MENCS Opinions

MENCS Championship Outlook: Three Look to Repeat as Champions While the Fourth Is Searching For First Title

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Mark Dottle / Rubbings Racing

With another Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season coming to an end that means we will have a Champion come Sunday evening.

Three of the four drivers are looking to win their second Championships. Martin Truex Jr., who won the regular season Championship is looking to claim his first MENCS title. While Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski are all looking to capture their second titles in NASCARís top series.

Itís going to be a fierce battle with the Championship on the line, but as Iíve said many times in previous week I personally feel itís Martin Truex Jrís championship to lose.

Our Sarah Handy and Jacob Mullins give their take on who they think will win the first ever Monster Cup Sunday night.

Kyle Busch

Sarah Handy: With an average finish of 19.8 at Homestead-Miami Speedway I just donít see Busch coming home with his second MENCS Championship. While he has one win which came in 2015 he just hasnít been consistent enough at the 1.5-mile track. On Buschís side; This is his third straight trip to the Championship 4 so he isnít new to the pressure of winning it all.

Donít forget he has had an ongoing rivalry with fellow competitor and Championship hopeful Brad Keselowski which recently came up in media day at Homestead so itís sure to make the on-track racing between the two interesting.

Busch was quoted as saying: ďSometimes you just donít like the guyófact of the matter.Ē referring to Brad Keselowski and their long-running rivalry.

Jacob Mullins: At the beginning of the season all the talk was about Joe Gibbs Racing not getting to victory lane. It took 19 races for JGR to get to victory lane, and since then, it’s been hard to keep them out. With five wins in 16 races since Denny Hamlin’s and JGR’s first win of the season, Busch is one of the hottest drivers in the garage.

Like him or not, Busch is going to be a player in the Championship race Sunday night. I believe the title is going to come down to Busch and Truex.

However, since I’m a stats guy, one very interesting statistic in these playoffs is that if Busch doesn’t win, he’s almost non-existent. In the nine race thus far in the playoffs, he has thee wins, a seventh place finish, and five finishes in double digits. If he has another double-digit finish Sunday, he won’t earn his second MENCS title.

Kevin Harvick

SH: While the driver of the No. 4 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing hasnít had the year I thought he would have in the wins column – he has two, coming at Sonoma and Texas respectively – he managed to stay consistent enough to make it to the Championship 4.

Harvick has a decent track record at Homestead. He has one win which came in 2014, the year he won his first Cup Championship to go along with an average start of 12.6 and an average finish of 6.9. If Truex doesnít win his first Championship I really believe Harvick will win his second.

He has finished 3rd, 2nd and 1st in his last three starts at the track. Thatís certainly not a shabby showing.

JM: Harvick and his Blue Oval manufacturer teammate Brad Keselowski, are the two wild cards in this year’s title race. Yes, Kevin Harvick won at Texas two weeks ago, a 1.5-mile track just like Homestead, and yes, he won earlier in the season, but there is one thing that Ford has been lacking all year, speed one the 1.5-mile tracks.

With an 11.3 average finish in 2017 and four DNF’s, Happy Harvick won’t be happy in South Beach as he won’t win his second Monster Cup.

Brad Keselowski

SH: The driver of the No. 2 Ford for Team Penske has 3 wins on the season to go along with 15 top-five finishes, and 20 top-10 finishes but his stats have fallen off some compared to last season. His average finish last season was 11.5, in 2017 itís 12.6. While thatís not an enormous difference I just donít feel the cards are in his favor this season to win his second Championship.

BK nearly failed to make the final 4 at Phoenix. His car wasnít where it needed to be and he in my opinion got in based on luck. Why do I say that? Well, if Chase Elliott had won (and he was leading for a while) the race at Phoenix last Sunday Keselowski wouldnít be racing for a Championship this Sunday.

Keselowski won at a similar track earlier in the season when he won at Atlanta but the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway isnít his best track. He will have to finish ahead of the three other drivers to bring home the title which wonít be easy when his average finish at the track is 15.8 with a finish of 35th in the 2016 finale last season.

JM: Just as I said with his Ford brethren, Keselowski is a wild card come Sunday night. Since winning the 2012 Championship, Keselowski hasn’t finished the season ranked in the top-four. His best was 5th in 2014.

I’m a BK fan and have been since he started driving JR Motorsports’ No. 88 NXS entry back in 2007. However, I’m not drinking enough Miller Lite’s to think that he is a lock for the championship. All Fords have lacked speed this year and nothing would make me think that’ll change this weekend at Homestead.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d enjoy seeing Brad winning his second Championship, and the truth being since he’s in the final four, he has a shot at it. However, I’m also realistic and think it’ll be a Toyota celebrating on the stage Sunday.

Martin Truex Jr

SH: The driver of the No. 78 Toyota for Furniture Row Racing has had the best year of his MENCS career in 2017. With six of Truexís seven wins this season coming on 1.5-mile tracks (Homestead if a 1.5-mile track) he has the upper hand on the other three drivers.

I canít use the experience card here as these are all top drivers, all four have wins this season, and three of them are previous Cup Champions.

However, with an average finish of 2.7 on mile and a halfís Truex is my choice to win the title. With the season he has had itís definitely his to lose as he did win the regular season Championship.

JM: Heading into the playoffs, Truex was my pick to win the Championship. With three wins in the playoffs – Chicago, Charlotte, and Kansas – all 1.5-mile tracks, I think he is still the favorite to win, but Busch will be his top contender.

Despite not winning in the third round of the playoffs, Truex finished runner-up twice in addition to a third place finish. He’s been consistent, but not with the title on the line, consistency doesn’t mean anything, he’s pretty much got to win the race, and I think he can do it.

With so much going on in his personal life, Truex winning the Championship would be an extremely popular win with the fans and I hope to see MTJ get his first MENCS title Sunday night.

Final Thoughts

SH: In closing, Martin Truex Jr., is my pick to win the 2017 MENCS Championship. He has completely dominated the series this season and leads the series in wins (7), top fiveís (18), top 10ís (25), and has led an astonishing 2,175 laps. Not to mention he has been the King of mile and a half tracks this season. Homestead-Miami is just the track Truex needs to bring home his first Championship. The No. 78 is sure to do that if they can stay out of trouble, have clean pit stops and can stay ahead of the other three drivers.

JM: I’m sticking with my original choice for the championship since the beginning of the year, Truex. In my opinion, the only driver that will knock him of the mountain is Busch. The Toyota’s have been so solid during these playoffs by winning seven of the nine races, and I don’t see them slowing down anytime soon.

Who do you think will win the MENCS title at Homestead-Miami Speedway Sunday evening? Let us know in the comments on our Facebook page (@RubbingsRacing) or on our Twitter page where we share the same social media handle as Facebook.

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About Jacob Mullins

Jacob Mullins serves as the managing editor and senior NASCAR writer covering all three national touring series's. You can find him on on Twitter at @JMulls15. An intercollegiate athletic administrator by trade, Mullins can be found at the big tracks as well as the local short tracks in the Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania area. Mullins enjoys social media, photography and graphic design. A native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, Mullins follows all forms of racing, Major League Baseball (Baltimore Orioles) and college football (Virginia Tech Hokies).

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