The long marathon of races that make up the Sprint Cup schedule will finally come to an end after 10 months this weekend with the running of the Ford 400 from Homestead-Miami. The Florida track has had the honor of hosting the final Sprint Cup race as well as the final events for both Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series for several seasons.
Homestead officials have put together a weekend loaded with events surrounding the three races with hopes that at least one series will have its championship decided at the track. That has been the case several years, but this will not be one of them.
The Camping World Truck Series will be the first to take the green flag on Friday night with the running of the Ford 200, but while the competition will be tight for the race win, Ron Hornaday Jr. goes into the race as the series champion thanks to his fourthplace finish this past weekend at Phoenix.
Even though the truck series has already crowned its champion, the owner’s title in that series that will be determined by the outcome of the Ford 200. Going into Friday night’s race, Delana Harvick, who owns Hornaday Jr.’s truck, has a 60-point lead over Billy Ballew, who owns the team of the #51 truck. The success of that team can be credited to Kyle Busch who has driven a part-time schedule for Ballew that has resulted in seven victories.
The Nationwide Series’ final event of the season will get underway on Saturday and the only thing that Kyle Busch has to do to wrap up the title is to start the race. Busch will enter the Ford 300 with a 190-point lead over secondplace Carl Edwards, which is to much for him to overcome even if he would win the race and Busch finish in last place.
The same scenario will play out again on Sunday in the Sprint Cup Series’ Ford 400 when Jimmie Johnson takes the green flag with a 108-point lead over second place and teammate Mark Martin, thanks to his seventh win of the season at Phoenix. All Johnson has to do to ensure his fourth consecutive Sprint Cup championship is to finish 25th or better, regardless of where Martin finishes. Depending on where Martin finishes, Johnson could finish even lower than 25th and still claim the title.
Martin has a 61-point lead over third-place driver Jeff Gordon, so that battle should actually be better than the one for the championship. If Martin does hang on to finish second it would be the fifth time in his career that he has finished in the runner-up position and his 16th top-10 finish in the final point standings.
It’s not what Homestead Miami wanted but it will be a weekend of celebration(s) as each series will officially crown its champion. It’s a long road from Daytona in February to the final checkered flag this weekend, and if a team can close the doors on its hauler knowing it finished the season in the top-10 then there is plenty to celebrate.
CHASE NOTES: There will always be the argument that the old point system used just prior to the Chase format was the best way for the sport to crown its champion. If that system was still in use to day, it might be interesting to note that Jimmie Johnson would enter the last race of the season with a slim 13-point lead over Tony Stewart. Stewart now sits in fifth, 285 points out of the lead. Mark Martin, who is now in second place, would be in the fourth spot if the old point system was in use, but he would be 361 points out of the top spot.
PIT NOTES: It’s only appropriate that Ford sponsors Homestead Miami’s Sprint Cup race. Jack Roush’s Ford operation has owned the track since 2004 as Roush drivers Greg Biffle (3), Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards have won five consecutive races. That’s good news for Biffle and Edwards as they are two of the four Chase drivers that have yet to win a race this season. Fellow Chase drivers Ryan Newman and Juan Pablo Montoya will also be looking for their first visit to victory lane this season, but both of those drivers wheel Chevrolets and bow-tie drivers have only recorded one win at the Florida track.