A historic finish at Homestead-Miami?

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Great seats are still available (but won’t last) for Ford Championship Weekend 2008, Nov. 14-16 on Homestead-Miami Speedway's 1.5-mile oval, as the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series all crown champions under the lights. To secure individual or group tickets for NASCAR's finale, call (866) 409-RACE or click here .

Posted: Sept. 29, 2008

Three years ago this week, Jimmie Johnson posted a 14th-place finish at Kansas’ Chase Race 3 to rank eighth in points—165 points behind then-race leader Jeff Burton.

Jimmie Johnson won his first Sprint Cup Championship in 2006.
 
“I thought it was done,” Johnson said of his early struggles in that 2006 Chase. “I knew it was out of my control, for sure. Thinking back to the quotes I made, I thought it was over.”

With the completion of this weekend’s Chase Race 3 at Kansas, seven Chase drivers were within reach of 165 points of points-leader Johnson. This speaks to the quality of the 2008 Chase contenders—a field many believe to be the greatest in the history of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

With just six races remaining until the Ford 400 Cup finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 14-16; click here for tickets), it’s clear that the Chase for the 2008 Sprint Cup Championship is wide open. Indeed, Chase drivers took each of the Top 7 finishing spots at Kansas, and 10 of the 12 Chase drivers finished among the Top 13.

Of course, everything can change at NASCAR’s ultimate wild-card track—next week’s run at Talladega, where “The Big One” can turn both the cars and the standings upside down. Consider that Kyle Busch entered April’s race at ’Dega trailing then-Cup leader Burton by 80 points and just five races later ranked No. 1 in the standings with a 142-point margin—a swing of 222 points in the standings. It’s that kind of shuffling that has everyone from Tony Stewart to Jeff Gordon to Dale Earnhardt Jr. still optimistic about making a run for this year’s Sprint Cup Championship, to be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 16.

Dale Jr., currently eighth in the Chase standings, is looking to make a run for the championship in Miami in his first year with Hendrick Motorsports.
   
“It’s really early still,” Earnhardt said heading into this week’s race at Kansas. “I think [our] chances are still pretty good. The team is very confident and our cars are looking great and they’re driving really good with the exception of last week. I’m anticipating that we’ll finish strong.

“The race unfolds around you and whatever happens to those other guys, you can leapfrog four or five guys any given week….You just have to charge hard and make the best of it.”

Even Kyle Busch, who has been the poster child for how quickly things can change once in the Chase, had this to say after finishing in spots 34 and 43, respectively, in Chase Races 1 and 2: “There’s really no sense in looking at the points, right now,” said the driver holding a series-leading eight wins this season. “Lots of things happen between now and Homestead[-Miami, NASCAR’s series-crowning

finale].”

With this weekend’s win at Kansas, many view Johnson as the favorite to win the Sprint Cup championship; if he pulls it off he will join Cale Yarborough as the only drivers to win three consecutive titles in the 60-year history of NASCAR. Yarborough won his titles consecutively from 1976-78. Johnson entered this year’s Chase with a veteran perspective on NASCAR’s playoffs….

“You’d be foolish to count out anyone in the top 12 with the caliber of race teams you have and the drivers,” he said. “You can have favorites…but at the same time, the Chase is a whole different world and you don’t know how people are going to react to pressure.

“…You have a couple of wrecks where the top guys get taken out—you look at Talladega and Martinsville and some of these places where bad stuff can happen—you just don’t know until you get going.”

In 2008, it appears you really won’t know until you get finished—when that checkered flag falls at Homestead-Miami on Nov. 16 (click here for tickets).

Great seats are still available (but won’t last) for Ford Championship Weekend 2008, Nov. 14-16 on Homestead-Miami Speedway's 1.5-mile oval, as the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series all crown champions under the lights. To secure individual or group tickets for NASCAR's finale, call (866) 409-RACE or click here.

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