A glance at the 12 drivers in the Chase
A glance at the 12 drivers competing in NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship heading into this weekend's race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (in order of points): DRIVER: Jimmie Johnson CHASE POINTS: first, 6,492 CAR: No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet TEAM: Hendrick Motorsports POSITION CHANGE: None CAREER HOMESTEAD STARTS: 8 AVERAGE HOMESTEAD FINISH: 13.6 (best: 2nd in 2004) LAST WEEK: Drama? What drama? Johnson bounced back from his nightmare at Texas to dominate at Phoenix and move a step closer to history. Needs to finish 25th or better to clinch record fourth straight championship. Now will he finally get some love? CHASE CHATTER: "We obviously have one more race to go," Johnson said. "We saw in Texas anything can happen so I'm not going to get too excited just yet." --- DRIVER: Mark Martin CHASE POINTS: second, -108 CAR: No. 5 Carquest/Kellogg's Chevrolet TEAM: Hendrick Motorsports POSITION CHANGE: None CAREER HOMESTEAD STARTS: 9 AVERAGE HOMESTEAD FINISH: 12.0 (best: 2nd in 2005) LAST WEEK: Steady as ever running fourth behind Johnson to stay mathematically alive. Has made up 108 points on Johnson nine times in a single race, but has never won at Miami. CHASE CHATTER: "I really thought we could get to Jimmie with 35 to go, and then the car just got too tight," Martin said. --- DRIVER: Jeff Gordon CHASE POINTS: third, -169 CAR: No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet TEAM: Hendrick Motorsports POSITION CHANGE: None CAREER HOMESTEAD STARTS: 10 AVERAGE HOMESTEAD FINISH: 9.9 (best: 3rd in 2004) LAST WEEK: All but assured Hendrick of capturing the top three spots in the championship with a ninth at Phoenix, but the driver nicknamed "Four Time" won't be adding to his title collection this year. CHASE CHATTER: "(Johnson's team) did what they needed to do," Gordon said. "That's why they're three-time champs." --- DRIVER: Kurt Busch CHASE POINTS: fourth, -211 CAR: No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge TEAM: Penske Racing POSITION CHANGE: None CAREER HOMESTEAD STARTS: 8 AVERAGE HOMESTEAD FINISH: 21.5 (won in 2002) LAST WEEK: Continued his strong run through the Chase with a sixth-place finish at Phoenix. Considering the drama surrounding the team when the Chase started, a fourth-place finish would be considered a major boost. CHASE CHATTER: "We're gaining points and we're still doing a good job," Busch said. "Gordon is within distance going into Homestead for third place overall." --- DRIVER: Tony Stewart CHASE POINTS: fifth, -285 CAR: No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet TEAM: Stewart/Haas Racing POSITION CHANGE: None CAREER HOMESTEAD STARTS: 10 AVERAGE HOMESTEAD FINISH: 11.9 (won twice) LAST WEEK: First season as an owner/driver won't end with a title, and a 25th-place finish at Phoenix extended an underwhelming Chase for the regular-season champ. CHASE CHATTER: "Just by getting two cars in the Chase and winning the races we've won this year exceeded more than what any of you guys could have anticipated, and we could have anticipated," Stewart said. --- DRIVER: Juan Pablo Montoya CHASE POINTS: sixth, -289 CAR: No. 42 Target Chevrolet TEAM: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing POSITION CHANGE: None CAREER HOMESTEAD STARTS: 3 AVERAGE HOMESTEAD FINISH: 22.0 (best: 15th in 2007) LAST WEEK: Montoya's solid debut in NASCAR's playoffs continued with an eighth-place finish at Phoenix, his sixth top-10 in nine Chase races. CHASE CHATTER: "We've got to try to finish as high as we can, high in points," Montoya said. "It would be nice to try to get a win this year. It's been a great year otherwise." --- DRIVER: Greg Biffle CHASE POINTS: seventh, -321 CAR: No. 16 3M Scotch Brand Ford TEAM: Roush Fenway Racing POSITION CHANGE: None CAREER HOMESTEAD STARTS: 7 AVERAGE HOMESTEAD FINISH: 13.4 (won three times) LAST WEEK: Finished 14th at Phoenix, continuing a trend where he's spent the Chase practically stuck in seventh. Loves Miami, however, and could sneak into the top five with a fourth career win at the 1.5-mile track. CHASE CHATTER: "I would still like to finish in the top five in the standings and that will be our goal heading into Homestead," Biffle said. --- DRIVER: Denny Hamlin CHASE POINTS: eighth, -352 CAR: No. 11 FedEx Toyota TEAM: Joe Gibbs Racing POSITION CHANGE: None CAREER HOMESTEAD STARTS: 4 AVERAGE HOMESTEAD FINISH: 13.0 (best: 3rd, twice) LAST WEEK: Finished third behind Johnson at Phoenix, but made bigger headlines when his ongoing feud with Brad Keselowski escalated during the Nationwide Race. CHASE CHATTER: "No matter what you throw in the car, I'm the best of the worst or the worst of the best, one of the two," Hamlin said. --- DRIVER: Ryan Newman CHASE POINTS: ninth, -411 CAR: No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet TEAM: Stewart/Haas Racing POSITION CHANGE: None CAREER HOMESTEAD STARTS: 7 AVERAGE HOMESTEAD FINISH: 20.3 (best: 6th in 2002) LAST WEEK: Best news from last week was the addition of a sponsor for his No. 39 Chevy for next season. Finished a forgettable 20th at Phoenix. CHASE CHATTER: "It's not that we would ever be disappointed because of all the things that we've achieved," he said. "It's just that we may not be totally satisfied." --- DRIVER: Kasey Kahne CHASE POINTS: 10th, -476 CAR: No. 9 Budweiser Dodge TEAM: Richard Petty Motorsports POSITION CHANGE: None CAREER HOMESTEAD STARTS: 5 AVERAGE HOMESTEAD FINISH: 17.6 (best: 4th in 2006) LAST WEEK: Qualified fourth at Phoenix before settling for 15th after developing front-end problems. A solid run at Homestead would give Kahne a boost heading into an offseason full of questions at RPM. CHASE CHATTER: "At one point in the race, I felt like I could feel every crack in the race track," he said. --- DRIVER: Carl Edwards CHASE POINTS: 11th, -520 CAR: No. 99 Aflac Ford TEAM: Roush Fenway Racing POSITION CHANGE: None CAREER HOMESTEAD STARTS: 5 AVERAGE HOMESTEAD FINISH: 6.4 (won in 2008) LAST WEEK: Another ho-hum finish (16th) in a season few imagined this time last year, when Edwards finished second to Johnson. He heads to Miami looking for his first win since taking the checkered flag in the 2008 finale. CHASE CHATTER: "We have to get better," Edwards said. "We have to figure out where we are behind and then fix that." --- DRIVER: Brian Vickers CHASE POINTS: 12th, -666 CAR: No. 83 Red Bull Toyota TEAM: Red Bull Racing POSITION CHANGE: None CAREER HOMESTEAD STARTS: 6 AVERAGE HOMESTEAD FINISH: 31.7 (best: 18th in 2004) LAST WEEK: The hottest driver entering the Chase is the coldest one ending the season. Got caught up in a 10-car pileup on lap 171 at Phoenix and wound up 38th, his worst finish since the Daytona 500. CHASE CHATTER: "It was very difficult to pass out there," Vickers said. "And I think it was so hard to pass that no one was willing to give anything up."