NASCAR Sprint Cup: 5 Drivers Who Will Be in the Running at Homestead

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent INovember 16, 2012

NASCAR Sprint Cup: 5 Drivers Who Will Be in the Running at Homestead

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    Homestead-Miami Speedway may be the sight of the finale for the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, but storylines will be hard to match after the Phoenix spectacle. Some may not remember who the race winner even was?

    The Ford EcoBoost 400 is all about who can cap off of the season with a win, and who will become the new reigning champion of the sport.

    The battle for the series title is pretty much up for Brad Keselowski to lose. Jimmie Johnson saw title hopes blow out along with a tire that took him into the wall during the AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix.

    Keselowski will need to keep his Blue Deuce Dodge fast and clean with a 15th place or better finish over Johnson who is 20 markers behind him in points. He can't afford any miscues or mishaps.

    Some drivers have nothing to lose and will pull out the stops to go for a win. Paybacks may be executed by drivers who have felt wronged during the season as we saw in Phoenix.

    There are still a couple of drivers besides the obvious title contenders who should be in the mix when it comes down to the final lap. This slideshow will highlight which driver might be in Victory Lane at the finale.

1. Tony Stewart

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    Tony Stewart clinched his third NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in 2011 when he won the fifth race of the Chase at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

    The driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet has three wins, 12 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes this season.

    At Homestead, Stewart has three wins to his credit with an average finish of 11.5 in 13 races.

    The reigning Cup champ has had a bit of a rocky season with unexpected ups and downs. In the last five races, he has finished fifth twice. A win at Homestead would show the team is back on track for 2013.

2. Matt Kenseth

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    After what seems to be a lifetime with Roush Fenway Racing and Jack Roush, Matt Kenseth will run his final Cup race for the organization at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

    Kenseth has three wins, 13 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes this season. He is currently sixth in the point standings.

    The driver of the No. 17 Ford has one win and an average finish of 17.6 in 12 races at Homestead.

    Kenseth would like nothing better than to end his stint with Ford and RFR by getting a win in the Ford EcoBoost 400. He will drive the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013.

3. Denny Hamlin

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    Denny Hamlin and his No. 11 FedEx Toyota team have had some ups and downs this season, but they also have five wins, 14 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes. He is currently fifth in the point standings.

    Hamlin won the 2009 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and his average finish is 10.9 in seven races.

    Darian Grubb is Hamlin's crew chief. He led Stewart to five wins during the Chase and a NASCAR Sprint Cup title in 2011. It would not be a surprise to see Hamlin in Victory Lane at the finale.

4. Carl Edwards

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    Carl Edwards has had a miserable season compared to the run he had for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title in 2011. He tied Stewart in the points, but Stewart won the championship by virtue of his wins.

    Edwards has yet to find a victory in 2012 with his No. 99 Ford out of the Roush Fenway Racing camp. He is 15th in the point standings.

    Edwards is good on intermediate tracks with 17 of his 19 career wins coming on the 1.5-mile tracks. He is good at Homestead where he won in 2008 and 2010. His average finish is 5.2 at this track.

    The No. 99 team has just not had its act together this season. Edwards' crew chief Bob Osborne stepped away from those duties mid-season with Chad Norris taking over.

    Edwards needs to win a race to get momentum for the upcoming season. He drives a Ford, and the Ford-sponsored finale would be the ideal place to find victory. 

5. Kyle Busch

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    Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota, is a man on a mission at the season finale. He has only one win this season which came at Richmond during the spring.

    Busch seems to have come to life, and the team is performing well in the Chase races with six top-five and seven top-10 finishes. He missed the Chase and is currently 13th in the point standings.

    This JGR driver has not done particularly well at Homestead-Miami Speedway with his 25.9 average finish. His record shows 11 of his 24 Cup wins coming on intermediate tracks.

    Busch has momentum going after leading a race-high 237 laps at Phoenix. He is hungry for another win before the season is over. He will be running the Nationwide and NCWTS race in addition to the Cup race.