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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Live Race Blog: Ford 400 from Homestead

One of these three men will hoist the Sprint Cup Championship trophy.
One of these three men will hoist the Sprint Cup Championship trophy.Nick Laham/Getty Images
Dustin ParksAnalyst INovember 21, 2010

The anticipation for this weekend's events began once the checkered flag fell at Phoenix.

What began as an opportunity to seal the championship has become a sprint to the finish.

Three drivers enter the Homestead-Miami Speedway with a chance to win the 2010 Sprint Cup championship.

In the lead is Denny Hamlin, the driver who said after his win last year in this very race, "This team will win a championship in the next couple years."

Hamlin didn't wait long to put himself in that position as he enters today's race in the points lead.

However, he entered with the slimmest point lead ever in the Chase. After his fuel strategy last week went awry, Hamlin holds just a 15-point advantage on the competition.

It is a very vulnerable position for Hamlin to be in because there's only two ways he can guarantee a championship outright. Hamlin must either win the race or lead the most laps and finish second.

With as hard as the competition has been in recent weeks, it is going to be a tough assignment to pull off. Especially considering the guys he's trying to hold off.

Sitting in second is the driver looking to write another chapter is his own record books. Jimmie Johnson finds himself, for the first time since 2006, entering Homestead without the points lead.

In the years past, Johnson never had to "race" Homestead because the championship was pretty well locked up. However, this year it is not the case.

Johnson and team start near the front today. But the question is can he and the No. 48 crew pull off an unprecedented fifth consecutive title.

And then there's Kevin Harvick, who is 44 points back and in possibly the best position of all three contenders. Harvick only needs to worry about himself, and let the cards fall as they may.

He's finally embracing the legacy of Earnhardt by his own admission, and is buying into the hype that he is now accepted by those fans. A small No. 3 is still on the sides of his Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet, and is a constant reminder of who's car he took over.

All that Harvick needs to do is focus on him, and it could mean he has the best position of them all.

Will it get him a title? There's a strong possibility.

Even with all the hype of the championship, there is still a race to be run. Who is going to win the Ford 400?

Could it be one of the Roush-Fenway Fords that has come on strong all year? Or could it be someone that is unexpected to take a checkered flag?

It will all be decided this afternoon. Someone is taking the final checkered flag of the season.

But more importantly, someone will be holding the Sprint Cup trophy as the 2010 champion.

Coverage begins at Noon ET on ESPN2 with NASCAR Countdown. Race coverage moves over to ESPN at 1 p.m., with the green flag slated to wave around 1:15.

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