Homestead a beast of its own in settling championship battle

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Only four NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers remain in the Chase for the Championship and it all comes down to Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

What makes the finale of our 2016 season unique is this is the only time we race there. Unlike eight of the other nine races in the Chase, there aren’t any notes from a spring or summer race where the teams can work from as a baseline.

We've also never raced at Homestead with this aero package. On the plus side of the ledger, the teams have a full year with this aero package and Goodyear is bringing the same tire combination which was run at Chicago and Texas. The reality is Homestead is pretty much a beast of its own.

While it has progressive banking, the grip level simply continues to go down as the race surface ages. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of older surfaces. You’ve heard me say that many times before because I think it makes for better racing across the board.

Who is my pick as our champion Sunday?

Well let’s make this simple. Let’s write Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch’s name on separate slips of paper, put them in a hat and simply pick out one. I could make a case for every single one of those four to be the one to hoist that trophy Sunday evening.

How much more motivation can Johnson have to rewrite the NASCAR record books by becoming only the third man to win seven NASCAR Sprint Cup titles? He’s right there and it’s within his grasp. Will he reach the pinnacle once again or will it slip through his fingers?

Then you have Kyle Busch trying to be our repeat champion.

You may not realize this but the only difference between this year and last year for Kyle is he didn’t miss the first 11 races of 2016. Last year he got his fourth win at the Brickyard 400, was solid as a rock and won at Homestead for win No. 5 and won his first championship.

This year his last win was again at the Brickyard 400, he’s been posting top 5 and top 10 finishes in the Chase and now he has the chance to be a back-to-back champion.

Joey has different motivation from the earlier two. He’s trying to win his first-ever NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Secondarily, he is after some redemption from what happened in 2015. He was hands-down the favorite in the 2015 Chase to win it all. He was winning races and bad fast every week. Unfortunately, he and Matt Kenseth started a feud at exactly the wrong time for both. Joey ended up stuffed in the wall at Martinsville and out of the Chase. Matt, who felt Joey had wrecked him out of the Chase earlier, found himself suspended and parked by NASCAR.

Secondarily, he is after some redemption from what happened in 2015. He was hands-down the favorite in the 2015 Chase to win it all. He was winning races and bad fast every week. Unfortunately, he and Matt Kenseth started a feud at exactly the wrong time for both. Joey ended up stuffed in the wall at Martinsville and out of the Chase. Matt, who felt Joey had wrecked him out of the Chase earlier, found himself suspended and parked by NASCAR.

Unfortunately, he and Matt Kenseth started a feud at exactly the wrong time for both. Joey ended up stuffed in the wall at Martinsville and out of the Chase. Matt, who felt Joey had wrecked him out of the Chase earlier, found himself suspended and parked by NASCAR.

Then there is Carl Edwards. This is a man that literally tied for the championship in points in 2011 when he was driving for Roush-Fenway Racing when the checkered flag waved at Homestead with Tony Stewart. However, Tony won five races in the 10 race Chase and that was the tie-breaker giving Tony his third and final championship while Carl saw all his work and effort evaporate.

However, Tony won five races in the 10 race Chase and that was the tie-breaker giving Tony his third and final championship while Carl saw all his work and effort evaporate.

To me, the race really starts on Friday. You have to unload fast and be pretty much dialed right into where you are only tweaking on your car.

You can fire a pretty big shot by going out there and out-qualifying the other three contenders. Not only does that send a pretty big signal, but more importantly it gives you a better pit selection than the other three will have.

I’m not going to be bold enough to say you have to win the race Sunday to win the championship like has happened the first two years in this new format.

There are a lot of drivers who have been eliminated from the 2016 Chase these last nine weeks that run really well at Homestead and I expect them to be just as strong Sunday.

I think for Johnson, Edwards, Logano and Busch, they better go into Homestead with the mentality that they need to win the race to be able to hoist that 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship trophy Sunday.