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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Look for Hamlin to take Cup title in a squeaker

The Gods are smiling on NASCAR this year … Not only do they have the tightest battle for the championship going into Homestead since the Chase began, but the weekend has played out in perfect fashion.

Denny Hamlin is one of the fastest cars in Happy Hour, and will be fast on Sunday, but will start 37th. Meanwhile, Jimmie Johnson is starting up in the top 5, and will be up front early. What this does is essentially take away Hamlin’s points lead before the race even begins. He’ll have to earn back the points lead, and you can bet he’ll be furiously driving up through the field during the first part of the race.

Barring any unforeseen trouble, look for him to get there by mid-race and have a spirited battle with Johnson and Kevin Harvick for the title.
Someone said a while back that the title could come down to one lap, or one pit stop, and at the time I mostly ignored it.

Turns out that might actually happen, and it’s probably going to be a finale that ranks among the best in NASCAR history.

Rumor has gotten out that next year, NASCAR may make changes to the Chase that ensures this scenario repeats itself … resetting the points with three races to go, so the likelihood of several people being in the hunt at Homestead is very high.

Some would say that is just more manipulation of the points system by NASCAR, but after this year fans will not want to see any more runaway champions. Call it fake if you want, but every other sport sets up a battle at the end between the best teams, and NASCAR is just now getting on board with that strategy.

But next year is next year, and now is now. As we enjoy the last race of the year, kick back and watch the drama unfold on Sunday. No matter who you’re backing, it’s going to be a lot of fun. (For the record, I say Hamlin wins by a hair).

Busch on a roll at Homestead
Kyle Busch has won two races already this weekend, and helped clinch owners points titles for his Kyle Busch Motorsports in Trucks and Joe Gibbs Racing in Nationwide.

Not too shabby. These stats are great, and it’s amazing to watch him put together the amount of wins he has in such a short period of time. He’ll go for another win Sunday in an attempt to do the triple sweep for the second time this year.

Eventually though, he’s going to have to cut back on all this lower series action, and focus on his Cup efforts. In the long-term, people will remember Cup winners and Cup champions, not Cup drivers who dip down to the lower series to rack up wins.

Evernham back to Hendrick?
Ray Evernham made his name at Hendrick Motorsports and it’s possible he might end up helping the organization out again. Finally, after much legal wrangling, he is free from Richard Petty Motorsports, which evolved out of his Evernham Motorsports.

This means Evernham could go work with another team, and the theory is that he’ll go back as a consultant with the team he led to several titles with Jeff Gordon.
He said he will entertain offers of being a consultant, saying he does not want to return full-time.

"Ray Evernham, for the first time coming into the final race of a NASCAR season, does not have a complete direction for next year,'' Evernham said Saturday, doing his best Bob Dole impression and speaking of himself in the third person. “I am free and clear according to my people now. Basically, every contract I've had has been breached in every shape or form.''

The interesting rumor is he’ll go to Hendrick as a consultant and try to help turn around the fortunes of Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose results in Hendrick equipment have been lackluster, to be kind. That would be a wise move by Hendrick, as Evernham knows how to get the best out of his driver, and might have a shot of getting Jr. back in form. (I just remembered this week that in 2004, he was mathematically alive for the title at Homestead … how times have changed).

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