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NBC Sports Washington is counting down big NASCAR moments leading up to the Daytona 500. Be sure to check out our other coverage below.

Since the advent of the modern championship four format in 2014, drivers have adopted the mindset that Championship Four appearances may hold as much merit as a championship itself. Mostly due to the nature of a winner-take-all, title-deciding race.

Here are four drivers that’ll be battling for the Cup Series championship come November.

4. Joey Logano

One year removed from Team Penske failing to put a car in the Championship 4, you’ve gotta believe that’s going to change this season. And why not Joey Logano, now paired with one of the best in the business in Paul Wolfe, to get there for The Captain?

The last three years have been a bit of a roller-coaster playoff wise for Logano, missing them all together in 2017, winning it all in 2018 and coming up just shy of qualifying for the title race last season. But Logano is good for a couple, if not more, wins in 2020. With Martin Truex Jr. having the adjustment to James Small from Cole Pearn, Logano can fill that void from 2019.

After all: it’s about getting hot and winning at the right time, just like March Madness. Logano showed in 2018 that he can do both those things, plus not being afraid to ruffle feathers and be ultra-aggressive when he needs to (i.e. Martinsville each of the last two seasons).

3. Kevin Harvick

Until he shows in consecutive years that he can’t contend for the title, Kevin Harvick will be a perennial championship four driver. And for good reason. Since the advent of the format in 2014, he’s only missed it once, finished third three times, second once and won a title.

Not too shabby, huh? They don’t call him “The Closer” for nothing. Especially with no real worry about a contract to be signed in the off-season looming over his head, Harvick can be focused forward for 2020 and the foreseeable future (through 2023). He and Rodney Childers repeatedly mentioned that they were beginning to hit their stride at the end of 2019. Stay woke...

2. Denny Hamlin

ICYMI: the peak age for a NASCAR driver is 39. How old is Denny Hamlin this year, you ask?


You betcha: he’s 39 this year, has more confidence, bravado, and swag than ever.

Oh, and he still drives for the best team, has the best crew chief he’s had in the last decade and will be working with him for the second straight year. The stars are aligning for the Chesterfield, Virginia native to earn his elusive championship. With the title race being at Phoenix for the first time ever, it could play into his favor as well.

Who won the penultimate race last season at Phoenix? Hint: he’s 39 years old now...

1. Kyle Busch

Although there’s not much to say or explain as to why Kyle Busch is all but a certainty to be in the championship four, let’s run through a few of them anyways.

He’s the defending champion, a two-time champion, has never been more confident, has possibly the current best driver-crew chief duo of Adam Stevens atop the pit box, he drives for the class of the field in Joe Gibbs Racing, he’s won at every track (besides the Charlotte ROVAL) on the Cup Series schedule...need I say more?

Jimmie Johnson is the G.O.A.T. and the best driver of this generation. But Kyle Busch isn’t as far behind as originally thought. Heck, if he keeps this up, he can perhaps rival Johnson’s legacy. A big step would be qualifying for and winning another championship.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a slam dunk he makes it to Phoenix.