FYI WIRZ: NASCAR's Chase Finale Has Two Contenders and Maybe One Super Human

Dwight DrumCorrespondent IIINovember 13, 2013

Jimmie Johnson looking up before introductions at Homestead-Miami last year.  Credit: Dwight Drum
Jimmie Johnson looking up before introductions at Homestead-Miami last year. Credit: Dwight DrumDwight Drum

Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team with crew chief Chad Knaus may seem like they have super human qualities, but we all know they are just people—but great people, no doubt.

Those talented people take their No. 48 Chevrolet hauler full of super machines to Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend for the Ford EcoBoost 400 during the Ford Championship Weekend in Homestead, Fla.

They are seeking a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in the HMS finale after nine races of NASCAR's playoffs, the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Their team sits at the top of the point heap with a 28-point buffer. That's no guarantee, as a total of 48 points remain to be grasped potentially by some winner. But given their performance history, it's a substantial hurdle for Matt Kenseth and team.

It's an even taller leap for Kevin Harvick from 34 points back, but it's impossible for any other driver and team that qualified for the Chase, because those 10 cars have been eliminated mathematically. 

Johnson and team are riding a big wave of momentum and perfection. Johnson and Chad Knaus aren't taking anything for granted. That's bad news for Kenseth and Harvick.

Johnson was optimistic.

“I would love to win the race and the championship, but we’ll just have to see how things develop in the race and where we are relative to the 20,” Johnson said. “The big prize at the end of the day is what we’re focused on; it’s not so much that individual win.”

Kenseth is ready for one more race.

"You can change your line and the balance of your car a lot," Kenseth said. "I like everything about Homestead. We'll give it all we've got. No matter what happens, it has been an incredible year and magical no matter what the outcome is after Sunday."

Harvick is moving on next year to Stewart-Haas Racing, but he wants to end the year and his many years at RCR on a high note.

"Homestead has been a great racetrack for us, flat or banked," Harvick said. "It would be nice to close out my career at Richard Childress Racing with a win and go out on the right note. RCR is where I got my start. It's been a great career so far."

Kyle Busch is out of range of the coveted Sprint Cup crown, but he looks to do well.

"The pace that those guys up front have kept up has been really tough," Busch said. "All we can do is go out there Sunday, try and win the race, and let the points fall where they may and hope we can gain a spot or two once the checkered drops."

Jeff Gordon almost got the top this year, and that bodes well for Homestead-Miami and 2014. Gordon doesn't seek just consistency, he wants wins.

Gordon explained.

"All wins are special," Gordon said. "A win going into the off-season? Even better because you are the most recent race winner for a few months. The test here went well, so I really believe we can have a strong performance and battle for the victory."

Crew Chief Knaus for the No. 48 team shared some of his champion strategy.

"Honestly it's about details," Knaus said. "There's so many things that you cannot control in motorsports or in any other sport. You've got to make sure that the things within your control; you're on top of and are prepared for to the best of your ability." 

Big prize, magical year, great career, special win, tough pace, details and preparation—it's all about what these great competitors say and share with media for fans.

Green and checkered flags may be dormant for a few months after HMS, but the winds of next season are waiting.

Fast flutter will return.

Matt Kenseth smiles before his great 2013 season.  Credit: Dwight Drum
Matt Kenseth smiles before his great 2013 season. Credit: Dwight DrumDwight Drum

FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.