It has come down to one race, one final opportunity, and one last checkered flag to decide a champion.
This Sunday is the final race of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
It's been a year that has seen the good and bad of some drivers, both on and off the track. There have been intentional wrecks, face-to-face confrontations and emotional celebrations. Tears of joy have been shed, while angry attitudes have sometimes been the talk of the garage.
After 35 races, it boils down to 400 more miles to crown a champion.
NASCAR is seeing the tightest Chase for the Cup since it's inception back in 2004. There are three contenders that could come out of the Homestead-Miami Speedway as the champion.
Sitting at the top is Denny Hamlin, a driver who has the most wins on the season, but finds himself in a very precarious position. Last week, Hamlin had the opportunity to extend his lead on his competition, but his fuel cell had other plans. After leading the most laps, Hamlin wound up 12th.
What was a 33-point lead is now 15, and it leaves Hamlin with only one way to guarantee a title. Simply put, he needs to win. Leading the most laps won't mean anything unless he wins.
His closest competition is the No. 48, driven by the four-time defending champion, Jimmie Johnson. With the Lowe's team now the chaser, it's a new position for them, but one that Johnson seems to like. It means that if he wins the title, he earned it outright, and didn't have to cruise to a finish in the season finale.
Finally, there's Kevin Harvick.
While the focus is on the No. 11 and No. 48, here's the No. 29 team that simply needs to run their own race. Johnson and Hamlin are worried about each other, and that means Harvick could pounce and take the title away from both of them.
It's the most anticipated season finale in the Chase since it's inception in 2004. Who will win the title is anyone's guess, but our creatures are more focused on who will win the race.
Because it is the final race of the season, all our creatures get special recognition this week. Each gets their own slide, and we will work in reverse order, from the writer currently last up to the points leader.
Now, without any more hesitation, here are the writers' picks for victory in Sunday's Ford 400.
No pick sent at posting time.
Sure, why not? He won at Phoenix and I think he'll be strong at Miami, too.
Why? Why not, I say!
For the first 26 races I had a great fantasy season. Then came the Chase and my stats dropped faster than a lead zeppelin. Much like Bowyer, I feel a little bit robbed. Que Sera Sera, I suppose, all's fair when it comes to the Chase.
I know that I won't be crowned the Bleacher Report Creature champ, but it sure has been fun and I'm going down a fighter!
There's always next year!
Although Greg is a few years away from the total dominance he once had at Homestead, his numbers there are still impressive.
Three wins in eight starts would make anybody happy at this track. Plus, with Roush showing real strength in recent weeks, we should have an exciting race for the Cup as Biffle shoots for his third win of 2010.
Ok, so I was tempted to adopt the end of term approach and pick someone who doesn't stand a snowball's chance in the hot place, someone like, say. . . Dale Jr.
But I'll instead go for Busch, who again has lost a chance at a championship thanks to the Chase.
Last race of the season and there's a tight title battle going on between the 11, 48 and 29. But Mark Martin does not want to go win-less.
Martin has four top fives and five top 10's at Homestead and only 30 laps led. But with an average finish of 12th, Martin has shown to be solid there.
Martin might be a title contender again in 2011 and a win in the season's last race will make the offseason easier.
With four top fives in nine starts, he has the best average finish of the title contenders at the track at 8.4. He finished second and third the past two years at Homestead, so he knows what he’s doing.
And I’m going to put my faith in karma that the driver who dominated the regular season, who should have a 200-plus points lead and his first Cup championship right now, will find a way to get it done. Maybe with a little luck this weekend.
Game on gentlemen (and lady). It should be a fun show.
Boy, this is a hard one to decide because I was going to choose Joey Logano. Watch, he'll probably score a top five.
However, I have to go with a previous winner, someone who's won at Homestead-Miami before. So, who better than Carl Edwards as a race day pick?
If he doesn't wins this race, I guess I'll have 99 problems and Carl Edwards will be one of them.
I could easily go with Carl Edwards and assure myself of a win in the Creature pool. But, because the Chase itself is so close, I figured why not gamble and make it interesting.
So, I looked to another Roush driver, Greg Biffle.
Sure, he only has three top-10 finishes here, but all those came between 2004 and 2006. The reason being, all of those were victories.
He, Edwards and Matt Kenseth have all been running well these last few races, and being that the race is sponsored by Ford, I had to choose one of their drivers.
So, here's hoping Biffle will bring me home a championship.
This weekend is the culmination of 36 weeks spread out over 10 months of competition. There could be a new champion crowned after 400 miles, or we could see the record books extended for one more chapter.
Every lap, every corner, every push of the accelerator will change the standings.
Who is going to go to victory lane, and who is going to hoist the Sprint Cup trophy? Both questions will be answered on ESPN following 267 laps at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Coverage will begin at Noon ET on ESPN2 with NASCAR Countdown, due to NFL Countdown lasting until 1 p.m.
Flag-to-flag coverage will switch to ESPN at 1 p.m. with Marty Reid, Andy Petree, and 1999 champion Dale Jarrett on commentary.