Carl Edwards can't do much this weekend to move up in the standings; he is 218 points behind his nearest competitor and 246 points behind Chase leader Denny Hamlin. He does have several drivers behind him in the points who are going to be fighting to take Carl's fourth place position away. With a 6.5 average finish at Homestead it is unlikely that any driver behind Carl in points will be able to take the place from him, however. In his six Cup Series starts at this track Edwards' lowest finish has been 14th place, he has five top ten finishes, and one win from 2008. Carl could prove to be the man that Chase contenders have to catch in order to gain points towards the top of the Chase Leader Board. Carl also has momentum on his side coming into Miami; with two back flips in a Cup and a Nationwide Series race in the past two weeks Edwards has confidence.
Kurt Busch has nine starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway, one win, and three other top five finishes. Historically Kurt has either finished in the top five at this track or outside of the top 20. Due to this one extreme or the other performance at this track, Busch has just a 16.9 average finish here. This is another driver who can claim three of his last five Cup starts in Miami have resulted in top five finishes. Unfortunately, his other two of the last five have been finishes of dead last. If Kurt can stay out of trouble on the track Sunday he could improve his current 10th place standings in the Chase.
Another contender for the Sprint Cup Championship is Kevin Harvick. Coming into Miami in the third place in points, Harvick is 46 points behind leader Denny Hamlin. If Kevin wants to take the top spot away from Hamlin, Harvick will have to lead laps and hope for an error by the #11 Team. With an 8.4 average finish at this track Kevin may be a contender for the win by the end of Sunday's race. Harvick has not won at this track but does claim seven top tens to his credit. Three of Kevin's last four starts on this mile-and-a-half track has given him top five finishes. It will take another top five, and possibly a win for Harvick to take the Championship this year. One scenario in which Harvick takes the Championship is if he wins the race, leads the most laps, and Hamlin finishes seventh or worse.
|Athletic News/U.S. Army|
Ryan Newman has incentive to have a good weekend at Homestead-Miami – a new baby girl. Ryan's wife Krissie gave birth Thursday to Brooklyn Sage Newman. In past seasons new fathers and new husbands tend to often have great performances in the race following the event. Ryan's numbers at Homestead show that he typically qualifies better than he finishes. Newman posts a 9.75 average starting position here but just a 20.6 finishing average. As a non-Chase contender Newman really has nothing to lose and can run on the adrenaline of this week. With no top five finish at Homestead since 2005 Ryan is more than due for a good day in Miami; this should be the weekend he will do it.
Jeff Gordon sits in the sixth position in the Chase and could realistically make his way as high as fourth with a strong finish at Homestead. With a 9.5 average finish here it will be tough to keep Gordon out of the top ten. He claims no wins but nine top ten finishes and five top fives in his 11 Cup starts here. That adds up to an 81% chance that Jeff will find his way into the top ten by the end of the day. A slip by one of the drivers in front of him in the standings could move him up a position or two. It's been a long time since fans have seen a Jeff Gordon win; it's unlikely that one will come this week but he should be running strong with the leaders at the end of the day.
Greg Biffle moved into the eighth spot in the Chase after a fourth place finish last week in Phoenix. Biffle posted a fifth place finish the week before; steadily moving up through the points could prove to give the confidence that this team needs to move up one or two more spots in the season-ender. With eight starts in Miami Greg has an interesting statistic – he either wins or he finishes outside of the top ten. Three wins in 2004, 2005, and 2006, plus five finishes 13th or lower give Biffle a 13.5 average finish at this track. Watch for Greg to be near the front of the field throughout most of the day on Sunday regardless of where he starts.
Tune in all weekend for NASCAR season finale coverage spread across several networks. ESPN2 has first practice Friday at 11:30 am and Qualifying on Friday afternoon coming on air at 3 pm. SPEED Channel picks up the second practice on Saturday at 1:30 pm then televisions should switch to ESPN2 for final practice at 3pm. RaceDay coverage starts on SPEED Channel at 9 am and continues on ESPN2 at Noon for NASCAR Countdown. Coverage of the Ford 400 starts at 1 pm on ESPN. Don't miss a minute of final week coverage with have-at-it-boys racing from Homestead-Miami Speedway where every point will be extremely important.