It seems like yesterday that NASCAR teams were at Daytona

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It seems like only yesterday that the NASCAR teams were at Daytona in preseason testing for the Daytona 500, but it was actually January, a long, long time ago.

Now here we are preparing for the 36th and final race of the season, a race at Homestead that has some of the luster taken away because of all people, Jimmie Johnson, falling out of the Chase race. He’s not eliminated, but it will take some bad luck like he experienced at Phoenix with a blown tire to be inflicted upon the driver he’s chasing.

That driver he’s chasing is Brad Keselowski, who only needs to finish 15th or better Sunday to win one of the more remarkable championships in modern NASCAR history. The only driver who comes to mind from recent memory of doing something equally great as what Keselowski is about to do is Alan Kulwicki in 1992 who took a single car team he owned to win the championship.

Penske Racing is a big time racing name that Keselowski drives for, but Roger Penske has never won a championship in NASCAR. Penske runs two cars, but only one is competitive. The bigger deal here, and where the comparison to Kulwicki begins, is that Penske’s Dodges are the only two on the circuit and don’t have other organizations and a manufacturer to bounce things off of.

They are kind of on their own, whereas, Hendrick has four cars under his stable with Stewart-Haas cars indirectly under him. The Toyota’s have Joe Gibbs and Michael Waltrip Racing to bounce things off each other regarding engine performance and the Fords are strong behind Jack Roush and his three cars.

Should Keselowski win the title on Sunday, his name will forever be etched along with the word champion, something that has eluded some of the series top drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne.

If you had the foresight that Keselowski might win the Championship prior to the Daytona 500 – which not many did, you could have had 20-to-1 odds. It’s doesn’t sound like too high of odds, but it’s not like Keselowski snuck up on us. He did win three races in 2011.

Last week you could have had +225 on him as he was seven points behind Johnson. This week the LVH Super Book has him -1500, meaning you have to lay $15 to win $1. If thinking that Johnson can get lucky with some kind of wreck, pit issue, blow engine or tire, you can get JJ at his highest odds of the season at 10-to-1. Last week you had to lay -275 on Johnson.

Homestead happens to be one track on the NASCAR circuit that Johnson doesn’t have an edge. Even though it’s a high banked 1.5-mile track, something Johnson usually dominates, he’s never won on the track in 11 starts. He hasn’t won on a 1.5-mile track all season, either.

Keselowski hasn’t done anything special on the track, either. He’s averaging a 20.3 finish in four starts with his best result being 13th in 2010. Last season he finished 20th.

The tough thing for Keselowski will be how to approach this race with such a huge lead. He’s been the most aggressive driver throughout the Chase taking risks and bumping and banging for position. Now he’s going to be asked to slow it down? 

Carl Edwards is the all-time track leader with a 5.3 average finish at Homestead. He’s won two of the past four races and his runner-up cost him the title last season by one point. 

Greg Biffle won three consecutive Homestead races from 2004-06 and Matt Kenseth won there in 2007. Denny Hamlin (2009 winner) has been strong on all 1.5-mile tracks this season with two wins, as has been Keselowski with two wins himself.

And then we have last week’s winner, Kevin Harvick, who has finished third or better in three of the past four Homestead races. Two in a row to close out the season may seem unheard of, but Edwards did it two years ago when in the same position as Harvick of not having won a race all season until Phoenix. 

NASCAR Awards 

ceremony at Wynn

If you want to say hello to one of the 12 Chase drivers, all you have to do is visit Wynn Las Vegas during the NASCAR award ceremony week schedule to begin Tuesday, Nov. 27. Chances are, the crews and drivers will be all over town, but the Wynn and Encore is where most of them will be staying.

John Avello will open up his sports book on Tuesday to the national radio show “NASCAR Live’ and at 4:00 p.m., they’ll be doing a one-hour live radio show with this years champion which looks like it will be Brad Keselowski. Everyone is invited to come out, say hello, grab some autographs, and offer their congratulations.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Contact Micah at [email protected].

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