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.
Apr 15, 2014, 8:33 PM EDT
If Sprint Cup drivers’ comments during today’s Goodyear tire test at Kansas Speedway are an indication, we can expect to see track records fall next month on the 1.5-mile oval.
Apr 15, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
Kyle Petty breaks down critical pit strategies in recent races, and Nate Ryan reports on today’s Goodyear tire test at Kansas.
Apr 15, 2014, 6:42 PM EDT
Rookie rival Kyle Larson has been more flashy, but Dillon’s consistency has paid off in the season’s first eight races.
Apr 15, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT
On tap: The decision of four tires or two; Jeff Gordon’s crew chief, Alan Gustafson; today’s tire test at Kansas; and the Darlington edition of “Scan All 43.”
Apr 15, 2014, 4:55 PM EDT
Mosley’s advice to current FIA president Jean Todt? “Take no notice.”
Apr 15, 2014, 4:01 PM EDT
The first race of last month’s season-opening weekend in St. Petersburg was rained out.
Apr 15, 2014, 3:16 PM EDT
The Force India driver will look to continue his momentum this weekend in China.
Apr 15, 2014, 2:11 PM EDT
The test will help determine the aerodynamic options available to teams for this June’s IndyCar event on the 1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth.
Apr 15, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
Video highlights from the first Chinese Grand Prix, already 10 years ago.
Apr 15, 2014, 1:01 PM EDT
Like father, like daughter? Ella Sofia Gordon got her first taste of a quarter-midget car earlier this week.
Apr 15, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
Some of IndyCar’s top performers, stats of notes and points after two races.
Apr 15, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Indy Lights rookie Lloyd Read has either been really unlucky with circumstances or really lucky to avoid worse circumstances in the first two races, depending on your interpretation.
Apr 15, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT
Where the NASCAR points standings sit after eight races, now post-Darlington.
Apr 15, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
Expert insight from NBCSN’s IndyCar ace analyst Townsend Bell returns for a second season on MotorSportsTalk.
Apr 15, 2014, 10:07 AM EDT
No overturning of Red Bull’s appeal at Melbourne.
Apr 14, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
See what changed between Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon for three of IndyCar’s best – a street race at Long Beach where the gloves came off.
Apr 14, 2014, 7:37 PM EDT
Sabine Kehm also talks about the Schumacher family having to deal with “untruths” in media reports about the seven-time F1 champion’s health.
Apr 14, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Rick Allen and Kyle Petty discuss the Darlington efforts from Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, and Jimmie Johnson – as well as Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer’s late incident.
Apr 14, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT
The open-wheel veteran will drive a third car for the defending ’500′ champions.
Apr 14, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
Teams that don’t make the field on the first day of qualifying due to hardship can attempt to make the final row of the grid on the second day.
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