We started with 16 drivers competing in NASCAR’s new Chase for the Sprint Cup format 10 weeks ago at Chicagoland and were down to the Final Four this week at Homestead. The best finish among the four eligible drivers wins the 2014 Championship.
Kevin Harvick has been posted by the Westgate SuperBook as the 8-to-5 favorite to win the championship followed by Joey Logano at 9-to-4, Denny Hamlin at 13-to-4 and Ryan Newman at 17-to-4. No points carry over from the eliminator round. It’s now head to head for all the marbles.
While the eventual winner doesn’t have to win the race to win the title, there’s a strong possibility that one will win just because two of the drivers competing have been the among the best on 1.5-mile tracks this season.
There have been 10 races on 1.5-mile track this season and for the most part, there weren’t many surprises. Harvick won at Charlotte in October and also finished second at Kansas (May), Charlotte (May) and Texas (Nov).
Harvick also has led the most laps on 1.5-mile tracks this season while dominating every one of those practice sessions to the point where he looked to have the best car in all of them. Harvick is not only the favorite to win the Championship, he’s also favored to win Sunday’s race.
Logano grabbed wins on 1.5-mile tracks at Texas (April) and Kansas (Oct) and has four other top-5 finishes on them. Between he and teammate Brad Keselowski, Penkse Racing has won five of the 10 races on these type of tracks. After perhaps being rushed to the Cup series too quickly by Joe Gibbs Racing, where he was expected to someday win a championship,
Logano has proven how good he is this season and is on the verge of finally winning the Cup championship.
Denny Hamlin grabbed his only top-5 finish of the Chase last week at Phoenix and has been consistent throughout, but now he’s got to try and beat the Penske duo and Hendrick engines on a 1.5-mile track, something he hasn’t been successful at doing this season. His only top-5 finish on these type of tracks came in August at Atlanta. His team hasn’t had the power all season and they’re going to have to be creative to get some this week.
Newman is the most unlikely of the Chase contenders because he hasn’t won a race all season.
The new Chase format was designed to force drivers to win more, bThe top drivers on 1.5-mile tracks this season that aren’t eligible to win the championship have been Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Kyle Busch have also fared well. While Busch hasn’t won on any of them this season, he has finished fifth or better in the last three, which should be a good sign for teammate Hamlin.
The smart pick is either Harvick or Logano to win the title, but I’m going to go for Hamlin to somehow find a way to finish better than the other three. I’ll also take Jeff Gordon to win the race, and watch out for Johnson.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].