Championship Race: Ford EcoBoost 400
Here’s a look at what to expect:
Today: An in-depth look at the top two seeds in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship 4 – Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson
Tuesday: An in-depth look at the third and fourth seeds in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship 4 – Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch
Wednesday: NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series notes; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship race notes at Homestead-Miami Speedway
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Championship Race: Ford EcoBoost 400
The Place: Homestead-Miami Speedway
The Date: Sunday, Nov. 20
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps)
#1 Seed: JOEY LOGANO – Championship 4 Bio
BY THE NUMBERS
1 – Number of top fives Joey Logano has posted at Homestead-Miami Speedway (fourth place, 2015).
2 – Number of times Joey Logano has made it to the Championship 4 in the new Chase format (ties with Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch for the most among the Championship 4) – Logano finished fourth in the 2014 Chase standings after finishing 16th in the race.
3 – Number of wins Joey Logano has posted during the 2016 season; including two during the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup (Michigan International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Phoenix International Raceway).
4 – Joey Logano’s career-best finishing position at Homestead-Miami Speedway (2015).
5 – Number of top-five finishes Joey Logano has posted during the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
7 – Number of top-10 finishes Joey Logano has posted during the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
7.9 – Logano’s average finish during the first nine races of the 2016 Chase
10.7 – Logano’s average finish during the 2016 season.
15 – Number of top-five finishes Joey Logano has posted this season.
17.7 – Logano’s career average finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway (third-best among the Championship 4)
25 – Number of top-10 finishes Joey Logano has posted this season.
72 – Total number of laps led at Homestead-Miami Speedway by Joey Logano.
83.5 – Joey Logano’s career driver rating at Homestead-Miami Speedway (fourth-best among the Championship 4).
107.1 – Joey Logano’s driver rating during the first nine races of the 2016 Chase.
Clutch Logano Lands Spot In Championship 4 With Phoenix Victory
In sports, greats elevate their game under intense playoff pressure. It’s hard to wear the crown if you wilt under the intense spotlight.
So, Joey Logano’s race in Phoenix should be considered one of the all-time great performances (and, yes, that might be a bit of a stretch … but hear us out).
It all started well before driving his No. 22 into Phoenix’s Victory Lane on Sunday.
It started after Texas, when one look at the standings and subsequent clinch scenarios showed that only a victory guaranteed entry into the Championship 4. Logano, officially, sat inside the cut-off line, but by only one point. The pressure was immediately on.
In continued in the closing laps, prior to the last caution that flew because Matt Kenseth’s car – and championship hopes – smashed into the wall.
Prior to that caution, Logano fought off Kevin Harvick, the king of Phoenix, lap after lap. That position was vital to Logano’s championship hopes. As they ran, had Harvick passed Logano, the driver of the No. 22 would not have made the Championship 4.
And finally, Logano shrugged off pressure a third time on the final restart at lap 323 at Phoenix, holding the lead and locking in the third spot in the Championship 4.
Logano Looking To Sing A Redemption Song
Above anyone, Joey Logano has experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows of this Chase format, which is now in Year 3.
In 2014, Logano made the Championship 4, only to have his title hopes dashed by a lengthy pit stop that helped lead to a 16th-place finish.
Last season, he swept the Round of 12, but the Martinsville wreck with Matt Kenseth proved the end of his title aspirations. Logano had a series-leading six wins last season.
Now, he’s back for redemption.
His Homestead numbers are solid, but not otherworldly. In seven starts, he has one top five (a fourth, last year) and two top 10s. He led 72 laps in last year’s season finale at Homestead.
Youth To Be Served?
At 26 years old (on Sunday, he’ll be 26 years, 5 months and 27 days, to be exact), Joey Logano wouldn’t rank as the youngest champion in series history, but he’d be the youngest in quite a while.
If Logano wins the championship, he’d be the youngest since Kurt Busch in 2004 (26 years, 3 months and 17 days). He also would join Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch as just the third under-30 champion since the turn of the century.
Anniversary Could Be Truly Golden For Penske
Team Penske owner Roger Penske began 2016 with a grand celebration honoring his 50th anniversary in racing. Now, he looks to end it with a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
It would be the culmination of an outstanding year for one of NASCAR’s legendary owners.
His drivers Brad Keselowski (four wins) and Joey Logano (three wins) combined for seven wins and two berths in the Chase for NASCAR Sprint Cup. Keselowski was eliminated from the Chase following the Round of 12.
On the IndyCar side, Penske captured the championship with Simon Pagenaud, who – coincidentally – also drives the No. 22.
If Logano can capture the title on Sunday, it would be Penske’s second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. The first came in 2012 with Brad Keselowski and the No. 2.
Gordon A Steady Hand Atop The Box
Driver-crew chief chemistry is a key ingredient to a championship season. And few have a better relationship than the steady Todd Gordon and the ultra-talented Joey Logano.
Though 21 years separate the two, the Gordon-Logano pairing have been a dream combo. The success is evident by taking one look at the stat sheet: 15 wins, 97 top 10s and four top 10 championship finishes.
More proof of Gordon’s success as a leader: Just three months after the heart-wrenching loss in the 2014 Championship Race due in part to a slow pit stop, the 22 team rebounded for their first Daytona 500 victory.
#2 Seed: JIMMIE JOHNSON – Championship 4 Bio
BY THE NUMBERS
1 – Number of times Jimmie Johnson has made it to the Championship 4 in the new Chase format.
2 – Number of runner-up finishes Jimmie Johnson has posted at Homestead-Miami Speedway; it also is the career best-finish Johnson has posted at HMS (2004 and 2010).
3 – Number of top-five finishes Johnson has posted during the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
4 – Number of wins Jimmie Johnson has posted during the 2016 season; including two during the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup (Atlanta Motor Speedway, Auto Club Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway).
5 – Number of top-10 finishes Jimmie Johnson has posted during the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
6 – Number of previous NASCAR Sprint Cup titles Jimmie Johnson has won (2006-2010, 2013).
10 – Number of top-five finishes Jimmie Johnson has posted this season.
11.7 – Johnson’s average finish during the first nine races of the 2016 Chase.
14.1 – Johnson’s career average finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway (second-best among the Championship 4)
14.3 – Johnson’s average finish during the 2016 season.
15 – Number of top-10 finishes Jimmie Johnson has posted this season.
96.8 – Jimmie Johnson’s career driver rating at Homestead-Miami Speedway (second-best among the Championship 4).
99 – Total number of laps led at Homestead-Miami Speedway by Jimmie Johnson.
107.2 – Jimmie Johnson’s driver rating during the first nine races of the 2016 Chase.
#Se7en On The Horizon
As the sun sets at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, Jimmie Johnson hopes to hoist the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship trophy a record seventh time to tie NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty. Johnson notched five consecutive titles from 2006-10 and his most recent in 2013.
If Johnson were to win the title this weekend in Miami, 10 seasons after his first championship, it would be the shortest period of time between first and seventh titles out of the three. Petty was crowned champion for the final time in 1979, 15 seasons after his first title (1964); Earnhardt captured his seventh championship in 1994, 14 seasons after his first (1980).
The number seven also marks Johnson’s spot on the all-time Sprint Cup Series wins list; his 79th career victory came at Martinsville this fall and vaulted him into the Championship 4.
Hoping On Homestead
In the first two years of the current Chase format, the champion was crowned after winning the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway – one of the rare tracks where Jimmie Johnson has yet to win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Of active tracks on the Sprint Cup Series schedule, only Chicago, Homestead-Miami, Kentucky and Watkins Glen have yet to host Johnson in Victory Lane.
But that’s not to say it can’t be done, and prior to this Chase format, Johnson never needed a win to guaranteed a title. Johnson has posted 10 top-10 finishes in 15 races at Homestead-Miami, including four top-fives. He has captured a pair of Coors Light Pole Awards at the 1.5-mile oval and two runner-up finishes (2004, 2010), as well.
Additionally, his career record at similar-length tracks is record-breaking. He has a record 26 wins across five other 1.5-mile tracks (Atlanta, Charlotte, Kansas, Las Vegas, Texas) and has 70 top-5 and 106 top-10 finishes at all active mile and a half circuits.
Not Quite Cloud Nine
To win a seventh championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Jimmie Johnson is probably going to have to break a string of three consecutive ninth-place finishes at the track, going back to his last championship in 2013.
Although he was out of the hunt for the championship in 2014 and 2015 after being eliminated in the Round of 12 and Round of 16, respectively, his performances in those races would have fallen short of the title. In both 2014 and 2015, three of the four Championship 4 drivers finished ahead of him and the champion had to win the race both times.
Crew Chief Chasing History
It’s not just the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet who is chasing history at Homestead-Miami this weekend, crew chief Chad Knaus is looking to inch closer to the championship total of NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Inman, who won eight.
Inman captained the teams who won seven championships with “The King” Richard Petty and then followed that up by winning a title with Terry Labonte in 1984. He also tallied a record 193 wins as a crew chief.
Knaus paired up with Johnson beginning with the 2002 season, when the duo won three races. He has been with Jimmie Johnson for all six of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships and has recorded 77 wins as crew chief, to date.
Adding To His NASCAR Hall Of Fame Resume
Rick Hendrick already has a prime seat reserved for the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony next January, as he will be one of five new members enshrined in the Class of 2017. But he is hoping to sit at the head table once again during the season-ending awards banquet in Las Vegas.
Hendrick looks to add to his tally of 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car owner championship titles, which already ranks as most all-time. All six of Jimmie Johnson’s titles have come under the Hendrick Motorsports banner, as did Jeff Gordon’s four and one from fellow Hall of Famer Terry Labonte. (Just for good measure, Hendrick also holds a trio of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owner championships and one driver title in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.)
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