’s late surge, Busch might be driving under the radar into the finale.
“I wouldn’t say I like it, but I wouldn’t say that it’s a problem,” Busch said. “It doesn’t do us any harm to not be the focal point. I feel as though we’ve been really strong this year. We’ve had really good cars all season long. We’ve probably been arguably the best guy, the closest guy that’s kept up with (Truex) all year. There’s been blurbs of (Kyle Larson). There’s been blurbs of the Penske guys early on in the season. And (Harvick’s) kind of come on as of late with the playoffs starting and their team getting a lot better, getting a lot closer.
“We know all those challenges are out there. All we can do is focus on what we can do and what we know how to do coming into Homestead and what we’ve been able to accomplish the last three years here.”
Kevin Harvick is the only 40-something driver in the championship field.
That so-called youth movement in NASCAR will have to wait. At least when it comes to the championship race.
Harvick is 41, Martin Truex Jr. is 37, Brad Keselowski is 33 and Kyle Busch is 32. All have raced for the championship before and Truex is the only one among the four without a title.
Harvick says, experience matters to reach Homestead.
“The young guys, they did a great job, but you’ve got a 118 wins sitting here racing for a championship,” Harvick said. “Experience will always matter in this sport. Obviously, there will be a day I can’t do it. Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott are going to have great careers and they’re going to be sitting here answering these same questions 20 years from now. But experience will always matter.”
Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch have a long standing feud that isn’t going away anytime soon.
Asked Thursday why they’ve never put their rivalry behind them, Keselowski tried to toe the line.
Busch? Not so much.
“Sometimes you just don’t like a guy,” Busch said.
The two are part of the final four title contenders who will race for the championship Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Keselowski said he’s not thinking about Busch because he has to beat three drivers to win the title, not just Busch.
When Busch expanded on why he doesn’t like Keselowski, he intimated that Keselowski has raced him too aggressively over the years.
Elliott Sadler is arguably the best Xfinity Series driver to never win a championship.
The 42-year Sadler has finished second three of the last five years in the second-tier series and wants nothing more than to take home his first title for retiring team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“What I learned last year, through 2016, how many race wins you get and how you run and all that stuff, it just doesn’t matter until you get to Homestead,” Sadler said. “In the position I’m in, at my age, finishing second in the points three of the last five years, Homestead is really the only thing that matters. People ask me about winning and this, that and the other all during the regular season. It just doesn’t matter.
“Homestead is the only race that matters to me and my race team. It’s either win the championship or we don’t. A second is not a moral victory. A third is not a moral victory. It’s just we need to win this championship.”
Sadler has failed to win it all in a NASCAR career that spans 20 years and both top series.
He expects he needs to win the race Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway and insists nothing carries over from last week’s race.
“It’s a new weekend, new cars, new circumstances and a lot on the line. And we put all our eggs in this basket, and we’re going to see where it takes us.”
Austin Cindric says he’s not worried about possible retaliation from other drivers in Friday night’s Truck Series championship.
Cindric earned the final spot in the championship field after a battle with Ben Rhodes last week at Phoenix. Rhodes also had been in contention.
Cindric and Rhodes vied for position on a late restart, the two trucks made contact and it led to a race-ending spin and wreck for Rhodes. Cindric went low on the restart to gain momentum for a potential pass and Rhodes briefly dipped down in an apparent attempt to block him.
Rhodes called it a “desperation” move by Cindric and said he was driving “over his head.”
Other drivers called on Rhodes to retaliate against Cindric this week.
“I’ve got bigger fish to fry,” Cindric said Thursday, adding that he can’t worry about what others might do.
He also said he reached out to Rhodes this week, but the call went straight to voicemail and they have not spoken.
Johnny Sauter is having a career season with GMS Racing and said Thursday he’s “real close” to signing a contract extension with the team. Sauter will try to defend his title on Friday night in the series finale. He’s got a career-best four wins this year — his second with the team.
NASCAR has started its media day for the three championship races this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The 12 title contenders are scheduled to speak at a posh hotel on South Beach.
The Truck Series will crown a champion Friday night. The four contenders are two-time champion Matt Crafton, defending champion Johnny Sauter, Christopher Bell and Austin Cindric.
In the Xfinity Series, the title is between three drivers from JR Motorsports and Daniel Hemric. It’s an-all Chevrolet championship bout. Representing JR Motorsports in Saturday’s race are Justin Allgaier, William Byron and Elliott Sadler.
In the Cup Series, the finale features three former champions and Martin Truex Jr. But Truex isn’t rattled by his competition’s experience because he’s got seven wins this season, including six on mile-and-a-half tracks. Homestead is a mile-and-a-half course.
The other competitors Sunday are 2012 champion Brad Keselowski, 2014 champion Kevin Harvick and 2015 champion Kyle Busch.
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