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OBSERVATIONS: Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway

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NASCAR implemented the playoff system to create drama late in the season, and the Can-Am 500 certainly helped in doing so on Sunday at ISM Raceway.

Six drivers fighting for two spots – actually seven but Kyle Busch was also not mathematically locked in but just had to finish better than 33rd, and everybody got a piece of the drama throughout the event. From flat tires and pit road speeding penalties, to crazy restarts and wrecks, the clear picture of who would be the Championship 4 for Homestead-Miami Speedway was never written out until the checkered flag. The drama, combined with a track that allows drivers to make passes, produced the perfect race to set-up the finale.

It’s fitting that a crazy event sees the driver nicknamed Rowdy, Kyle Busch, make his way to the front via some great restarts – 10th to third in a corner at one point, to score the victory. A solid comeback from a flat tire worked out for Kevin Harvick, while Martin Truex Jr. used his point cushion and a smart race to his advantage. The three will now join Joey Logano next weekend in the Championship 4.

Aric Almirola certainly made it interesting, challenging for the victory on the late-race restarts, but just didn’t have enough for Busch, or Brad Keselowski for that matter. Kurt Busch and Chase Elliott each showed speed to win the race, but an incident with Denny Hamlin eliminated them both. For Clint Bowyer, it was a flat tire and contact with the wall ending his chances.

The format created the drama, but one thing is still important – performance.

“The whole year counts,” Chase Elliott commented afterwards. “Those guys, winning a lot of races throughout the season, is what kept them away from a pressure-filled situation. All the bonus points they built up pretty much got them to Homestead, and that that’s the way that step stone is meant to work. It pays to win.”

The four drivers who will race for the championship have ran up front all season long, winning races, leading laps, scoring the most top-fives, picking up over 20 top-10’s each, and have the four best average finishes of all competitors. Despite having bad luck at one point or another in the playoffs, the advantage they built via playoff points made it easier to advance. While it may seem to come down a single event, the teams that they built through out the year are what have gotten them here.

That’s why THE BIG THREE, along with hints of Logano, were originally predicted to make up the Championship 4. Now the four best drivers of the 2018 season will race for the championship, and it’s bound to be a show.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.