It’s been a pretty good year for the final four 2016 Sprint Cup title contenders. In my last blog post I went over season stats for each driver, and to be honest I think any one of them could win the race and the season. For my own pick, I couldn’t decide on one driver. So, I’m going to cheat. “The Head,” my logical choice; and “The Heart,” my emotional choice.
Late in his career, Edwards knows he's running out of time to claim his first championship. But he is certainly deserving of one; in 13 years he’s amassed 28 wins and 6,089 total laps led. The Gibbs driver is known for performing under pressure and grabbing victories when the conditions get tough (wet tracks, hot temperatures, etc.) and other drivers fall off.
He had a moderately successful regular season with two wins and seven top 5’s, but wasn’t a top pick for anyone in terms of potential title contenders. He managed to skate into the Round of 8 by points before capturing the rain-shortened AAA Texas 500 victory that pushed him into the final round. Needless to say, his 2016 regular season isn’t what convinced me. But the regular season means crap now. It’s all about South Florida…and South Florida has been historically good to Carl Edwards.
If his Homestead-Miami Speedway career stats don't impress you, compare them with the other contenders:
In 12 races:
5 top 5’s
9.25 avg finish
568 laps led
In 11 races:
2 top 5's
21.09 avg finish
278 laps led
In 7 races:
1 top 5
17.71 avg finish
72 laps led
In 15 races:
4 top 5's
14.07 avg finish
99 laps led
If I was a betting man ( I am), my money's on Carl for the win and/or Championship this weekend.
There's not much to say here that hasn't been said by everyone else. Whether or not you're a fan of Jimmie Johnson shouldn't even be a factor. If he can tie Petty and Dale Sr. for all-time championships, he's making history. And that will give him the opportunity to get eight(+) championships before he retires, which will break history. We are simply lucky to bear witness to something so epic.
If your children are NASCAR fans, they'll tell their grandchildren about Johnson's 2016 Sprint Cup Championship. Remember that.
Regardless of who comes out on top this weekend, the Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead is going to be a damn good time.
Only One Can Be Champ.
Four drivers enter South Florida battling for the 2016 Championship this weekend. The Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway will be the season finale, and the final four contenders reset to zero going into the race. Winner take all.
Virtually anything can happen, so it’s tough to speculate. Here’s what we know:
17 top 5’s
24 top 10’s
The defending champ’s skill and determination aren’t up for debate. However, his temperament on the track can be…unpredictable, to say the least. He’s only been involved in three crashes resulting in DNF’s during the 2016 season, but other drivers have been caught in crashes that some would say he caused (I.E. Matt Kenseth, Can-Am 500 at Phoenix). Despite the fact that he’s the only driver advancing by points (no wins in the Round of 8), he clinched the 2015 championship with a dominating win at Homestead-Miami Speedway. All things considered, not a bad argument for Sunday.
9 top 5’s
18 top 10’s
The closest Edwards has come to a championship was 2011, before the Chase format. He tied Tony Stewart in points at the end of the year, but the title fell to Stewart on overall season wins. His long-awaited dream of Sprint Cup glory is 400 laps away- at a track where he has two wins and 568 total laps led. With a dominant team in Joe Gibbs Racing, Edwards has shown time and again that he has the intelligence and durability to win when it most counts. At Homestead-Miami, it’s going to count.
15 top 5’s
25 top 10’s
After an incredibly dominant 2015 season, Logano was a clear favorite to claim last year’s championship. His contention was wrecked (along with his car) when he was infamously and intentionally taken out at Martinsville by Matt Kenseth. Looking for redemption with a level head and one hell of a victory burnout, the young driver took the checkered flag at Phoenix International’s Can-Am 500 to advance to the final race. He thrives under the Chase format, with seven wins in 29 total Chase races. There’s only one race left in 2016, and Logano thinks it’s all his.
10 top 5’s
15 top 10’s
The historical implications are immense. Winning Homestead-Miami will make Jimmie Johnson a seven-time Sprint Cup champion, tying him with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. Johnson is arguably the greatest driver of his era, and he looks this Sunday to become one of the greatest of all time. The odds are stacked against him; Johnson has never won at Homestead, and only holds a humble 100 total laps led. Additionally, Johnson had a quiet season leading up to the Chase. But his confidence is on fire after his Goody’s Fast Relief 500 win at Martinsville, and his momentum is rolling. It's going to take a monster to stop him.
Who's your pick to win Homestead-Miami and claim the 2016 Spring Cup Championship?
Or Living Legend?
The Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville marked the first race of the Round of 8 in the 2016 Chase. Mr. Six-Time rode to Victory Lane, solidifying a spot for the next round.
Jimmie Johnson, who hasn’t won at Martinsville since 2013, has been rapidly gaining momentum in the last few races… and has also become a hot topic as it dawns on everyone that he could walk away with a seventh championship. The significance here is that seven championships would tie Johnson with (arguably) the two greatest of all time: Petty and Dale, Sr.
Petty himself once claimed: "[Johnson]'s liable to get eight to ten titles."
What separates Johnson from Petty and Earnhardt is that even in his endeavors of historical prominence, he continues to go widely unnoticed as a major player in Sprint Cup.
Here’s a synopsis of Earnhardt’s, Petty’s and Johnson’s first 100 races: