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Spinning my wheels: Johnson goes for four

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Michael Harmon

Mike is a fantasy contributor for FOXSports.com.MORE>>
 
   
 
It's the last call. Jimmie Johnson's team is clearing space for another championship trophy and making arrangements for one of sports' most dominant performers to hit the postseason banquet circuit. Seriously, barring some unforeseen circumstance (I am not a jinx), he'll cruise to the finish line to claim his four straight series championship. Given the state of competition on the circuit and the amount of precision teamwork and - dare I say - luck, that goes into a 36-race season, Johnson's dominance is absolutely mindboggling. Although football rules the landscape and much of your bandwidth, be sure to take a moment to tune into the Miami race this weekend. Celebrate the fabulous seasons turned in by three great veteran drivers and what promises to be an interesting finale. As an aside, thanks for joining me on this long and winding road to the championship. We'll see you in Daytona in February..

Track Info

The track at Homestead-Miami is an oval with 18-20-degree progressive banking. There's ample opportunity for side-by-side racing, and you'll see movement in the 1,760-foot front and backstretches with minor four-degree banking. This is a track that's difficult on the engines, as you'll see in the race logs for virtually every driver as you build your team for this weekend. Additionally, the high temperatures can cause slickness on the track and make things hazardous going into the turns. Race-time temperature is expected to be in the mid-80s with on-track temperatures near 100 degrees.

History

The call on the final lap was the same at Homestead-Miami for three straight years from 2004-06. Greg Biffle raced to three consecutive wins here, making him the career leader in its short history. Matt Kenseth ended Biffle's dominance when he captured the checkered flag last season. Tony Stewart's the only other driver to post multiple victories at Homestead-Miami. Not surprisingly, Jeff Gordon ranks first among all drivers with eight career top 10s at the track. Kevin Harvick's next at six, with Johnson, Mark Martin and the aforementioned Stewart tied with five. Can Martin make a move and somehow overtake Johnson to end his rein?

The Contenders

Jimmie Johnson

In football, players hold up four fingers to get themselves jacked up and ready to finish the fourth quarter of a game to preserve a win. Johnson will look to do the same and close out his fourth consecutive series championship in Miami. He's raced to five top 10s (six top 15s) in eight career starts at the track. Obviously, he's locked into your lineup if you have a start remaining.

Mark Martin

I'm not going to waste time convincing you to start Martin if you have him. He's stalking Johnson at the head of the pack and owns five top 10s in nine career starts at Miami (12th-position average finish). He'll bring a big effort to close the season.

Juan Pablo Montoya

Montoya's produced a phenomenal third Sprint Cup season and enters the finale in the sixth position in the Chase standings. He owns five top-five finishes in his past eight starts, but has run 19th, 35th and 37th in those other starts to stifle his championship dreams. Obviously, you throw out some of the results from his previous seasons as you consider him on a week-to-week basis. He owns a 16.5-position average running slot at Homestead-Miami and a 22nd-place finish. I'd like to endorse him, but participants need a safe play in the finale.

Tony Stewart

Stewart would have liked to avoid that 25th-place finish last week and close out the year on a high note. However, it's hard to ignore the success of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas enterprise in its first year of operation. I expect Stewart to close things out brilliantly this weekend at Homestead-Miami, where he's raced to five top 10s (seven top 15s). He won his first two entries at the track.

Carl Edwards

Alas, we never got to experience the patented Edwards backflip in 2009. He's struggled with accidents and mid-tier finishes to close what was a promising first half to the year. He's raced 20th or worse in three of his past five starts. His history at Homestead-Miami suggests he'll keep Johnson and Martin honest. He's raced to seven top-10 (eight top-11s) finishes in 10 career Miami starts. He's averaged a circuit-best 7.3-position running slot in the past four years with a phenomenal 4.5-position finish.

Kevin Harvick

It's been a maddening season for Harvick. He struggled terribly during the first half of the year. In the second half, He's made a number of strong runs, but he hasn't been able to put together a streak of upper-tier efforts. He represents an interesting decision point for fantasy owners this week. His team has run well on occasion of late, which magnifies his successes at Miami. He's never finished worse than 20th here, including three top fives and a 12.3-position qualifying slot.

Greg Biffle

It's been a phenomenal season for Biffle and the No. 16 Roush Fenway Ford team. He ranks seventh in the Chase standings and is running well during the final stretch of the season. He's raced to two top 10s and a 14th-place finish in the past three races. Get ready to lock and load him into your lineup for the final race of the season. He's a three-time champion at Homestead-Miami with eight top-15 finishes in 11 career starts. In the past four years, he's averaged a 12.3-position running slot and 8.3-position finish.

Jeff Gordon

Gordon's experienced a tremendous 2009 season and enters the final race in the third slot behind teammates Johnson and Martin. He's raced to 11 straight top-20 finishes to close out the year, a run that includes eight top 10s (10 top 15s). Barring an unforeseen incident, we can expect him to generate another strong showing this weekend. He's produced eight top-10 finishes in his 10 career Homestead-Miami starts, averaging a strong 13.63-position running slot in the past four years. As a bonus, he's qualified 12th or better in seven events.

Denny Hamlin

Do you want to see a rough stretch run? Look on further than Hamlin's last six starts. He's raced to three top-three finishes, including a win, but he's also raced 37th or worse in his other three rides. Hopefully, you've saved a start for him this weekend. He's raced to three straight strong efforts at Miami, including two third-places and a 13th. He's averaged a tremendous 15.74-position running slot during his Miami career. I expect to see him close the year well.

Ryan Newman

The Chase hasn't gone according to plan, but it's hard to be too critical of the No. 39 Stewart-Haas team in its first year of operation. Newman's earned 15 top-10 finishes this season, but has produced only one in the past seven events (four top 15s). Unfortunately, I don't necessarily see the season finishing well for him. He owns only two top 10s in his seven career starts at Miami with four runs to 21st or worse.

Kurt Busch

With the exception of an accident-marred entry in the AMP Energy 500, Busch has run brilliantly in the second half of the season. Even with a win and sixth-place finish in his last two starts prior to this event, he's no sure thing at Miami. He's raced to three top fives in eight career starts here, including a win in 2002. However, he's also raced 19th or worse in his other five starts with three runs outside of the top 30. Two of those were ended early because of accidents. Even Busch's great qualifying efforts (two poles) can't persuade me to start him this weekend.

Matt Kenseth

Kenseth started the season with a bang, racing to back-to-back wins. He's trying to close things out brilliantly as well this week in Miami. He's raced to two top-five finishes (four top 15s) in his past six starts. The No. 17 Roush Fenway Ford is a difficult proposition. He struggled here early in his career (19th or worse in five straight events), but then ran off a three-race streak of top-sixes, including a win in 2007. I'm looking past last year's 25th-place run. I expect to see him challenge the leaders in the finale.

Clint Bowyer

Bowyer started off slowly, but has been running brilliantly down the stretch. He's produced four top 10s (five top 12s) in his past six starts heading into Homestead-Miami. He's a good bet to finish the season strongly. He's raced to fifth and 10th-place finishes in his three career starts at the track and had run well in 2007 before finishing 39th.

Wild Cards

Jamie McMurray

McMurray didn't find much success during the 2009 season, but he's finishing the year well. He's raced to four consecutive top-20 finishes, including a win, as the circuit heads to Miami. His recent series of top-tier runs puts him in play for the finale at Homestead-Miami. He owns three top 10s in seven career starts at the track and five rides inside the top 18. He also earned the pole in 2003 and finished third here last fall. He's worth a look-see in the fourth slot.

Kasey Kahne

Kahne's alternated great and weak runs down the stretch, producing four top 10s and five top 15s in the last eight events with three runs outside of the top 30. This hit-or-miss streak makes Kahne an interesting choice for fantasy participants in this final race. He's qualified inside the top five in four of his five Homestead-Miami starts (one pole), finishing sixth, fourth and 16th in three of his past four starts. He's also averaged a strong 12.83-position running slot during the past four years. He's worth a roster slot this weekend.

Kyle Busch

Busch couldn't close things out to make a spot in the Chase, but he's run well in recent weeks to play the role of spoiler to some degree. He's raced to five consecutive top-15 finishes, a run that includes two top 10s. Despite his recent successes, he's a mighty difficult proposition for fantasy participants this weekend. He's struggled in four career starts at Homestead-Miami, averaging a rough 22.99-position running slot while never finishing better than 19th place. He's bench fodder for the finale.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Earnhardt's finished better than 20th place in just one of his past 10 starts. As such, I'm not quite sure I need to elaborate about him in this slot. He's never cracked the top 10 in nine career starts and has gone seven consecutive starts without a run inside the top 15.

Brian Vickers

Following a promising first half of the season, things have fallen apart down the stretch for Vickers and the No. 83 Red Bull Racing squad. They've raced to only two top-15 finishes in his past eight starts. Unfortunately, Homestead-Miami doesn't offer huge hopes for a big season-ending splash. In Vickers' six career starts here, he's never finished better than 18th place. In fact, he's averaged a miserable 31.7-position finis in his career. Move to another option to close out the year.

Longshot

Martin Truex, Jr.

It's been a miserable season for Truex overall, but the No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Chevy has run fairly well down the stretch. They've produced two top-10 finishes and a 14th-place effort in the past five starts. Fantasy participants, roll the dice on him this weekend if you've exhausted your start limit for the big guns. He's raced to three consecutive top-10 finishes at Homestead-Miami.

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