While Kyle Larson has established himself as one of the premier drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, he still possesses a strong passion for racing on dirt tracks, which is where his ascent to stardom began.
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So who will heft the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series trophy on Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway? There are 16 possibilities.
The motor sports team at USA TODAY Sports offers its analysis:
Martin Truex Jr: His astronomical playoff points total is seed money all the way to the final. That’s not to suggest that he can cruise through the first three rounds, and the way he’s performed this year, cruising might be another two or three wins anyway. But he and crew chief Cole Pearn can focus solely on the season finale and finally capturing a moment that has come ever within their grasp the past three years. A one-off situation offers no guarantees, but Truex has proved capable of dominating days through this season.
Jimmie Johnson: Six drivers in the 16-driver playoff field have won the Cup championship. Five – Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth — have won it once. The only driver in the group with more than one is Johnson, and he has seven. He has been the king of the modern playoff format, even as NASCAR has toyed with its details over the years. Does he have a record eighth title in him? The numbers – and his persistence – say yes.