Drama lacking at season’s last stop

Published 11:04 pm Friday, November 20, 2009

The sixth version of the Chase for the Sprint Cup comes to an end this weekend in Miami. Champions in each of NASCAR’s top three series will be officially crowned this weekend, though the drama is lacking for all three.

Ron Hornaday clinched the Camping World Truck Series championship, his fourth career championship, last week at Phoenix. Hornaday’s team owner, Kevin Harvick, won that race, and it was a neat scene seeing “dueling burnouts” after the finish of that race.

In the Nationwide Series, the only drama in Miami will be how quickly Denny Hamlin runs Brad Keselowski into the wall. Kyle Busch, 190 points ahead of second place Carl Edwards, only has to start the race to clinch that series’ championship. While Busch’s Sprint Cup season has been disappointing (he missed the Chase to everyone’s surprise), his Nationwide season has been stellar.

With eight wins, 24 top-fives, and 29 top-10s in 35 races, it will go down as one of the best Nationwide performances ever. In all three series, Busch has won a stout 19 races: seven in trucks, eight in Nationwide, and four in Sprint Cup. Very impressive.

Back to the Hamlin-Keselowski feud. This showdown has been brewing for most of the year, and, after Keselowski and Hamlin got together last week at Phoenix, Hamlin as much as promised that he would take the JR Motorsports driver out this week at Miami.

With Keselowski moving full time to the Sprint Cup series in Penske’s No. 12 car next season, we could see a long-term rivalry forming, not that that is a bad thing. The sport needs a little passion and aggression.

Jimmie Johnson holds a 108-point lead over Mark Martin going into the final race this weekend. Regardless of how Martin finishes in the race, Johnson can claim an unprecedented fourth straight championship with at least a 25th-place finish.

Now, nothing is certain—the race at Texas two weeks ago proved that—but it would be a huge upset if Johnson didn’t walk away with the trophy early Sunday evening. But, I for one would like nothing more to see something weird go down and Martin end up the champion. That would be a hugely popular outcome.

Whatever happens, Rick Hendrick will have the top three drivers in the final standings: Johnson, Martin, and Jeff Gordon. That fact makes the disastrous season that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has had that much more disappointing.

To have four teams finishing first, second, third, and 24th just doesn’t make good sense.

Among driver moves last week, Jamie McMurray signed a one-year deal with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing to replace Martin Truex in the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevy. This move reunites McMurray with Chip Ganassi, who brought McMurray to the Cup series several years ago. And Bobby Labonte agreed to a full-time schedule with TGR Motorsports and the No. 71 car. That team has shown some promise since Labonte joined them several weeks ago. Here’s hoping he can make the best out of that situation.

This is the final race for Carl Edwards to win a race in 2009, and I think he does just that, take the checkers at Miami-Homestead this weekend.