The stage is set for the final race of the season. Four drivers will have a chance to proclaim themselves NASCAR Sprint Cup champion after this week’s race. Two of these drivers have won a championship before, while the other two are looking for their first championship. One of these drivers is the defending champion from last season. One of these drivers is going to start the final race of his career.
FORD ECOBOOST 400
If this race goes the scheduled distance, the four drivers who have a shot at winning this season’s championship will have approximately 400-miles to be in front of their three challengers. The other 39 cars on the track don’t mean much, leading a lap doesn’t mean anything unless it is the last lap and teammates won’t really be able to help.
I think this week, the other 39 drivers will race for the win, but they won’t do anything that can jeopardize someone’s chance to win a championship. They will race the qualifiers clean and they might not take chances around these four drivers like they might have at any other time of the year.
You could possibly see a teammate give up the preferred line on a restart to one of their teammates, but I don’t think you will see them blocking the competition for their teammates. If it comes down to the end of the race and you have a couple of challengers close to each other you might even see the other drivers just try to get out of their way.
The fireworks between competitors is over for this year. There will be no retaliation this weekend. There will be no wrecking of qualifiers on pit road by a non-challenger trying to get into or out of their box at the expense of one of the qualifiers. This is about four drivers and everyone else on the track knows it.
Kevin Harvick: I am going to pick Kevin to repeat as champion this year. Kevin has been the cream of the crop the entire season, he won this race last year when he had to along with winning races he needed to win to qualify for the next round of the Chase in each of the past two seasons. Kevin also has the best average finish at Homestead-Miami and I think this team has everything you need to be a repeat champion. The driver and the crew-chief communicate very well together and Kevin conveys the handling of his car so Rodney Childers knows what adjustments to make to the car to keep up with the changing track conditions. The pit crew is always consistent, Kevin does great in qualifying which lets him select a preferred pit stall and nobody gets excited early in the race. This is why Kevin will repeat.
Jeff Gordon: A four-time champion, Jeff would love to go out at the top of his game and be a champion once again. I think Jeff is the sentimental favorite this weekend. Jeff has finished in the top ten at Homestead in three-quarters of his starts here. However, I don’t think just a top ten is going to be good enough this weekend. A driver is going to have to finish in the top three to have a chance. He won this race three seasons ago so he has the confidence that he can get the job done. I think this team is going to be in contention from the get go this weekend and they will have the rest of the qualifiers nervous throughout the weekend. With Hendrick power under the hood, Jeff could get his fifth championship.
Kyle Busch: Kyle was my pick to win the championship when the Chase started. If my prediction is going to come true, Kyle is going to have to pick it up this weekend. After missing the first eleven races of the year with a broken leg and foot, Kyle won four races in five weeks during June and July and then fought his way into the top thirty in points to qualify for the Chase. He has run good enough to make it this far, but he is going to have to race at the level he was at during his winning streak earlier this year. I think Kyle will be the best driver on the track this weekend. The question will be will his car handle the way he needs it to for him to make the moves he needs to make to get to the front of the pack and win his first ever championship in the Sprint Cup Series.
Martin Truex Jr.: The final big story of this year’s Chase is Martin Truex Jr. Running on a single car team with a much smaller budget than all of the other Chase qualifiers. It is phenomenal to see a team like this that can compete with the high budget teams and I think they will have a good chance to win a championship this year. Martin always runs very good on this type of track. This team just needs to keep up with the changing track conditions and not fall too far behind during the race. No mistakes on pit-road for any of these teams if they want to be in contention at the end of the race.
I want to wish these four drivers the best of luck. Whichever one of them wins this year’s championship deserves it and will make a great ambassador for NASCAR!
For those of you who are leading your leagues, I suggest you stick with the four remaining Chase drivers this weekend if you can. For those of you who need to make up some points, don’t be afraid to take a chance on drivers no longer in the Chase field. You can’t catch those ahead of you if you have the same drivers.
YAHOO! FANTASY NASCAR PICKS FOR HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY
Yahoo Driver Group A
- Kevin Harvick
- Jeff Gordon
Yahoo Driver Group B
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Kyle Larson
- Jamie McMurray
- Kasey Kahne
Yahoo Driver Group C
- Ryan Blaney
- Danica Patrick
MY TOP-5 OVERALL AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY
- Kevin Harvick
- Jeff Gordon
- Kyle Busch
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Denny Hamlin
Dark Horse: Kyle Larson
Stay Away From: Kurt Busch