Whitesburg KY

It’s down to Homestead

Steve Mickey

Steve Mickey

The NASCAR season comes down to one more stop on the schedule at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Ford Championship Weekend. Champions will be crowned not only the Sprint Cup Series but also the Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series.

The Camping World Truck Series will be the first to be contested on Friday night in the Ford EcoBoost 200. It is the only series of the three that has its championship locked up as all Matt Crafton has to do is start the race. He will enter the race with a 46-point lead over Ty Dillon.

The following day, the Nationwide Series will take the green flag in the Ford EcoBoost 300 with the title still very much up for grabs. Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon has an eight-point lead over Sam Hornish Jr. that gives Dillon several scenarios where he can clinch the title. Dillon can claim the title if he finishes third or better regardless of where Hornish Jr. crosses the finish line.

He also will clinch the top spot if he can finish fourth or better and lead at least one lap. A fifth or better finish with him leading the most laps on the day would also see him walk away with the crown regardless of where Hornish Jr. finishes.

Of course, all eyes will be on Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 that will crown this season’s Sprint Cup Champion. The results this past weekend at Phoenix may have taken some of the suspense out of the season ending race, but there are still three drivers that will be taking Sunday’s green flag with a chance of becoming champion. Jimmie Johnson is the hands down favorite to win the title as he enters the event with a 28-point lead over Matt Kenseth in second and Kevin Harvick, who even though he is 34-points from the top spot is still mathematically alive.

Johnson showed at Phoenix why he has five Sprint Cup titles as he overcome a very rough day to finish third behind Harvick and Kasey Kahne. He actually started on the pole but was quickly shuffled back in the pack after Joey Logano made a diving move to his inside forcing him out of the racing groove. That as it turned out was just a preview of what was to come as on lap 163 Carl Edwards got to his inside with Harvick making it three wide as they entered turn one. Edwards could not keep his Ford from washing up the track and the result was contact with Johnson that got him sideways.

He did a great job of saving his car and keeping it off of the wall but the contact dropped him back to the 24th spot. It was a golden opportunity for Matt Kenseth who entered the race only seven points behind Johnson, but he struggled all race long with a racecar that his crew was never able to get the handle on. He also saw his championship hopes fade when a miscommunication on a caution flag pit stop led to a 26-second stop. He had entered the pits in seventh but by the time he finally got back on the track he found himself in 29th place. The rest of the race saw him unable to work his way up through the field as he was only able to post a 23rd place finish.

Johnson will now arrive at Homestead-Miami knowing that regardless of where Kenseth or Harvick finishes all he has to do is to post a finish of 23rd or better and he will move within one title of tying Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. for the all-time number of titles with seven. He will also clinch the title if he finishes 24th and leads a lap, or he can finish 25th and lead the most laps to lock up the championship.

Johnson was quick to say after the checkered flag at Phoenix that the title was not a given and that he will have to approach it like he has the other 35 races that makes up the schedule. His last two races at Homestead-Miami have resulted in finishes of 32nd and 36th so he knows that he can’t go into the race thinking that all he has to do is take the green flag to begin the race and he will have it locked up.

It will be business as usual for Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus as they prepare for Sunday’s race. The duo is in a great position to do what they do best and that is win a championship and celebrate another title!


Race Preview

Event: Ford EcoBoost 400

Track: Homestead- Miami Speedway (1.5 mile oval, 180-200 of variable banking in the turns)

Date: Nov. 17, 3:00 pm


Radio: MRN

Defending Champion: Jeff Gordon

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