|Can Jeff Gordon ride off into the sunset as champ?|
2015 SPRINT CUP CHAMPIONSHIP
KEVIN HARVICK 3-2
JEFF GORDON 15-4
KYLE BUSCH 11-4
MARTIN TRUEX JR 13-4
Will we see a first-time Sprint Cup Champion on Sunday? Four drivers advanced through to the final stage of the Chase and whoever finishes best Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday wins the Sprint Cup.
Jeff Gordon has four Cup trophies, but none since 2001 -- before the Chase format while series still called ‘Winston Cup.’ This is his final Cup season. He’s saying goodbye. His Swan Song. Can you imagine how thrilling its going to be if he walks into the sunset with his fifth championship? Even the most devoted Dale Earnhardt fans who jeered and hissed Gordon his entire career will have a tear budding should Gordon walk away from the sport in brilliant fashion. Could we really see a walk-off champion? He’s the only driver to have started all 16 Homestead races.
Kevin Harvick comes in as the favorite as defending Cup champion and Homestead race winner. He won both at Homestead last season, a first for the Bakersfiled, CA native. He is Homestead’s all-time leader with a 7.5 average finish -- 12 top-10 finishes in 14 starts. When looking at the body of work from the No. 4 team on 1.5-mile tracks this season, you’d have to say Harvick has a great shot at duplicating what he did last season. He finished third at Texas two weeks ago and has a win at Las Vegas, three second-place finishes and a fourth among the previous 10 races on 1.5s.
Kyle Busch will be the local favorite this week as the Las Vegas native can bring a championship home to the strip. As a resident of Las Vegas since 1980, the city hasn’t had a lot to root for in sports and we surely don‘t have many banners as champions. Sure Las Vegas is the best of many things in the culinary and resort world, but we don’t really get excited for that stuff like most do with sports. We have UNLV Men’s basketball champions in 1990, some minor league hockey achievements, Floyd Mayweather and Kyle's brother Kurt Busch’s title in 2004, but then it all goes back to being Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin for city pride. Kyle Busch can bring a major sport championship to the city and I’m hoping he does. He’s finished in the top-five of the past two races on 1.5-mile tracks and he won at Kentucky in July. Everyone starts at zero this week. No points. It’s just about beating the other three of the Championship 4.
Martin Truex Jr. is the most improbable of the group. His Denver Mattress No. 78 team is an incredible story as they‘re doing the impossible in NASCAR -- a single car team competing for the title. They also are the only Sprint Cup team that doesn’t operate out of the Charlotte area. These guys roll in and out of Denver every weekend. Truex Jr. has a 10th-place average finish at Homestead with a career-best runner-up in 2006. He’s been very good on 1.5s this season including leading the most laps at Charlotte in May and being runner-up at Las Vegas. If you’re looking for the bright-eyed championship feel-good story, Truex Jr. is it.