Fuel & Tires: Can Johnson take his seventh Cup title?

 

It all comes down to Sunday's race at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to crown its 2016 champion. Who will it be? With only four drivers eligible for the title, you've got a 25% chance of getting it right.

Ever since NASCAR created this manufactured Chase for the Sprint Cup format, the champion hasn't always been exactly the most successful of the season. Sure, Kyle Busch won five races last season en route to his first championship after missing the first eleven races, but Jimmie Johnson won the same number of races while Joey Logano won more than each of them.

The name of the game is consistency, which is how Matt Kenseth won the championship in 2003 even though he only won a single race. That was the last season before NASCAR debuted the Chase format, so I'm not exactly sure what has been gained.

But, I digress. In the history of motorsport, not every championship-winning driver was necessarily the class of the field in the year of their triumph. However, I don't like the fact that a driver could potentially win the majority of races within a given season but still come up short for the series title.

Anyways, let's move on to the drivers who will be competing for the Sprint Cup title Sunday.

Joey Logano

Logano has had a heck of a run as of late, with two wins and only one finish outside the top eleven in the nine Chase races. In his fourth year with Team Penske, you can bet team owner Roger Penske is banking on his first championship since Brad Keselowski won in 2012. However, Logano has only two top-ten finishes at Homestead in seven starts. I'm not sure he can pull it off this season, but it's certainly his best shot yet.

Jimmie Johnson

The six-time Sprint Cup champion is surprisingly winless at Homestead, one of only four tracks he's never won at. I don't think that matters for Johnson, who is the only driver to have qualified for every Chase since its inception. While it will certainly be a fight to the finish, I think Johnson will win his record-tying seventh championship, which will put him alongside greats Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

Carl Edwards

Even though Edwards won at Texas two weeks ago, I see him as the dark horse of the four drivers (if there even is one). Edwards has come close to winning a title, finishing runner-up in 2008 and 2011, and he has two wins at Homestead. Edwards could bring Joe Gibbs his second title in as many years, but I only see that happening if his competitors run into trouble.

Kyle Busch

The defending Sprint Cup champion is the only one of the four drivers with no Chase race wins. Busch hasn't won since Indianapolis in July, but he is the defending race winner at Homestead, the only Chase race he won last season. The only reason I'd like to see Busch win his second consecutive championship is that maybe then he'll fulfill his desire to run the Indianapolis 500 next year.

Coverage of the Ford EcoBoost 400 starts at 1 p.m. Sunday on NBC.

FORMULA ONE POINTS BATTLE TIGHTENS UP

The Brazilian Grand Prix last Sunday was a particularly wet affair, with rain stopping the race on two separate occasions. About the only driver who was probably thankful for that was Lewis Hamilton, who started on pole and held on to win his third race in a row.

Hamilton's win tightened up the championship fight with Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, who finished second (also for the third race in a row). Red Bull's Max Verstappen finished third and is now only five points behind Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel for fourth place in the standings.

Hamilton now sits twelve points behind Rosberg as the series heads into the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday, Nov. 27.

INDYCAR FIELD COMES INTO FOCUS

The remaining seats in the Verizon IndyCar Series are down to just a few now that AJ Foyt Racing has announced the signings of Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly. Colombia's Munoz, who previously drove for Andretti Autosport, will drive the No. 14 Chevrolet while Indiana native Daly, who drive for Foyt in the 2013 Indy 500, will drive the No. 4.

It was also announced last week that Ed Jones, last season's Indy Lights champion, would be taking over the No. 19 Honda at Dale Coyne Racing. The biggest surprise there is that Coyne is known for announcing his driver lineup mere weeks, sometimes days, before the season-opening race.

With those announcements, the No. 8 Honda at Chip Ganassi Racing is the only full-time ride without a confirmed driver. Ed Carpenter has yet to confirm who will take over his No. 20 Chevrolet for the non-oval races while the situation surrounding KVSH Racing is still unknown.

Meanwhile, series driver James Hinchcliffe has made it to the finals of ABC's Dancing with the Stars. Hinchcliffe will go up against three other competitors on the Nov. 21 and 22 broadcasts. If he wins, Hinch will become the second IndyCar driver to win the title after Helio Castroneves won it in 2007.

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