NASCAR Roundtable: Predicting the 2018 champions

As we head into the final weekend of the 2018 NASCAR season, the Motorsport.com team predicts national series champions in this week's edition of the NASCAR Roundtable.

NASCAR Roundtable: Predicting the 2018 champions
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Busch Light
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Mobil 1 celebrates his win in Victory Lane
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing, Toyota Camry Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing, Toyota Camry Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY
Joey Logano, Team Penske, Ford Fusion Shell Pennzoil
Race winner Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry M&M's
Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry GameStop Just Cause 4
Daniel Hemric, Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet Camaro South Point Hotel & Casino
Cole Custer, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Haas Automation
Brett Moffitt, Hattori Racing Enterprises, Toyota Tundra KOBE celebrates his win with a burnout
Brett Moffitt, Hattori Racing Enterprises, Toyota Tundra KOBE celebrates his win in Victory Lane
Johnny Sauter, GMS Racing, Chevrolet Silverado ISM Connect
Joey Logano, Team Penske, Ford Fusion Shell Pennzoil and Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing, Toyota Camry 5-hour ENERGY/Bass Pro Shops collide coming to the checkered flag
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing, Toyota Camry Auto-Owners Insurance and Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Lowe's for Pros
Joey Logano, Team Penske, Ford Fusion Pennzoil, Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing, Toyota Camry 5-hour ENERGY/Bass Pro Shops, and A.J. Allmendinger, JTG Daugherty Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Kroger ClickList
Race winner Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro NAPA Auto Parts celebrates
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Mountain Dew celebrates

Who do you think will win the NASCAR Cup Series championship and why?

Jim Utter: I believe ultimately it will come down to what team makes the least mistakes and avoids any entanglements on the track, but based strictly on performance and speed this season, it's hard not to go with Kevin Harvick. When Harvick and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas team are 'on,' they are clearly the best. The championship is theirs for the taking so long as they don't beat themselves.

Nick DeGroot: Although I don't think he's the favorite entering Homestead, I believe Martin Truex Jr. will defend his 2017 crown and send Furniture Row Racing out on top. Although he hasn't won in the 2018 playoffs yet, he has come within arm's reach on more than one occasion. And I think the finish of the Martinsville race taught him a lesson and changed the way he will battle if in position to win in the closing laps at Homestead. We've seen this team overcome some incredible adversity in the past and come out stronger. So that's my bet, the No. 78 goes back-to-back in their final outing on Sunday.

Tim Southers: I think this will be the year Joey Logano gets his first championship and delivers on a prediction Mark Martin made first over a decade ago. While Logano hasn’t been as successful as the ‘Big 3’ this season but he’s been here before and I think will be the hungriest of the group to want a championship. He might have to avoid several drivers gunning for him in the race, but he has already proven he’ll be aggressive.

Who do you think will win the NASCAR Xfinity championship and why?

Jim: This championship is the most wide-open. While Christopher Bell has easily amassed the most wins this season, he has also been hit-or-miss, which is why he was in danger of missing out on competing for the series championship until he won last weekend at Phoenix. Cole Custer has only won once this season but it was at the best possible time and he completely dominated last year's Homestead race on his way to his first series win (although he wasn't in the playoffs at the time).I think this series is ripe for drama and will go with Custer.

Nick: This is an interesting one and although I want to say Christopher Bell, Cole Custer 2017 domination at Homestead has me hesitant. He had the entire field covered last year but unless we see a repeat performance Saturday, I'm going to give the nod to Bell. He may be a rookie, but that No. 20 has been strong all year with seven victories and he has shown as recently as Phoenix that he can get the job done when the pressure's on.

Tim: I agree with Jim that this championship is the most unpredictable of the three races this weekend. If you base a prediction on past performance at Homestead-Miami Speedway it’s hard not to pick Cole Custer, however, I think Christopher Bell will use the momentum from last weekend’s win to propel him to the title this Saturday. In my heart, I think the best story would be for Daniel Hemric to win the title, but I think Bell will be too tough to beat.

Who do you think will win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship and why?

Jim: This championship has been shaping up to be a showdown between Johnny Sauter and Brett Moffitt all season and when the final laps of Friday night's race play out, I think that's exactly who will be out front battle for the title. The second half of the season Sauter has been not quite as consistent and I think that ultimately Moffitt will win the race and his first NASCAR national series championship for himself and Hattori Enterprises.

Nick: It's going to come down to Johnny Sauter and Brett Moffitt and for whatever reason, Moffitt has an uncanny ability to surge to the front in the final moments of past races. Call it a lucky horseshoe or just the ability to close the deal, but he loves late-race restarts and door-to-door battles. Moffitt wins it all this Friday night.

Tim: Here you have a veteran - Johnny Sauter - battling it out with three young guns. It’s an honest miracle that Brett Moffitt is in the Championship Four, not doubting his ability as he’s a great driver, it’s the hurdles the team has had to clear just to make it through the season financially and to be in a position to win the title. This would be a great story for NASCAR if he is to win and I think he’ll have to beat Sauter to do it. For me, I think Sauter’s experience and driving style will give him his second championship.

Do you feel NASCAR reached its objectives of creating "must-see" moments in the playoffs?

Jim: The playoffs got off to a slow start but I think with the addition of the Charlotte Roval, the two playoff victories by Chase Elliott and the crazy race last weekend at Phoenix, the playoffs have delivered plenty of intrigue, excitement, special moments and good racing. I think the finales this weekend will only add to it.

Nick: What I look for are 'wow' moments -- moments where something unforgettable and dramatic happens that just sticks in our minds. This year's playoffs had a couple of those and the No. 78 was centerpiece to them both with the finish of the Charlotte Roval and Martinsville races. Those finishes, Larson's ridiculous charge to the checkered flag at the Roval, and even Kurt Busch and Chase Elliott's exit at Phoenix all top the list for me. Unfortunately, there's been a 'wow' moment off the track too with the massive penalty levied against the No. 4 of Kevin Harvick after a dominant performance at Texas. Hopefully the talk remains about the on-track action at Homestead and not the inspection line. And yes, the Championship Four grid was rather predictable this year, but it sets us up for a thrilling finale with the absolute best in the sport right now. If the season can go out with another 'wow' moment, I'd call the 2018 playoffs a success. 

Tim: I feel this has been one of the most exciting playoff seasons in the history of the NASCAR playoff format in my eyes. There have been numerous story lines that stand out - from Chase Elliott winning two races and Kevin Harvick overcoming his penalty to name a few - and I think we’ll see three intriguing races this weekend and I think the Cup championship will come down to the final lap.

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