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2018 NASCAR Top Storylines: How Did Each of the Big 3 Fall Apart?

The Big Three. This was the most popular phrase throughout the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. Between Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr., all three dominated the first 3/4 of the season and it looked as if nobody else would be able to overtake them and be champion at the end of the year. That changed when Joey Logano got hot at the right time and won the championship after a stellar drive at Homestead in the final race of the season.

Logano was the one driver who was able to reign over “The Big Three” when all was said and done. There were several other drivers who had moments where they could have been a part of the discussion that Logano became a part of during Homestead weekend. Drivers like Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, and Clint Bowyer all had their moments during the year where they were viewed as that fourth driver and the one to have a chance to defeat “The Big Three.”

Where did the three top drivers all season long go wrong? What did they lack when it came down to competing for the ultimate prize at the end of the season?

Let’s start with Harvick. Harvick had 8 wins during the season, many of which came in dominant fashion. He started the playoffs as the favorite to win the championship, but it became evident in the first race that it may not be easy to win the title. A blown tire at Las Vegas cut Harvick’s bid at another win short but still was easily safe for the next round. Throughout the next 6 races, Harvick would have 4 top 10 finishes and was solidly into the Round of 8. After his win in Texas and clinching his spot into the Championship 4, the car was found to have a major infraction and crew chief Rodney Childers was suspended for the final 2 races of the year.

Whether this was the reason Harvick did not win the title or not, that is unknown but it had a big effect on the team with him not on the box during the last two pivotal races of the playoffs. The speed was still there but something seemed to be lacking on the No. 4 machine when it came down to it, and he ultimately wound up finishing 3rd in the championship.

Kyle Busch wound up with 8 total wins on the year, tying Harvick for the season high in the series. Busch had an extremely consistent and strong regular season which led to a regular season championship. Along with Harvick, he was viewed as a favorite to many as well.

Busch started off the first round of the playoffs with a win in the second race in the round at Richmond and it looked like he was taking over as the ultimate favorite. He never had that extra step that everybody thought he would have once he won, but he was as strong as anyone after winning at ISM Raceway. Busch rolled into Homestead a part of the Championship 4 and many picked him to win it all. Unfortunately for Busch, he did not have the speed all weekend long and wound up 4th in the championship standings. The downfall of Busch? There really is not any downfall. It came down to one race and he did not have the car to beat the other 3. He had a stellar year, but he could not finish it off in the final race when it mattered most.

The last member of “The Big Three” was Truex Jr., and after 4 wins in the regular season, Truex and his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team were poised to repeat as champions. Unfortunately, uncertainty and controversy were the two main words to describe Truex’s playoff run.

The week before the playoffs would begin, Barney Visser announced that FRR would be shutting down at year’s end. Truex  and his team were left with uncertain futures, but at the same time, they had a full 10 races to go and try to win another title. After two 3rd place finishes to start off the playoffs, Truex would struggle the next several weeks and be in danger on not even making the Round of 8. He did what he had to do though and made it. Then came Martinsville.

After having arguably his strongest race of the playoffs, Truex was on his way to a win at Martinsville when in the final corner, Joey Logano would move him out of the way to win the race. There was obvious frustration from the driver of the No. 78 and he let it be known after he said Logano “Won the battle but he would not win the war.” Truex wound up in the Championship 4 and after a stellar race, he would come up just short of his second consecutive title and finished 2nd in the championship standings.

Many will say the announcement of the No. 78 team shutting down was the reason for the struggle in the middle part of the playoffs. The timing of the announcement was definitely not very good for the team, as it may have created a distraction, but in the end, Truex Jr. came up just short of winning it all again.

There have been seasons before where we saw three drivers have the amount of wins Harvick, Busch, and Truex Jr. had this season, but many of us may not remember three drivers being this dominant. If we go back to 2008, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, and Kyle Busch combined to win 24 of the 36 races. This season, “The Big Three” combined to win only 20.

The downfall of each is unique, but when it came down to the end when they needed the strongest performance they have had, none could come through. All had amazing seasons, and we should not expect any different from the drivers in 2019, including Truex Jr. who will be with Joe Gibbs Racing in the No. 19. Whether we see another “Big Three” anytime soon, it could happen, but if we learned anything in 2018, it was the fact that anything can happen, no matter who dominates all season long. 2019 should be more of the same, and it will be one wild ride.

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About Brandon Hauff

Brandon Hauff
Brandon is a 22-year-old from NY and has been a passionate follower of motorsports for 14 years now. He recently graduated from Molloy College on Long Island with a BA in Communications. Working within NASCAR has been a dream for Brandon for a while, and he hopes to be able to live out the dream in the very near future.

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12 comments

  1. Avatar

    Sure Harvick losing his crew chief had an effect on him. But losing that tricked out spoiler he used for those 8 wins had the biggest effect.
    Joey is the champion, period. He beat fake truex fair and square. Wait till Kyle learns how they are tricking out the Truex car, he might not lose another race.

  2. Avatar

    I haven’t heard any of the “Big 3” complain about the format. K.B. made a lighthearted joke about how being the first speaker sucked at the awards banquet but that really isn’t whining or complaining. Was it frustrating for them? Hell yes, but I have not heard them blame anyone but themselves and their teams for just not getting it right when it mattered. Still great seasons by all of them.

    Just remember how we got here. When Kenseth won the Cup with a single win the whole points system got scrapped.

    • Avatar

      The old system got scraped because some whiners wanted the driver with the most wins to be the “champion.” And still do. Repeat after me: A driver STILL doesn’t need wins to be the the POINTS champion.

  3. Avatar

    Wow because of who the driver was you would think this has never happened before with all the faux hubris and hypocrisy! Joey go “screwed” a few times if you care to look it up being the “best”. Never heard a peep out of the whiners hating the format then? Nope! He played by the rules and out mastered all 3 when it came time to the playoffs and he and his team rose to the occasion masterfully!!! He was no fluke, no lucky shot. His stats prove otherwise for the season. Give it a rest.

    • Avatar

      Are you mental kb? “Never heard a peep out of the whiners hating the format then”
      Everyone has complained about the format and the one race crapshoot championship since it was announced. Where have you been? Stop defending your little boy and getting all bent out of shape when everyone doesn’t praise him and think he’s the best thing since sliced bread.

      “His stats prove otherwise for the season”. Exactly what stats prove he was the best in 2018?…

      Wins/Top 5s/Top 10s/ laps lead/average finish/laps led percent
      Busch – 8/22/28/1470/8.3/14.7
      Harvick – 8/23/29/1990/8.8/20.5
      Logano – 3/13/26/934/10.7/9.5
      Truex – 4/20/21/9760/10.7/10.4

      Maybe you should have reviewed the stats before you started talking out your ass, idiot.

      BTW, if you read the comments below no one spewed the vile hatred toward your precious little boy Joey, like you did toward Truex in the article about FRR shutting down.

      • Avatar

        One error in the stats… Truex led 1016 laps not 9760 (which was the number of laps he ran). Still more laps lead than “the champion”.

        Now go get your shine box!

        • Avatar

          Oh dear! Oh dear! Reading comp issues again. Facts not vetted out! Lack of understanding issues again. Various formats of NASCAR not understood who the “winner” was at that time, etc. The theme and spirit of the rebuttal not understood again! And I know this is not the real “BILL B”. He would never stoop so low. Merry Christmas poser! You do not hold a candle to the real Bill B! Again, not getting it, and no I am not mental…take a pill and chill. But it seems any form of help will be futile. I am wiping the insane rant of spit off my monitor as I type! Shut up stupid!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Merry XMAS! IMO. Good God. Merry Christmas the REAL BILL B!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Go fluck yourself you fake jerk off. Let us know when you use a another name and get an education…and not of the common core type! LOL.

  4. Avatar

    This article shows what is exactly wrong with this the one race formula for a champ.

  5. Avatar

    I don’t think any of them “fell apart”. They all made it to Homestead. Joey Logano and the 22 team just stepped their game up and had the right setup at Homestead. The 18 and the 4 just didn’t have consistent speed that day and the 78 needed long runs. When that final caution came out it played right into the 22’s hands. It’s not the first and won’t be the last time the “best team” all year didn’t take home the championship.

  6. Avatar

    One question I have is in this article scenario, which I agree with Bill B. the big 3 did not fall apart since they were in the top four at Homestead, is more if we still had the 10 or 12 driver version without the eliminations who would have won? I much prefer the 10 race but “season long” style to determine champ over this one race deal. Teams in the old version essentially are eliminated by being x number of points behind but it allows for 1 or maybe 2 bad to iffy races but could claw back into it with wins. Don’t get me wrong I still prefer having a season long champ versus this farce-ical way there is now.

  7. Avatar

    Maybe the Big Three weren’t the Big Three. The team with the best record hardly ever wins the World Series or the Stupor Bowl or the Stanley Cup.

  8. Avatar

    I’m not even reading this article because the title is total BS. The big 3 didn’t fall apart, the screwy one race championship format allowed someone who didn’t run that great the entire season to do the minimum he had to in order to win the championship. Geez.