Nov 15, 2013, 10:24 AM EDT
A sixth Sprint Cup championship is in reach for Jimmie Johnson, but he’s still gotta go get it. Whether he can do just that – or if Matt Kenseth or Kevin Harvick can somehow stop him – is the top storyline going into Sunday’s Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the grand finale for the 2013 Sprint Cup season.
You know the score by now: Johnson enters Homestead with a 28-point lead over Matt Kenseth after finishing third last Sunday at Phoenix. Kenseth, who failed to overcome a downright evil-handling No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at Phoenix and finished 23rd, now needs to win on Sunday and have Johnson find trouble. Ditto for Kevin Harvick, who won the Phoenix race but still sits 34 points behind Johnson in third.
Both Kenseth and Harvick have vowed to play everything out at Homestead, but they realize that it’s Johnson’s title to lose. Unfortunately for them, every time he’s entered the season finale with a lead in the championship (2006-2009), he’s been able to lock it up even though he remains winless at this 1.5-mile oval in South Florida.
In fact, the three title contenders have just one Sprint Cup win between them at Homestead – Kenseth’s win in 2007, back in his days with Roush Fenway Racing.
Coming out of the box quick will be crucial for everyone involved in the title fight. After a sole practice session this afternoon (1:30-3 p.m. ET) is qualifying at 6:10 p.m. ET.
Nine of the 14 Homestead Cup races have been won from inside the Top 10 starting positions, and no one wants to open themselves up to a crash while having to wind their way through the pack.
Ask Denny Hamlin, who entered the 2010 finale at Homestead up 15 points on Johnson for the championship, but qualified 37th. On race day, he made contact with Greg Biffle and spun out early, inflicting damage to his front splitter.
His car was never quite the same and Hamlin finished 14th. Johnson finished second, which enabled him to win his fifth Cup championship by 39 points.
“Here, it seems we have a lot of green-flag runs,” said Johnson on Thursday at Homestead. “If you start down on track position and don’t have your car right come race day – [you] don’t make the most of Saturday – you’re going to have a long race and put a lot of pressure on yourself that you don’t want. The race does start with qualifying on Friday.”
There are other stories to keep an eye on this weekend at Homestead. Several notable drivers, like Chase contenders Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer, and Kurt Busch are still searching for their first win of the season.
Then there’s Hamlin, who has one last opportunity to extend his current run of seven straight seasons with at least one victory.
Altogether, there will be plenty of matters to keep us interested this Sunday at Homestead – even if the championship outcome is less than riveting.
Aug 1, 2014, 9:40 PM EDT
The next generation of stock car racing’s fabled Alabama Gang has now officially arrived.
Aug 1, 2014, 8:49 PM EDT
Chase Pistone tops Practice 1, while Brendan Gaughan is fastest in Practice 2 for tomorrow night’s Nationwide Series race.
Aug 1, 2014, 8:08 PM EDT
The Sprint Cup championship leader admits that his back may never “be the same” after suffering spasms in May at Charlotte.
Aug 1, 2014, 7:11 PM EDT
Townley has been released from a local hospital after a hard wreck in ARCA qualifying this morning, but he will not race in tomorrow’s Pocono Mountains 150 for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Aug 1, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Will the 11 team adapt to interim crew chief Mike Wheeler? Plus, Kyle Petty shares his Victory Lane predictions for Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono.
Aug 1, 2014, 6:12 PM EDT
One year ago, Kahne effectively put himself into the Chase with a win at Pocono. Another win on Sunday at the Tricky Triangle could do it again.
Aug 1, 2014, 5:12 PM EDT
Is his first career Sprint Cup win not too far off? Larson’s lap of 183.438 mph is enough to earn pole position for Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400.
Aug 1, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
Coming up today: Kasey Kahne on his hunt for a Chase-clinching win; expectations for Denny Hamlin’s interim crew chief; Dale Jr. and IndyCar’s Graham Rahal visit National Guard soldiers; the many nuances of Pocono Raceway; Ty Dillon looks back on an extraordinary weekend at Indy.
Aug 1, 2014, 3:43 PM EDT
Larson and Peters go 1-2 in the first Truck practice, then flip-flop in the second practice at Pocono.
Aug 1, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
Former Pocono winner Kyle Petty explains the aspects that set Pocono apart from the rest of NASCAR’s tracks.
Aug 1, 2014, 3:10 PM EDT
Toronto winner leads second practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series on Friday.
Aug 1, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT
Kenseth’s teammate, Denny Hamlin, does not have regular crew chief Darian Grubb behind him this weekend, as Grubb has begun serving his six-race suspension.
Aug 1, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
In the final part of our 2014 mid-season review, we look at the storylines that have defined the season so far and take a look at what we may be talking about come the end of the year.
Aug 1, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT
Ives has won multiple Sprint Cup titles as an engineer for Jimmie Johnson, but will be making his Cup debut as a crew chief when he joins forces with Dale Earnhardt Jr. next season.
Aug 1, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
NASCAR drivers are known for trading paint, spinning out rivals and are seemingly always ready for a fight. And those are just some of the same elements that NASCAR drivers share with CEO’s of some of the best middle-market companies, according to a new story.
Aug 1, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
Busch posts a lap of 180.353 mph around the 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle.
Aug 1, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Much like a frequent flier or frequent hotel guest program, JTG Daugherty has created the first ‘rewards program’ for fans to earn awards and prizes using engagement with the team and its sponsors through social media.
Aug 1, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
In part two of our mid-season report, we look at the drivers: who has excelled and who has floundered in 2014?
Aug 1, 2014, 11:34 AM EDT
Multi-motorsports team owner Chip Ganassi will be honored August 7 in Corning, N.Y., for more than a quarter-century of contributions to the auto racing world.
Aug 1, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT
Austin Dillon isn’t skating through his rookie season in Sprint Cup. Everything he achieves, he earns. But Dillon did try skating of a different kind and took to it like a natural.