THE FINAL RACE

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Homestead is the site of Sunday's NASCAR finale. NASCAR.COM

The time has finally come, the race that we have all waited for. After thirty - five races, we have reached the final race of the year at Homestead. Homestead is another 1.5-mile race track. The track was once flat and passing was rare and only really took place in the straightaways. But in 2003, the track was reconfigured and more banking was added. This called for more side - by - side racing and better finishes. Four drivers have a chance at winning the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup championship. Those four drivers are Martin Truex Jr, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski. The driver who first punched his ticket to Homestead was Kyle Busch by virtue of his victory at Martinsville. Busch struggled to begin his season; at Daytona he was involved in a multi - car incident that ended his day. He then backed it up the next week at Atlanta with a mediocre sixteenth place finish.

All throughout the spring and most of the summer Busch was up and down, but once they got to end of July, he woke up and his crew became the team we all know. He won the Overton's 400 at Pocono after bumping Kevin Harvick out of the way with seventeen laps to go. This victory set the tone for him going into the rest of the regular season. He went on to win three more races and further establish himself as a favorite to win the title. Kyle and his team has definitely put together a championship caliber season and he is heading to one of his best tracks. Since 2015 his average finish has been 3.50. He has also won here once in 2015 to seal his first championship. Busch is certainly good at this race track and should be one to watch for.

By taking the green flag last week at Phoenix, Martin Truex Jr. Was officially locked into homestead. He is the odds - on favorite to win his first championship. This season has been dominating from the start for Truex. He began his hot streak at Las Vegas when he swept all three stages of the race and went on to win his first race of the year. He then went on to win six more races this year and ended his season with more victories than anyone with seven. He has excelled at mile and a half tracks winning six of his seven victories on those types of race tracks. With Homestead being a 1.5-mile track it is no wonder why Truex would be the favorite. I'd like to think he is the sentimental favorite as well.

With all of the things that have happened to him from losing his ride at Michael Waltr ip Racing in 2014, to his wife being diagnosed with cancer, it has been a rocky road to the top for the 11-year veteran but it sure would be a great story to see him finally win that championship that has eluded him since his full time first season in 2006. While it has been a masterful year for him, Truex has struggled to run well at Homestead. His average finish here since 2015 is 24th. Homestead is not one of his best race tracks but I think this year will be different. Besides Truex has run well here and his finishes have not been indicative of how he has competed. Last year he stayed primarily around the top 10 until he was involved in a massive crash with ten laps to go. If Truex and his Furniture Row racing team can put together a whole race, I believe he can be a fierce competitor for the championship. It has been a quiet season for Kevin Harvick this year, the man they call the "closer" has flown under the radar but statistically he has been right up there with the contenders. He has had an incredible 22 top ten finishes. And what is even more incredible is his thirteen top five finishes. While he has only won two races this year at Sonoma and Texas, Harvick has been the model of consistency and has been up front all year and now he heads to his best track since 2015. He has the highest average finish of all active drivers of 6.94 and since 2015 has not finished worse than second at this track so it would definitely be hard to bet against him come Sunday.

The fourth and final driver to clinch a spot at homestead is Brad Keselowski. It has truly been an amazing journey for him to get to where he is today. He was born into a racing family with his dad Bob and his brother Brian both being race car drivers. In 2004 Brad was struggling to find an opportunity to land a top ride in NASCAR and he was driving for his dad and their team K - Automotive in the truck series and struggling to finish races. Brad did not get his big break until three years later in 2007 when truck series regular Ted Musgrave was suspended for an incident at the Milwaukee Mile. Team Owner Bob Germain needed a fill-in driver to substitute for Musgrave at Memphis and Brad was called upon. He made the most of his opportunity and ran with it as he went on to start on pole position and lead the most laps.

While Keselowski did not win the race that day after crashing out, he caught the eye of Dale Earnhardt Jr. With an open seat in his NASCAR Xfinity series team, Keselowski was then called upon again. With impressive results and a surprise victory at Talladega in the cup series in 2009, Keselowski was then hired to drive at Penske in 2010 and two years later he won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Brad has the longest odds to win the championship at 10-1 and is not going to his best race track. His average finish there since 2015 is 19th but he has overcome adversity all his career if there is anyone that can pull it off it is him.

My predictions: I believe this year will be the first time the winner of the race does not win the championship and the highest finishing of the four will get it. My race winner will be Kyle Larson. Every year Larson has been leading here and always appears to have the race locked up but in the closing laps a caution always comes out and costs him a shot at victory. This year I don't think that caution comes out and I think he cruises home to a victory. The Championship battle will come down to Busch and Harvick. As good a season as Truex has had I just don’t foresee him doing so well at this track due to his struggles as of late. When the checkered flag falls I have Harvick winning his second championship. This will come right down to the final laps with him and Busch and it may end with Busch getting moved out of the way. These two have a history that dates all the way back to 2005 and race car drivers have LONG memories. We should be in for a classic come Sunday evening when it is all said and d one.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driver averages.com and Racing - Refrence.com the best website for all NASCAR stats)

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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