Beginning Friday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Miami, Florida, NASCAR is hosting Ford Championship Weekend. All three series—the Camping World Truck Series, Xfinity Series, and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series—will have four drivers racing for their respective championships. While each of these races will include more than 30 drivers, the four series contenders don’t need to win the race to win the championship; they just need to beat the other three contenders in their race.
Last year, none of the favorites won their series’ championships; the racing is very interesting and unpredictable. That being said, here are my picks to win the championship.
CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES
Three of the four drivers from last season’s playoffs are in this year’s playoffs: Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton, and Christopher Bell. Austin Cindric is the fourth driver. Although Sauter has won the last two races coming into this weekend, my pick to become the Truck Series champion is Bell. He has won the most races in the Truck Series this year, five out of 22. While he has felt very confident about the speed in his truck all season, he is also very comfortable this weekend, having been a Championship 4 contender just last year.
“The biggest thing I can take out of last year is the experience,” Bell said. “I know what the weekend is about now. I’ve been through this. Hopefully we can capitalize on it this year and get a better result.”
This weekend is bittersweet for NASCAR because it marks the finale of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s racing career. While he is not in a position to drive himself to a championship of his own, he is in a unique situation in the Xfinity Series, where three of the four contenders for the championship are on his JR Motorsports team: Justin Allgaier, William Byron, and Elliott Sadler. Daniel Hemric of Richard Childress Racing rounds out the four.
Byron is my pick to win this championship. He has won four out of the 33 Xfinity Series races. Last year when he competed at Homestead in the Truck Series finale, he ended up winning the race, although he was not eligible to win the championship, as he was not one of the Final 4 contenders.
Though Byron will be racing in the Final 4 with two of his teammates, he said it’s every man for himself.
“You’re out there for yourself to win for [your car’s crew],” Byron said. “You want the other guys on your team to win if you can’t. But [I’m] going out there to compete for a championship in the number 9 [car]. That’s our goal, and we’re going to race those guys just like we have all year.”
MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
This is most competitive of the three series because three of the four contenders have won a NASCAR Cup Series title: Brad Keselowski (in 2012), Kevin Harvick (in 2014), and Kyle Busch (in 2015). The only Championship 4 contender who doesn’t have a Cup Series Title Is Martin Truex Jr., but he is my pick to win it all on Sunday.
Truex has dominated the Cup Series this season, winning seven races and more than 23 of the 71 stages, which are like quarters in a football game. Six of his seven wins have also come on 1.5-mile tracks, which is the layout of Homestead. Busch has the second-most wins this season with five.
In addition to being the favorite on the track, Truex is also a sentimental favorite off the track, as his longtime girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, is currently undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer.
When asked what a championship win would mean for her, Truex said, “It would be awesome to be on top of the world with her for a few days. Honestly, she has been through a lot. She doesn’t want me racing to get this championship for her. But I’m definitely going to try to get it for her.”
While all of these picks are probably considered the favorites by most people who follow NASCAR, the unique, “winner-take-all” nature of postseason format has created a lot of drama in the lead-up to this weekend as drivers tried to qualify.
Each of the races will have its own unique dynamic, but Truex probably best summed up the excitement fans can expect in all three series this weekend when asked what he would do to win the championship. “I’d wreck any one of these three,” he said, referring to the other drivers contending for the Cup title.
It should be an exciting weekend of racing ahead! You can tune in to Fox Sports 1 on Friday at 8 p.m. for Camping World Truck Series racing, NBCSN at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday for the Xfinity Series, and NBC at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday for the Cup Series finale, which will also include a farewell to NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Photographs by: Robert Laberge/Getty Images (cars); Chris Trotman/Getty Images (Earnhardt); Michael Nichols (trophy)