The Biggest Thing Each 2013 Chase Driver Is Racing for at Homestead-Miami

Michael Guadalupe@The_GuadaFeatured ColumnistNovember 13, 2013

The Biggest Thing Each 2013 Chase Driver Is Racing for at Homestead-Miami

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    NASCAR is getting ready to end its 2013 season with the race at Homestead.

    Every Chase driver will be competing for the win in Miami, but they will also be competing for something else.

    Drivers have a lot to prove in Homestead, and finishing out the season strong can help them moving forward into next season.

    The championship picture is almost finished, and with Jimmie Johnson leading by 28 points heading into the last race of the season, most other drivers have no realistic shot to win the title.

    That won’t stop them from competing to the fullest, though.

    Certain drivers will be switching teams next season, and a good finish to the Chase could give them much-needed momentum heading into 2014.

    The Chase this season started out interesting, with 13 drivers eligible to win the championship.

    And now, as the 2013 NASCAR season comes to an end, all 13 drivers will be racing for different things.

13. The Top Driver at Roush

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    Carl Edwards took a gamble at Phoenix and tried to play the fuel mileage game to get a win.

    He lost on the final lap as he ran out of gas, and Kevin Harvick passed him and ended up in victory lane.

    Edwards bounced back from a horrible 2012 season, and even though he now sits in last place in the Chase, 134 points out of first, he’s run well.

    Now at Homestead, Edwards will be trying to finish out his season strong and will be looking for momentum toward his 2014 season.

    Jimmy Fennig has been a good move for Edwards as a crew chief; look for the 99 group to prove that they are the top team of Roush-Fenway Racing.

    With how well the 99 team has run this year, expect an even stronger return in 2014.

12. Improving Upon His Mistakes

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    Kasey Kahne was thought to be a real contender before the Chase started. He started off the regular season strong, and after the Chase he had last year it should have been expected.

    Instead, Kahne has struggled in the Chase, has made a couple mistakes that have put him further back in points.

    Now as he heads into Homestead-Miami, he'll be looking to get his first Chase win, and hold onto momentum for next season.

    Kahne only joined Hendrick Motorsports last year, and making the Chase two years in a row with his new team is impressive. It was clearly the right move for Hendrick to sign the young driver, and the only thing the five team needs to focus on now is how to get Kahne even better in the Chase.

    During the final race of the season Kahne will be racing to prove he's learned from his mistakes.

11. Moving on

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    Ryan Newman made it into the Chase after NASCAR allowed the driver to compete because of the problems at Richmond.

    And what exactly has the Rocket done in the postseason?

    Almost nothing.

    Newman has run into trouble and bad luck in some races, but with it being very public that he was being dumped by Stewart-Haas Racing next season, Newman will be racing for redemption at Homestead.

    What better way to throw it in the face of an organization that dumped you than by winning the last race of the year?

    Will Stewart-Haas end up missing Newman? It’s hard to say since they’re getting both Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick, but if Ryan Newman wants redemption at Homestead, he needs to win the race and show that Stewart-Haas made a mistake when they decided not to sign him for the 2014 season and beyond.

    Winning would also look good for the driver as he gets set to drive for Richard Childress Racing next season.

10. Better Than Ever

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    Kurt Busch made history when he became the first driver of a single-car team to make it into the Chase.

    Since the postseason started though, Busch has ran well at a handful of tracks, and struggled at others.

    If Busch finishes the season well at Homestead, it would be a good step forward for the driver who will be joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.

    We’ve seen Busch struggle with his attitude and anger over the last couple of years, and finishing out the season strong is what Busch needs to show that he’s moved on from how he used to be.

    Showing that he's better than ever is huge for Busch; finishing out the season strong at Homestead would prove just that.

9. The Future of NASCAR

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    Joey Logano is still trying to prove that he has what it takes to be a top driver in NASCAR. 2013 was his first appearance in the Chase, and is already a huge improvement over his years at Joe Gibbs Racing.

    Logano has raced better this season than any other of his earlier Sprint Cup Series years. A big part of it is the Penske Organization he is now a part of.

    And while he’s had a good year, he was also caught up in controversy at Richmond. NASCAR allowed him to stay in the Chase, but Logano never really stood out.

    Heading into Miami, Logano will be racing to try to get his first Chase victory. Even if the young driver doesn’t win the race, though, he should look toward next season and see how he can improve even more.

8. Getting over the Controversy

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    The only thing Clint Bowyer has done this year that’s made the spotlight in NASCAR was his spin at Richmond.

    It’s one of the bigger controversies to happen this year, and while NASCAR didn’t punish Bowyer in the Chase, he hasn’t been his normal self this postseason.

    He emerged last year as a real contender for the title, but he’s been disappointing in the Chase this season.

    Could his Richmond controversy have anything to do with his poor performance?

    We’ll never know just how much it’s gotten to him, but a win at Homestead would help Bowyer and the 15 team move on.

    With Michael Waltrip Racing losing sponsorship and getting fined after Richmond, winning at Homestead is more about first place for Bowyer; it’s about helping his organization move on from its mistakes.

7. Still Relevant

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    Greg Biffle, along with the other Ford Chase drivers, has been relatively quiet in the postseason. And even though he sits in seventh place, which is higher than the other Ford drivers, Biffle will be racing at Homestead to prove that he is still relevant at Roush-Fenway Racing.

    Compared to his season last year, Biffle has underperformed in 2013.

    His Roush-Fenway teammate Edwards, though, was the center of the Chase in 2011, and after struggling in 2012 has made a huge comeback this season.

    Edwards has easily emerged as the top driver at Roush-Fenway Racing, and it’s time for Biffle to prove that he can still compete.

    He’ll be racing to get the first Ford win for the Chase drivers, (Brad Keselowski got a win for Ford in the Chase, but he isn’t a Chase driver) and also show that he can hold his own as a driver.

    Biffle will be racing to prove that he can still win in the Chase and can still be the first driver to win the Nationwide, Camping World and Sprint Cup Series titles.

6. He Still Has It

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    Jeff Gordon was a title contender at one point in the Chase. After his poor finish at Texas, though, Gordon is out of the championship scene.

    He won at Homestead a year ago, and it helped him move on from the scuffle he was involved in with Clint Bowyer.

    This season, though, if Gordon can finish out the season strong, it proves that he still has the possibility of winning another championship.

    Jeff has run well throughout the Chase, and if he hadn’t run into trouble at Texas, he would have had a chance to win the title at Miami.

    Finishing the season strong also helps the 24 team maintain momentum going into next season and sets them up to remain a top team in NASCAR.

    Gordon got into the Chase because of all the controversy at Richmond.

    Finishing the season strong at Homestead would prove that Gordon belonged in the postseason in the first place.

5. Proving He Can Compete in the Postseason

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    Another Chase race and another chance for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to prove he can win in the postseason.

    He hasn’t won a race all season, so a win at Homestead would be good for Dale, but the bigger issue for the driver of the 88 is how he can’t seem to find himself in victory lane during the Chase.

    He’s had several good finishes in the postseason, but failing to win a single race is what has kept Jr. away from the championship.

    He can make the Chase because of his consistency to finish in the top five and top 10 throughout the regular season, but Dale Jr. can’t seem to win a postseason race—something he’s looking to change at Homestead.

4. Showing He Can Handle the Pressure

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    Another Chase season, another Chase performance fumbled by Kyle Busch. Busch has been one of the better drivers in the sport, but when it comes to the postseason, he can’t seem to run as well as he does during the early part of the year.

    Kyle looked strong at the beginning of the Chase, but after running into serious trouble at Kansas, he was knocked out of contention.

    Busch has slowly begun to bounce back, and while he won’t win the championship, he should be racing to prove that he’s fixing his Chase mistakes. If Busch can run well at Homestead, moving into 2014 the 18 team will know that its biggest weakness is Kansas and can look to improve their mistakes at the track for next season.

    A win at Homestead would help Kyle prove that he isn’t a postseason choke artist, or at the very least, it would show improvement in his Chase performance.

    Kyle needs to race to finish the season strong and learn from the mistakes he’s made this year.

3. Racing for a Miracle

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    Kevin Harvick is racing for a miracle when he heads to Homestead.

    He sits 34 points out of first place heading into NASCAR’s last race of the season, and even though he is a long shot, he still has a chance to win the championship.

    But he’s going to need a miracle to pull it off.

    Both Johnson and Kenseth will need to basically be knocked out of the race on Sunday for Harvick to walk away with the title.

    The big question for Harvick remains this: If he has a shot at winning the championship, does he want to win it for Richard Childress Racing?

    Of course any driver wants to win a championship, but Harvick has had issues with the organization this season, and is leaving next year for Stewart-Haas Racing.

    Harvick will be hoping for a miracle at Homestead if he wants to win the title for himself, but if he doesn’t win it, at least he won’t be bringing a championship to an organization that he’s clearly grown apart from.

2. The First of His Kind

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    Matt Kenseth is heading to Homestead down 28 points after a poor performance at Phoenix.

    And even though his focus is on winning the race, bigger issues are at stake for the 20 team.

    For one, Kenseth could bring Toyota its first championship and help legitimize the car maker in the sport of NASCAR. It would be a huge accomplishment, something Kenseth is capable of doing at this point.

    Matt Kenseth winning at Homestead also would put a good finish on his 2013 season. He was solid for most of the Chase, and besides his troubles at Phoenix, Kenseth and the 20 have clearly been a championship team.

    It’s going to be tough for him to win the championship at Homestead, but winning the race itself gives the 20 team momentum to come back next season even stronger.

    And if Johnson stumbles during the last race of the year, Kenseth has a chance to be the first driver to win a championship for Toyota.

1. Becoming a Legend

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    Jimmie Johnson is going into Homestead to try to win his sixth title.

    He’s also trying to inch closer to NASCAR’s legends.

    Both Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt have seven titles to their names, and if Johnson can pull off his sixth, he’s only one away from matching the two legendary drivers.

    Johnson can be hit-or-miss with NASCAR fans, but if he manages to win another title, it will hard for people to deny how great of a driver he is.

    And while Johnson is set up to win the title heading into Miami—he has a 28-point lead over second-place Matt Kenseth—Homestead is much more than just winning the championship for Johnson.

    It’s about becoming a legend.