One more shot before Nov. 22 NASCAR Championship in Miami

Martin and Gordon at Phoenix

Mark Martin closed to within 73 points of teammate Jimmie Johnson at Texas. He and Jeff Gordon will try to reel Johnson in at Phoenix before Miami Championship Nov. 22 (photo courtesy: Jason Smith, Getty Images Sport)

Chase Race 8 began with Jimmie Johnson holding a 184-point lead in the race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship, to be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 22. Mark Martin seized the opportunity with a fourth-place finish that shaved 111 points off of his second-place deficit. What remains is a 73-point gap that is only two-thirds of the gap Martin already made up at Texas….

“In Phoenix we led the most laps and won the last time there,” Martin said in looking toward Chase Race 9. “We can go head-to-head with them [Johnson and crew], and there’s no reason to think that we can’t run strong at Homestead[-Miami Speedway].”

Indeed, Martin enters Phoenix with a whole new perspective—and a much better shot at catching Johnson—versus where the points standings stood just one week ago. And make no mistake, after finishing runner-up four times in his esteemed career, the 50-year-old veteran is focused on capturing his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—for which some really fantastic seats still remain; call toll free (866) 409-RACE or click here.

"There are still two races to go and still things that can happen," Martin said. "I don't know why everybody tries to cap this thing out and doesn't wait and watch."

Qualifying for Phoenix and Chase Race 9 was a classic Old West style shootout, as Johnson and Martin took 10 paces and fired: The No. 48  will start third, while his Hendrick Motorsports teammate and closest pursuer for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship—to be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway next Sunday—qualified 10th.

Martin—looking to put another dent in Johnson’s goal of an unprecedented fourth consecutive Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 22—dominated the desert in the spring race, but Johnson has won three out of the last four races at Phoenix International Raceway.

South Florida-resident Juan Pablo Montoya, meanwhile, rolls into Phoenix sitting sixth in the Championship standings. It has been quite a transition for Montoya, who debuted with Chip Ganassi Racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2006—site of this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship on Nov. 22.

While a poor finish at Texas caused him to drop a position in the standings, Montoya still is eyeing a Ford 400 win on his “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway. He’ll also meet with fans at Homestead-Miami in an exclusive appearance tied to his Formula Smiles Foundation.

"It doesn't matter whether we are in contention or not,” said Montoya. “We've got to try to finish as high as we can, as high in points. It's been cool because, I'll be honest with you, last week … I thought we sucked, and we were running fifth.”

This year’s Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami may be the best value in the history of NASCAR’s series-crowning weekend. Race fans can enjoy this year’s Championship finale on a $55 budget—thanks to FREE parking; an almost-to-good-to-be-true “Bring Your Own” policy; and unlimited re-entry for fans looking to restock their 6x6x12 cooler throughout the day.

And throughout the weekend, the party rages all around the Speedway: NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Richard Petty will greet fans in an appearance at the Pit Road Box Seats; legendary Champion Bobby Allison—of NASCAR’s celebrated “Alabama Gang”—will be on hand in the Coke Zero Fan Zone; and Jeff Gordon will make an appearance in the Premier Club. For more information on the opportunity to visit with NASCAR legends, click here.

And on Sprint Cup Sunday, fans can enjoy the ultimate on-track experience: the Pre-Race Track Pass (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), which invites fans to walk the front stretch of one of the most technologically advanced racing facilities in America. Take pictures, participate in interactive displays, enjoy live entertainment and experience the thrill of NASCAR up close and personal. Pre-Race Track Pass’ers also will enjoy an exclusive look at the 2009 Sprint Cup Trophy, to be crowned smNov. 22 at THE Championship Track.

All of this and see them drive for just $55! Tickets for the Sprint Cup Championship start at just $55 and are available by clicking here or by calling (866) 409-RACE.

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