CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Blog by Race Chaser Online staff members — NASCAR photo —
All of us at Race Chaser Online are fans of the depth of this year’s “Final Four” in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, because each of them have their own story.
Jeff Gordon would be the sentimental favorite — the improbable Hollywood hero trying to conquer the villains one last time before he rides off into the sunset with the girl and the fame. He seeks to win his fifth Cup championship in his final race as a full-time premier series driver.
Kyle Busch is the “comeback kid,” missing 11 races due to injury and still accumulating enough points and wins to find himself in a position he’s never been in before — having a shot to win it all in the final race of the year.
Martin Truex is the underdog. He’s this year’s Ryan Newman, just with one win instead of none. He races for a single-car team out of Colorado that has no current factory help from Chevrolet, but has a solid plan to move to Toyota with factory support from Joe Gibbs Racing for next year.
Kevin Harvick is the defending champ, the driver who is trying to do what many said couldn’t be done with this format — win two titles in a row. He has the best average finish of the four at Homestead (7.6), and only he and Gordon have wins there (one each).
So, which one of the four is going to come out on top and why? Our staff members offer their thoughts…
Jacob Seelman — Managing Editor
This is a simple question to answer in my book.
There’s no driver more motivated coming into Homestead than this driver. He won at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2012 and led the most laps last year before being shuffled out by late-race pit strategy. He’s looking to play the hero and write the Hollywood script by winning his first Sprint Cup (because yes, all four of the trophies he’s won before now are Winston Cups) and fifth NASCAR premier series championship in the last race of his full-time career and likely last race ever in NASCAR.
Every driver in attendance has already said that if they have a sentimental favorite, it’s this man from California who grew up in Pittsboro, Indiana. He’s won five Brickyard 400s, three Daytona 500s and 93 races overall in his career. I’m going to make a bold prediction, too. He’s going to add one more tally to that overall number and score his 94th victory to win the championship on Sunday.
My pick for the title? If it isn’t obvious, it’s “Big Daddy.” Jeff Gordon gets it done.
Kyle Souza — New England Correspondent
This weekend honestly makes it really tough to choose the champion in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
We have had a wild Chase and some moments I don’t think anyone expected: like that rainout at Phoenix last week. Really…REALLY?? WE WERE IN THE DESERT. That just goes to show you the luck NASCAR has had this season with weather in general.
I think it’s time that we decide the champion in the Florida sunshine. Oh wait… It’s supposed to rain Sunday.
The weather will certainly have an effect on this championship. I’ll make a somewhat bold prediction that we will be racing for the championship sometime on Monday and I think getting the job done will be Kevin Harvick. Though his team has struggled with mistakes on pit road over the last few weeks, and the car has failed him at times (like the shifter going out at Texas), I believe that teams rise to the occasion when it really matters most.
These guys have finished inside the top-five more than anyone else in the past two years, scoring more second place finishes than you can imagine as well as several wins to “survive and advance.” I don’t think Harvick is going to win on Sunday — don’t take it that way (I’m not implying rain), because I think a non-Chaser like Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Joey Logano scores the win — but Harvick is clearly the favorite going into the weekend in my opinion and he will seal the deal.
And this championship, I think, will start a dynasty — one much like Jimmie Johnson has created in the past.
Tom Baker — Senior Editor
I said from the moment Jeff Gordon crossed the finish line first at Martinsville that it was meant to be for him to ride off into the sunset as the Sprint Cup Series champion.
I believed Harvick would make it in. I also though Kyle Busch would find a way. And I, like many others, was expecting Joey Logano to find a way to win either Texas or Phoenix to get back in — but that didn’t happen.
Had Logano made it, I may have had to rethink my position, because let’s face the facts, he’s been about the best all year long whether you like him or not. Only Harvick with all his second place finishes could be considered more of a consistent threat from week to week.
So, why Gordon for me then? Because he has, literally, nothing to lose.
He’s out after Sunday. This is it for him. If he moves Harvick or Busch or whomever to win, so what? Is NASCAR going to take the title from him? Are they going to suspend him for two races? NO! He’s going up to the broadcast booth in 2016, so he won’t be back in a car!
There’s nothing more dangerous than a man with nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain. I’m not saying Gordon will have to resort to those kind of tactics to win; I’m just saying that nobody else has his carefree situation.
If Hendrick Motorsports gives him the car, he’s going to get it done on Sunday and tears will be flowing around the world as “milk and cookies” goes out on top, just like a true champion should.
Steven Ovens — New York Dirt Correspondent
I do love a fairy tale, storybook ending — but I don’t believe we are going to see that this weekend with a Jeff Gordon victory.
But I will say this much, with his recent Homestead win, he has as good a chance as any to complete the ‘Drive For Five’.
Gordon is an icon in motorsports. What other driver can you think of that made it into not only rap music with the likes of Nelly, but also country music with the likes of Brad Paisley?
Anyways, back to my pick for this weekend: Denver, Colorado-based Furniture Row Racing with driver Martin Truex Jr.
Truex is the driver out of all four Chase Championship contenders that I think can get the job done in a one-race shootout. Even without the backing from manufacturer Chevrolet, what this team has done and continues to do is flat out incredible. This team, although humble as they can be, comes into this race with a huge chip on their shoulder. Nobody thinks they can pull this off. Everyone has these guys listed behind Harvick and maybe even behind Gordon, being the sentimental favorite. That makes this team dangerous.
Truex doesn’t need any more motivation to win this race and championship. From his single-car team, to his longtime girlfriend’s courageous battle with cancer and his unfortunate kick in the keister from MWR several seasons ago, Truex will come into this race more focused than we have ever seen him. A win on Sunday or being the best out of the four chase drivers will be a huge victory for Truex, single-car teams, those fighting cancer and anyone watching who has ever been told they couldn’t do something.
I for one, will be trading my 88 shirt for a 78 shirt on Sunday, and this long-time Junior Nation member will be hoping a different ‘Junior’ gets it done this weekend at Homestead.
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, Speed77 Radio, the Performance Motorsports Network, their sponsors or other contributors.
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