Fire up the scanners, it is time for Crew Chatter with Speedway Digest writers. This week we tackle Homestead-Miami with the question, “Now that the Championship 4 is set for all series, who has the best shot to become a champion in 2016?”
This weekend will certainly be awesome. Why? Because we not only see a Chase format on Sunday, but also on Friday and Saturday. The Chase this year has certainly been one of the most competitive and Sunday will really show that.
With Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, Jimmy Johnson and Kyle Busch in the Sprint Cup Series, I'm sticking with my pick at the beginning of the Chase and going with Joey Logano. Logano came into the season as one of the drivers to watch.
In the XFINITY Series, where you have Elliott Sadler, Daniel Suarez, Justin Allgaier and Erik Jones, I'm going with veteran racer Elliott Sadler. That team has certainly been running better lately even though they will not have Kevin Meendering on the pit box this weekend
In the Camping World Truck Series, where you have Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton, Christopher Bell and Timothy Peters, this one is a little more difficult to choose from. I feel that it will be a battle all night long between Sauter and Crafton. So with that said, I think I'll go with Johnny Sauter.
This one is going to come right down to the last lap and we may or may not even see one of the top four Chase contenders cross the checkered flag first.
I think Carl Edwards has the best shot. He won at Texas with the same tire they'll be racing with at Homestead. He's also a previous two-time winner on the south Florida Speedway. After losing out to Tony Stewart in 2011, he may be primed to be the champion this year.
Kyle Busch almost didn't get the chance to defend but when Matt Kenseth ran into trouble in Phoenix, it opened the door. Watching the points-as-they-run, it looked like Busch was too far down to have a shot, but when Kenseth suffered that disaster, it changed things didn't it. Kyle Busch had never won Homestead before a year ago when he had to do so in order to secure his title. To repeat, he may have to do the same or finish high.
Joey Logano got in by the skin of his teeth. If Kenseth would have won Phoenix, it would have been a different story for the No. 22 team. I think all they need to do is not make any pit-road mistakes. Logano is good on 1.5-milers, which is what Homestead is so he has a shot. I'm just thinking he needs a little luck on his side.
Jimmie Johnson is a six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion. Here's the kicker. He won all those titles under the old Chase format where you only had to finish a certain way and you're the winner. He has never won Homestead although he too is good on mile-and-a-half tracks. This is his first time in contention under this fairly new format. It will be interesting to witness how this team handles it.
I think they all have a shot but it is not going to be a cake walk.
I think you have to rely on past history as well as "what have you done for me lately" when going about answering this question. History says Jimmie Johnson will win. His six championships (five consecutive) have been unparalleled in this generation of stock car racing, and seeing him win a seventh would be so cool to see.
"What have you done for me lately" would go to Kyle Busch. He won this race and the championship (his first) last season and obviously knows what it takes to win a title in this type of scenario.
The hot hand is Joey Logano. Coming off his win at Phoenix, he proclaimed that his No. 22 team would win the championship. It's a very real possibility, especially considering he was perhaps a fully jack away from winning it all in 2014.
And then there's Carl Edwards. He has the best stats out of the four drivers at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and is hungrier than anybody. After having the title ripped way from him in 2011 after tying Tony Stewart, he's back for more.
Who am I picking? I think it'd be hard to go against JJ. But I know one thing is for sure: the fans win this weekend. They're going to see a great show in the NSCS as well as NXS and NCWTS.
In the NCWTS, I believe Johnny Sauter will become the 2016 champion. Suater has peaked at the right time when it comes to the season.
The Xfinity Series will be a little harder. I believe the race for the championship will come down between Elliott Sadler and Daniel Suarez. Sadler will have a challenge because his crew chief was suspended after Phoenix for not having two lug nuts properly secured. Suarez will be interesting to watch to see if he becomes the first international driver to win a championship in the top-three series.
For the Sprint Cup Series, all four have a great shot at winning the championship. Logano and Edwards are coming into Homestead “hot as rocks” due to their recent victories. Johnson and Edwards have experience to back up their drive for a championship. I believe the Ford EcoBoost 400 will come down to the last lap between these drivers. Who knows, we may even see a bump and run determine the championship.