The Backstretch Blog: The End

Published On: Dec 24 2013 03:26:22 PM CST   Updated On: Nov 16 2013 10:54:35 AM CST

I cannot believe that the NASCAR season is coming to an end this weekend in Homestead. It seems like just yesterday I was in Concord, listening to drivers preseason dreams of championships and wins. Who could have ever imaged then that Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart would be injured so badly, they would have to miss races and miss out on the Chase? Who would have guessed that defending Cup Champion Brad Keselowski would miss the chase? Or that the Chase field would have 13 drivers and not 12?

This season has had all the drama of a Hollywood Movie, until this weekend. Unfortunately this weekend, there will be very little suspense. As I am sure you know by now, Jimmie Johnson only need to finish 23rd or better to take home his sixth Cup title.

"Definitely in the position I want to be in" said Johnson. "Defending is the place of control of the points lead.  We can control our own destiny.  It does come with a price.  There's a lot of pressure on myself and the team to get things done."

For the other two drivers still mathematically alive in the championship race, the weekend is a 'hang it all out there nothing to lose' endeavor.

"Obviously we're not going to make up the deficit on performance.  I think Jimmie could run 28th through the grass or with three wheels on," joked second place Matt Kenseth, who is 28 points behind Johnson. "He's going to have to have a mechanical problem or crash to make something happen.  We'll have to be up in the top five to hold on to second or to overtake Jimmie if he has a problem."

Adds third place Kevin Harvick, who is 34 points back, "As you approach the last race of the season, know you're at a deficit, we approach it like we did last week, we have to go out and score maximum points.  We have to figure out how to do that throughout the weekend. Hopefully we can have a good weekend and control the things that we can control."

More drama could come with who might get the win this season. Six past winners are in this Sundays field, led by Greg Biffle who has three victories in Homestead.

"I love racing in south Florida here at the beginning of winter," said Biffle. "I've had some success at Homestead in the past and it would be nice to win again."

His teammate Carl Edwards has two HMS wins, with Jeff Gordon, Hamlin, Kurt Busch and chase contender Kenseth with single wins.

"I hate to oversimplify it, but it's just that, it's simple.  We need to go out here no different than maybe what we did earlier in the season, and that is just throw caution to the wind," said Kenseth's crew chief Jason Ratliff. "We have everything to gain and nothing to lose.  We don't have to play defense.  We can be full bore on offense.  We can get as aggressive as possible.  We need to go out and lead a lot of laps and win the race, and that's really all we can do."