Friday, November 14, 2014

For the Final Time: Five Questions for Homestead

(Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
I could throw up at this very moment. My stomach is a contorted mess of nervousness and anticipation. I’m shocked I can actually breathe. The racing hasn’t started yet, and I’m already a mess.

This might be an issue.

The sport makes its way to Homestead-Miami Speedway every year, heading to sunny Florida to bid the season adieu. It all comes full-circle in the most mesmerizing and painful way. The greatest things in life have to end. NASCAR is no exception.

What we’ll see this weekend will be thrilling and awe-inducing, something I can’t wait to enjoy. For the final time in 2014, I’m asking five championship-oriented questions for Homestead.

Should we still watch the NASCAR Nationwide Series race? History was made last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway when Chase Elliott clinched the NNS championship via points. He is now the youngest driver to earn the honor, and that is just awesome. It also makes you wonder what you’re doing with your life. Anyway, he has that sewn up, so should we care about watching the actual race? Yes, we should. People are going to complain and justify skipping it by, “It’s going to be The Kyle Busch Show anyway.” I completely understand that Busch will most likely dominate this weekend. However, if you decide to turn it off, I don’t want to hear any complaining about missing racing during the off-season. YOU chose not to watch one of the final races of the year, so it’s YOUR fault. Spend your Saturday doing something else, fine. Just don’t come crying to me.

What about the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title fight? The NCWTS title is still up for grabs, and it hasn’t been talked of much. With everyone focusing on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series news, it’s understandable. It’s mostly between Matt Crafton and Ryan Blaney, who is 25 points behind the lead. The latter driver lost a bit of ground at Phoenix, but he has a secret weapon: his boss, former NSCS champion Brad Keselowski. Blaney mentioned that he’ll speak with BK prior to today’s race, and that could be dangerous. However, Crafton has the obvious advantage; he won the title last year. He’s more experienced and has a different set of ethics, one that may not allow him to take necessary risks. All of it will fall into place today, so tune in and see who comes out on top.

Who’s the champion if none of the Chase contenders win the race? I’ve seen this question asked about a million times already, and it’s getting on my nerves. That’s why I chose to discuss it. There are no “points as they run.” The highest finisher wins the title. That’s that. Because one race decides it all, bonus points are rather pointless (Ha, get it?) So, what if Newman finishes third, and Logano grabs fourth after leading 20 laps? Hello, Newman. It’s designed that way to prevent any sandbagging. It adds a lot of pressure, as it should. The games are over, boys. It’s go time.

Has the new Chase accomplished its goals? It’s time to review the past nine weeks and evaluate the differences between now and last year. The main thing I’m choosing to focus on: excitement. That was the main priority, right? To be perfectly honest, the new format has done an excellent job. It’s created a need to see each race; if you miss one, you’re behind on who’s fighting who. Sure, there are a few kinks, but it’s the first year. We need to be happy NASCAR even made changes. Let’s be appreciative of the attempt and that it’s doing moderately well.

And the champion is …? Homestead is the most important race of the season, and it’s the sole deciding factor in the championship. Newman, Hamlin, Logano and Harvick will battle it out and fight to finish better than their opponents. It’s going to be insane, but someone has to win. Who? Well, let’s look at each driver’s stats for the Florida track. Newman’s record is decent, with one top five and four top 10s. The driver of the No. 4, however, is better; Harvick has five top fives and 11 top 10s. Well, he does have the most starts. Logano seems to be the one with an issue, having one sole top five. Ouch. There is one driver who has a fantastic record and is the favorite: Hamlin. He has two wins, four top fives, and five top 10s at this venue. He’ll drive circles around these guys like they're standing still. I’m choosing him for the win and the title. This format was made for him, and he’ll reap the benefits.