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As Joey Logano celebrates NASCAR title, Big Three drivers leave Homestead disappointed

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 11/19/2018 A.J. Perez
a cake made to look like a car © Provided by USA Today Sports Media Group LLC

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Joey Logano was playfully hoisting the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series trophy and then Hudson, his infant son who he placed inside the giant silver chalice after his first Cup title Sunday night.

Inside the Homestead-Miami Speedway media center sat a dejected trio of divers seated left to right: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. The most emotional of the bunch, understandably, was Truex, the defending champion whose race team’s existence basically came to an end here. 

a group of people posing for the camera: (From left to right) Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. speak to the media following the NASCAR championship race. © A.J. Perez, USA TODAY Sports (From left to right) Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. speak to the media following the NASCAR championship race.

“It's a tough night,” said Truex, who appeared to be fighting back tears. “It's a tough way to lose.  You know, kind of reversed the tale from last year.  Last year we did the same thing they did tonight.  That's the way it goes.”

Truex held the lead before Logano passed his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota with 11 laps left. He finished second, just one spot from becoming the first driver to repeat as champion since Jimmie Johnson in 2009-10. Harvick finished third and Busch was fourth. 

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While Truex and some key members of his team will make the move to Joe Gibbs Racing next season — where he will join Busch as a teammate — the finality of it all hit him. Furniture Row Racing announced in September the team would cease operations at season’s end.  

“I’m going to miss these guys,” Truex said. “Wish we could’ve won it. We had it . . . I don’t know what else I could’ve done.”

Busch was the Championship 4 driver who struggled the most as a combination of pit stop and car issues plagued his effort. He led late in the race, but it was on a pit strategy that needed a lucky caution to give him any chance to win. Busch got that yellow when JGR teammate Daniel Suarez was spun out with 20 laps left.

Busch exited pit row first, a lead he lost almost immediately after the race went green. 

a cake made to look like a car: Martin Truex Jr. (78) pased Kyle Busch (18) on the final restart as Joey Logano (22) and Kevin Harvick close in during the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. © Peter Casey, USA TODAY Sports Martin Truex Jr. (78) pased Kyle Busch (18) on the final restart as Joey Logano (22) and Kevin Harvick close in during the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“We were a sitting duck with all those guys anyways,” Busch said. “Our car was just not even close. I don’t know what happened to it. I thought we were way better than that and way closer than that. We wouldn’t have unloaded (the car) today if we thought we were that far off. I’m not sure what happened and where we missed it.”

Harvick, who qualified lowest among the Championship 4 (12th), was a factor early in the race, leading the second-most laps (58). But as the sun set in South Florida and the track cooled, Harvick’s car’s performance did as well. 

“We had a daytime race car,” Harvick said. 

Follow Perez on Twitter @byajperez 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: As Joey Logano celebrates NASCAR title, Big Three drivers leave Homestead disappointed

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