Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn’t know if Martin Truex Jr. can defend his NASCAR title now
Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. might be in trouble.
The No. 78 Toyota driver is still in contention for the 2018 title after the first two playoff elimination rounds that whittled the championship field down from 16 drivers to eight. But driver turned NBC Sports analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn’t know if Truex and his team have what it takes to truly be in the running for the championship.
Going into the seventh of 10 total postseason races, Truex is third in the playoff standings behind Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, and all three drivers are safely above the cutoff mark that will determine the final four drivers contending for the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway in a few weeks. At least for now.
But while Earnhardt is convinced all three will advance to the final race – leaving only the fourth spot up for grabs, which Chase Elliott currently occupies – he explained why he thinks Harvick is the favorite at this point.
On his weekly Dale Jr. Download podcast, Earnhardt said:
“No one has the speed that Kevin Harvick has, no one has all season. No. One. Has. Had. That. Speed. On an off-day, Kyle Busch has more speed than Harvick, (but) Harvick’s not gonna be off at Homestead. You can guarantee it. …
“Harvick’s pretty sly, and I think that he’s the favorite for me. Like two months ago, I had to lock in who I thought would win the championship, and I picked Kyle Busch. And I don’t feel that way right now. Right now, I feel like Kevin Harvick is the favorite, slightly, over Kyle Busch.”
Prior to the start of the playoffs in September, Junior predicted the Championship 4 drivers would be the same as last year with Harvick, Busch, Truex and Brad Keselowski. But despite a brief surge where Keselowski and his No. 2 Ford team won three consecutive races – the last two of the regular season and first in the playoffs’ Round of 16 – before being eliminated Sunday after the race at Kansas Speedway.
Although Harvick, Busch and Truex had been dubbed NASCAR’s Big Three after winning 17 of the 26 regular season races, Truex hasn’t won since July, and that – combined with a rough performance at Kansas, one of his best tracks – is why Earnhardt thinks the 78 team should be concerned. However, Busch is the only one among them who has won a playoff race.
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