I thought I had this whole Chase for the Sprint Cup grid thing down. After all, my prediction grid looked perfect after the first (Challenger) round, and I was only one off after the second (Contender) round. But, I have to admit, the third (Eliminator) round, royally screwed up my grid, so much so that Kevin Harvick is the only driver of the four I predicted to make it to the final four, a.k.a. Championship round.
I admit, I had Gordon winning this thing, but despite a second-place finish, he was bumped from advancing to the final four by Ryan Newman, specifically by Newman’s contact with Kyle Larson on the last lap last week at Phoenix International.
And before you get all your panties in a bunch and accuse me of changing my spots after defending Newman earlier in the week. What I said above isn’t meant to be critical of Newman, even if his move on Larson last weekend further screwed up my Chase grid.
I’m regrouping now, and if I’m expected to pick a champion from the four who actually did make it through the Chase to Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, I’m going with Kevin Harvick.
Unlike some of the picks I made when originally filling out my grid prior to the onset of the Chase, this pick isn’t one just made at radon. There is at least some reason behind it.
To win the 2014 Sprint Cup, the soon-to-be champ needs only to finish highest among the four contenders — Harvick, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman. Sounds pretty simple when put that way, doesn’t? I’ve never driven a race car at any level, let alone win a racing championship, but there is at least one thing I’m sure of. Winning this championship isn’t going to be easy. Of course, now that I’ve said that, of the four could put on such a dominating performance that he “stinks up the show,” so to speak, but I digress.
Anyway, back to the reasoning for my Harvick pick.
The guys has momentum on his side. He won last week at Phoenix. Harvick’s never won at Homestead-Miami, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t performed well there. He has five top-fives at Homestead and 11 top-10s in 13-career starts. Do the math; he’s only finished outside the top-10 twice at Homestead.
Hamlin is the only one of the bunch with a Homestead. As a matter-of-fact, he’s won there twice, including the season-finale a year ago. But Hamlin only has one win this season, and that came way back in the sprint at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeeedway. You know, one of those wild card races that anybody could win. Not to discredit a Talladega victory, but it is what it is. Besides, that was a long time ago.
But Hamlin’s most recent win did come more recent that Newman’s most recent trip to victory lane. Long story short, Newman hasn’t won anywhere at anytime this year. There is something to be said for putting together consistent performances to remain alive in this new Chase format that gives more weight to race wins than ever before.
But even under previous championship-determining formats, Chase and non-Chase, the eventual champion always had at least one win. Why buck that trend now? Of course, the revers could be said. Why not? But, again, I digress.
That brings me to Logano. Like Harvick, he’s been somewhat of a regular in victory lane, but this is still all new territory for him. Heck, before this year, he’d never even won more than one Sprint Cup race in a season before. And he’s definitely never been this close to winning the Sprint Cup. But then again, this hasn’t been like Logano seasons of past.
That being said, I see this season end for him like seasons of old — without the Sprint Cup champion’s trophy. Just take a look at his Homestead stats. He has finished in the top-10, once. Even with that top-10 thrown in, his averate HMS finish is a dismal 20.8. But as I said, this isn’t a typical Logano season if we’re comparing 2014 to seasons past.
Still, I’m picking Harvick and, no, not because he seems to be the popular pick among other pickers. I really thought long and hard about this one, not to the point of a pounding headache, but I thought enough about it.
Besides, there’s that saying that kept popping into my headache throughout my thought process, the one that goes, “To win a championship, you must first lose a championship,” or something like that. Among these four, I think only Harvick and Hamlin fit that criteria.
Yep, I’m sticking with Harvick on this one.
Who do you think will be hoisting the Sprint Cup after Homestead on Sunday? Voice your opinion in the online poll here.