There is no more “win to get in.” It is no longer “win to automatically advance.” There is no longer a “cut line” to remain above. It is one simple goal that may be easier said than done … beat the other three Chase Grid drivers to the finish line and win the championship.
When the green flag waives to start the race Sunday, November 22nd Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. will all just want to know a single piece of information from their spotters, “Where am I in relation to the other three drivers?”
They will all be racing 267 laps around the 1.5-mile track with the goal of winning the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. If things unfold like it did last year when the Chase Grid format was premiered, it will take winning the race to win the championship. Matt Kenseth will be trying to defend his 2014 win and championship with back-to-back NASCAR titles.
With that in mind, here are the vital statistics for the final four Chase Grid drivers at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
#1 – Kevin Harvick
1 win, 6 top fives, 12 top tens
Average finish: 7.571 (series best & best among final 4)
Driver rating: 102.5 (4th best in series, 2nd among final 4)
#2 – Jeff Gordon
1 win, 7 top fives, 3 top tens
Average finish: 10.563 (7th best in series, 3rd among final 4)
Driver rating: 100.7 (5th best in series, 3rd among final 4)
#3 – Kyle Busch
0 wins, 1 top five, 3 top tens
Average finish: 23.1 (25th best in series, 4th among final 4)
Driver rating: 91.5 (9th best in series, 4th among final 4)
#4 – Martin Truex Jr.
0 wins, 3 top fives, 7 top tens
Average finish: 10 (2nd best in series, 2nd among final 4)
Driver rating: 106.6 (3rd best in series, best among final 4)
Based on the numbers, three of the final four Chase Grid drivers are pretty much neck-and-neck in performance at Homestead-Miami. Kevin and Jeff have won at the track while Martin has not. However, Martin has a slightly better driver rating than Kevin and Jeff which means he is a little more consistent.
Kyle has not been very successful at the track over his career. But, he is still in the top 10 in driver rating among all the Sprint Cup drivers. Coming back to the track after his Daytona accident more quickly than anybody would have ever guessed this year and instantly winning means you cannot count him out based on statistics.
Carl Edwards has the best driver rating at the track at 110.2. He could be a spoiler to keep the final four drivers from winning the race and will no doubt be doing all he can to do just that.
Matt Kenseth will be back on track after his two-race suspension and has a driver rating of 108.9 at Homestead-Miami, the second best in the series. He will likely be looking to make a statement by winning the race as a spoiler. Watch for Matt to be very aggressive Sunday.
Joey Logano will likely be starting the race with the thought “I should be racing for the championship today.” Joey dominated the Chase winning one third of the nine races leading to Homestead-Miami as he swept the entire Contender Round. The incident with Matt Kenseth at Martinsville pretty much ended his championship hopes putting him in a must-win position for the last two races. While winning the race will not get Joey the Sprint Cup Trophy, I’m sure he thinks it would make a statement.
Of course all of the drivers on the track will also be doing all they can to end their 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season with a win to set the mood for the start of their 2016 season. That means that any one of them could win. It also means that any one of them could make a mistake that could cost a final four driver the chance at the championship.
The teams for the final four will also be feeling the pressure to perform. Even a small mistake in the pits could cost the driver a chance at the championship. Equally, a perfectly executed pit stop could also move a driver into position to win that championship.
How will it all play out? Who will win the race? Who will win the 2015 NASCAR Championship? Those questions will all begin to be answered starting at 1pm central time in the Ford EcoBoost 400 Sunday, November 22nd live on NBC TV from Homestead-Miami Speedway.
By: Buck Stevens