By Jared Turner
It’s all come down to this.
For just the second time in NASCAR history, a winner-take-all finale will decide the season champion for the Sprint Cup Series.
As the four lone survivors from the original 16 Chase drivers, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. will do battle for all the marbles on Sunday afternoon at Homestead-Miami Speedway in South Florida.
With the Chase standings now reset, no bonus points available at Homestead, and all four finalists entering the race with equal points, the first driver to cross the finish line will be the 2015 champion. It’s that simple.
“What can I say about the whole team and everybody at Furniture Row Racing and everybody back at the shop in Denver?” said Truex, the biggest surprise among the four contenders. “It’s just a dream come true for us. I’m just really proud of what we’ve accomplished this year. Cole Pearn (crew chief) and everybody there just really proud of them, and really excited to have this.
“I’m excited about next week and the opportunity to do something special. This is the kind of thing that you dream about since you were a little kid. Having a shot to win a Sprint Cup Series championship is just awesome, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
While Truex – who competes for a single-car organization – is the most unheralded member of the Championship 4, Harvick comes to Homestead as the heavyweight.
Last year’s champion, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver has been stellar throughout 2015 and has displayed a knack for rising to the occasion in high-stakes situations like the one forthcoming this weekend in South Florida.
“I feel like we’ve overcome a lot of things throughout the Chase. We’ve survived and advanced,” Harvick said. “It hasn’t been 100 percent pretty from one end to the other, but I think as you look at the Chase, it’s been championship material and that’s proven by making it to the championship race. I’m just really proud of everybody, and we’re going to go down there and just do like we’ve done and race as hard as we can.”
Gordon, of course, is the sentimental favorite since Sunday will mark the final race of his legendary Cup career that began in the final race of 1992.
“I’m excited about our chances and our opportunity,” said Gordon, a four-time champ whose last title came in 2001. “Our team is fired up and working hard on that Homestead car ever since we won Martinsville; and we know we’ve got some tough competitors to go up against, but I love Homestead. I love that racetrack. I think we showed that last year. I can’t wait to get down there and get that car on track and start tuning it in for the race.”
As for Busch, his story is also compelling. No one expected the Joe Gibbs Racing driver be in this position earlier in the year when he missed 11 points races while recovering from injuries suffered at Daytona in February.
Kevin Harvick won last year’s championship with a win at Homestead. He’s plenty capable of doing it again.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. comes into Homestead on the strength of four consecutive finishes of sixth or better.
Title contender Jeff Gordon won at Homestead in 2012 and was extremely fast here last year before falling behind on pit strategy.
Joey Logano has never won at Homestead, but it’s Ford Championship Weekend, and he’s going to be extremely motivated.
Kyle Busch likewise has yet to conquer Homestead, but as one of four championship finalists, he can’t be overlooked.