Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Homestead-Miami Preview: JJ has it Locked Up, Kurt Busch Could Benefit at 14/1

by Micah Roberts

There is nothing else you can say about Jimmie Johnson other than just masterful. Winning the race last week at Phoenix in such dominant fashion pales in comparison to the board scope of what he’s doing right now, on the cusp of winning his fourth straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship.

This has never been done before, it’s uncharted waters, and I for one have a tough time really grasping what a great feat this is. What in NASCAR history can you compare it to? There is nothing. We’re witnessing the greatest stretch of consistent dominance in the sports history.

For all the great drivers battling for the Championship we’ve seen over the years, only one has done it it four times in a row. Only one, Cale Yarbrough, had done it three times in a row prior to Johnson last year. Jeff Gordon never did it, Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, or Darrell Waltrip; nobody in the brief history!

When thinking of where it ranks as one of the unachievable in sports history, it’s hard to come up with great individual accomplishments that match what Johnson is about to do this week in Miami for the final race of the 2009 season.

Maybe a Tiger Woods in golf, or Tennis’ Roger Federer can come close, but can we really say that the level of competition is at it’s height in golf or tennis like it is in NASCAR. The multi-team operations have made it so there are so many more competitive cars as a whole in the series week to week than ever before.

To be able to be at your peak for four straight years, better than everyone, and showing bno signs of slowing is a testament to what has made Johnson so great. And to think he could have easily been going for six straight titles if it hadn’t have been for a few mishaps early in the Chase for the Championship in the years before he finally won.

His performance last week under pressure at Phoenix is just another chapter in his book of excellence. After what happened to him the previous week at Texas, he could have just laid up like a golfer and got par with a top-10 finish, but he went all out like Tin-Cup and got the money shot leading nearly start to finish.

This week at Miami, he’ll win the title and only second-place Mark Martin who is 108 points behind has a mathematical shot at catching him. It would be easy to suggest that Johnson will run conservatively in trying to finish 25th or better which will clinch the title, but somehow that doesn’t sound like Johnson’s style.

Johnson has never won at Miami, one of the few tracks he hasn’t won at, but that may be more attributed to Miami being the final race of the year where he does lay up a bit to win clinch the title.

He’s got the cars capable of winning and nothing would be better than to see a Championship clinch the title and win in the same race, but his race will be all about staying within the top-25.

For the conservative approach that is sure to be Johnson’s game plan this week, it opens up the door for the rest of the field to capture a win and quite possibly at some double digit prices.

The top driver to look at this week looks like Kurt Busch who really looks dialed in. Miami isn’t the same configuration as the SMI sister tracks of Atlanta and Texas which Busch has won at this year, but the distance and banking are similar.

If there was one track that could be called similar to Miami, it would be Dover which is a half-mile shorter than Miami, a place where Busch finished fifth in his last run there in late September.

"We feel like there’s a bit more business to take care of this weekend before the ’09 season is completed," said Busch, currently fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings entering Sunday’s race. "It’ll be our last race with Pat (crew chief Tryson) holding the reins for our Miller Lite Dodge Team and we’re definitely looking to see it all conclude on a positive note.

"I think we do have another win in us," said Busch. "We’re bringing back ‘Patriot,’ the car we won with at Texas. It’s a great car. Our team has an upbeat feel. We’ve had a long year. We’ve had a successful year. There’s no better way than put together a 100 percent effort this week and go out with a bang and hopefully a win."

You have to love the confidence Busch speaks about and love the way the race may unfold with Johnson not running too hard in this race.

"I’ve always thought that it was extremely important to end the season on a high note," said Busch. "Your last race out is the one that’s freshest on your mind and you certainly hope it’s memorable for all the right reasons. Closing out your season with a competitive weekend at Homestead is just that important.

"If you come out of there with great results, it gives all the team members, the sponsors, the media – everyone out there – a super calling card to remember you by," Busch added. "It works to instill optimism and grow the level of confidence through all those cold and dreary winter days. When you look at that period in between the closing of one season till the opening of the next, that’s a long time to think about it."

It sounds good enough for me. In Las Vegas, If Busch wins, the entire city of Las Vegas gets a free Miller Lite at the multiple locations of PT’s Pub’s through out the city. I like beer and I also like 14 to 1 odds at the cashier window. Let’s close out the season strong with a Busch win and free beer.

TOP 5 Finish Prediction:
1) #2 Kurt Busch (14/1)
2) #18 Kyle Busch (10/1)
3) #24 Jeff Gordon (8/1)
4) #29 Kevin Harvick (30/1)
5) #11 Denny Hamlin (12/1)

Visit for Much more Stats and Info for this weeks race at Miami

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