And then there were four.
However, there’s one man you should be rooting for as the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday for the season finale of the Chase for the championship.
That would be Martin Truex Jr.
There’s many reasons to root for him, but perhaps the most significant is that he’s not part of the establishment.
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He’s the Bernie Sanders of auto racing.
The odds – and funds – are stacked against him.
Yet, here he is among the final four who have a chance to be a Cup champion.
Now, before you attack me with political rants, please understand: I’m simply drawing parallels, not offering political views.
For instance, he’s the underdog, like Sanders was against the almighty Clinton establishment.
Truex, of low-budget Furniture Row Racing, is up against the likes of super-team drivers Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing, Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing and Brad Keselowski of Team Penske, the other drivers who advanced through the Chase format to have a chance to win a championship in the finale.
Not only that, but Truex has just one teammate, rookie Erik Jones, whose No. 77 car is being eliminated from the team in 2018. At that point, Furniture Row Racing will be a one-man show.
Harvick has Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick as teammates, Kyle Busch partners with three other drivers (Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Daniel Suarez) and Keselowski has the likes of Cup star Joey Logano watching his back.
Those three have a lot more help than Truex, aiding their chances. Just ask Hillary Clinton, who benefited greatly by having super delegates in her pocket while running against a grassroots-backed Sanders in the Democratic primary.
But yes, like politics, racing in many ways is an individual sport. However, when all the cards are down – as they will be this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway – having a super team can play a big role.
Not only can teammates help in drafting situations, they can potentially affect the outcome of the race in another way – via wrecks. However, NASCAR will certainly keep an eye out for that type of behavior as it’s already dealt with an ugly situation that affected the Chase, whether intentional or not.
In 2015, Kenseth asserted some revenge by wrecking Logano during an Eliminator Round race at Martinsville. It was believed to have been payback for a “borderline dirty move” by Logano at Kansas that year. Kenseth was later suspended.
Curiously, though, wrecking Logano wound up helping Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch, Kenseth’s teammates at the time.
While it’s impossible to get into the minds of drivers who are traveling at speeds up to 200 mph at times, there’s a fine line when it comes to wrecks.
It’s difficult to measure intent.
Therefore, having help is never a bad thing.
But as politics showed us last year, the outsider has a chance these days.
Not only did Donald Trump, the surprise Republican candidate, win the presidency, but Sanders made an underdog run that likely was only halted by the super delegate game. Nonetheless, he’s now a major star on the left.
Let’s just hope that Truex’s ultimate fate winds up better than that of Sanders. Everyone loves an underdog story and him winning the title would be a sight to see.
We should also hope that Truex – who is under contract with Furniture Row Racing through the 2018 season – never sells out. It would be a shame to see him later leave to join one of the super teams when he’s already shown he can do it on his lonesome.
Otherwise, he could wind up being the Kevin Durant of auto racing.
And no one wants that.
Get the bumper stickers ready: Furniture Row Racing’s Truex running for another Cup championship in 2018.
It has a nice ring to it.