This weekend’s race at Homestead Miami will bring to a close NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. Of course, all eyes will be on Sunday’s Sprint Cup Ford 400. The series will roll into Homestead with the closest championship in the Chase’s seven-year history. Denny Hamlin will take the green flag with a 15-point lead over Jimmie Johnson and a 46-point lead over Kevin Harvick.
It looked for most of the race at Phoenix that Denny Hamlin was going to be going to Homestead with more of a cushion. He was the dominant car from the time the green flag waved as he led a race high 190 laps on the day. That dominating performance came to an end when he, along with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch, had to come on pit road on lap 298 for fuel while eventual race winner Carl Edwards, Johnson and Harvick stayed on the track and continued to conserve fuel.
Hamlin came back on the track in 18th place with only 14 laps remaining but was able to pick up six places to finish a very disappointing 12th. The finish cut 18 points off his lead and now there is no playing it safe as the scenarios that would guarantee Hamlin the title are very limited. The only way that Hamlin can guarantee his clinching of the title on Sunday regardless of where Johnson and Harvick finish is by either finishing second while leading the most laps or winning the Ford 400.
The scenario of finishing second while leading the most laps points out just how important the bonus points are during the Chase. Hamlin’s lead going into this weekend’s final contest at Homestead would have been only five points if it hadn’t been for the five bonus points he earned for leading a lap and the five for leading the most laps. That’s 10 more points than either Johnson or Harvick as both of those drivers failed to lead a lap.
While it looks like the Sprint Cup Series will not know its champion until the checkered flag waves Sunday, both the Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series have already crowned their champion. Both Brad Keselowski in the Nationwide Series and Todd Bodine in the Camping World Truck Series have already clinched their championships going into this weekend’s races at Homestead.
All three owner’s championships are still up for grab this weekend even though two drivers have claimed the driver’s championships. Owners are awarded points after each race depending on their cars’ finish, and anytime an owner has more than one driver in his car or truck during the course of the season it brings up the possibility that there may be a diff erent driver and owner champion.
The Sprint Cup Series will have the same driver and owner combination as its champion as all of the Chase teams have had the same driver the entire season. The same cannot be said about the Nationwide and Truck Series.
In the Nationwide Series even though Keselowski and his Penske Racing Dodge have clinched the driver’s title, they trail Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota by 41 points. That car has had Kyle Busch behind the wheel for 28 races with Brad Coleman in six races. This Saturday Busch will be behind the wheel as a strong favorite to give Gibbs the owner’s title when the green flag waves in the Ford 300.
The Camping World Truck Series’ owner’s championship chase is a carbon copy of what is taking place in the Nationwide Series. Bodine has driven the entire season for Germain Racing but trails Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota by 120 points in the owner’s championship. Busch has driven in 15 races in his own truck with the remainder of the schedule being filled out by Brian Ickler in seven races with Kasey Kahne and Johnny Benson in the driver’s seat for one race each. Kyle Busch will be racing for two owner’s titles this weekend as he will be behind the wheel of his own Toyota on Friday in the Ford 200.
(1.5-mile oval, 20 degrees
variable banking in the turns)
Nov. 21, 1 p.m.