Give Johnson the Cup
Franklin County Times
Well, this is it.
After this afternoon's race, the countdown to the Daytona 500 and the 2008 season is on.
Jimmie Johnson has got this one all but sewn up, extending his point lead to 83 points last week after his fourth straight win.
He needs only to finish 18th or better today to clinch his second consecutive Nextel Cup title over second place Jeff Gordon. Johnson's only finished 19th or worse nine times this season, so it's not too likely he'll bottom out today.
The other battle in today's race is for tenth position, or the last invitation to the Champions Week celebrations in New York City. That's arguably more interesting than what's unfolded at the top of the standings.
Kurt Busch holds the 10th spot going into the season finale. Martin Truex Jr. is 11th – 47 points behind. Denny Hamlin is 12th, 83 points off the pace. Carl Edwards is only 11 points ahead of Busch in ninth place and if he has engine problems this week like he did last week, he's a sitting duck, too.
The third battle is for the top 35 in owner points. The No. 22 Toyota of Bill Davis Racing currently holds the final coveted position, which guarantees the team a starting spot in the first five races in 2008.
Driver Dave Blaney needs to finish 34th or better Sunday to secure a 2008 five-race guarantee, and I think that's a lock.
The 2007 Nextel Cup season ends in Homestead Miami and this is usually the part of the column where we try to predict a winner.
For the last four weeks, Jimmie Johnson has given no one any reason to predict anyone other than himself to win anything. The winner of four straight has been dominant in some races. In others, his crew has put him in a position to win.
I think that will be the case this week. The crew will put him in a position to win. Win the title, not the race.
Only needing to finish 18th or better, it would be foolish to press too hard for a win only to be knocked out by getting caught up in a wreck created by a few cars trying to close their season on a high note.
Remember, there are a handful of drivers who will be out of work after today. They're auditioning for rides next season, and who cares if they wreck them?
Drivers usually call it "riding around," but I if were Jimmie Johnson, I would want to be the lowest profile car on the track. The best way to do that is to climb into the Top 15 and ride around until the checkered flag waves.
The guy I'm picking to win this race has a Jimmie Johnson-like streak going, but he just can't put them together in the same season.
Greg Biffle has won the last three season finales in Miami and I think, if nothing else, Jimmie Johnson has shown us that there's no need to bet against a streak until the driver gives you a reason.
I think Biffle wins this race and closes out a disappointing 2007 season with his fourth straight Homestead win.
Jason Cannon is the publisher for The Franklin County Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (256) 332-1881.