NASCAR Chase Final Four- Preview and Picks


Nov 14, 2014; Homestead, Miami, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick during practice for the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

It all comes down to this.

On Sunday evening NASCAR will crown a brand new Sprint Cup champion as the 2014 season reaches its conclusion at Homestead-Miami Speedway.  This year’s Chase format has produced nine weeks of exciting racing action, combined with the right amount of off-track activity that captured the attention of race fans and non-race fans alike.

Thirty five weeks of hard work and dedication will pay off for one of the four renaining Chase drivers, all of whom have yet to taste the glory of winning a championship in the Sprint Cup Series.  For the driver lucky enough to be standing atop the podium at the conclusion of the Ford EcoBoost 400, eternal greatness awaits, while the other three drivers will be left to wonder what he could have done differently to earn the right to be called a champion  Either way, expect this year’s finale to feature an abundance of excitement mixed with a little bit of theatrical drama.  And the good news is we only have to wait one more day to see how it will all unfold.

Until then, here’s a projection of how the final four may finish.

The odds on favorite:

Kevin Harvick

The closer once again found a way to rise to the occasion and claim a spot in the final four.

Harvick would dominate yet another Sprint cup race at Phoenix, a place he’s come to love in recent years. Now Harvick has a golden opportunity to finally check winning a Sprint Cup championship off his bucket list. Should Harvick capture the title of Sprint Cup champions Sunday afternoon, that would mark two championships for Stewart-Haas Racing in four years.


Harvick’s had the luxury of carrying the banner for an organization (Stewart-Haas Racing) plagued by adversity for most of the 2014 season. Here’s a chance for redemption. And what better way to close out a difficult season by winning a championship. Harvick’s certainly capable of winning a title; he’s come mighty close to doing so in the last five years, unfortunately to no avail.   A key component to changing his championship fortunes will rely heavily on going for the win, since he enters Sunday’s race fourth in points. Appropriately nicknamed the closer for his ability to deliver in the clutch, Harvick’s made a career out of frustrating the competition, even if he doesn’t always have the fastest car on the track.

Expect the closer to dig deeper than he’s ever done before, since he enters the weekend the odds on favorite to finally become a Sprint cup champion.

Don’t be at all surprised if Harvick wins the final race of the 2014 season; in the last six races at Homestead-Miami, Harvick has recorded three top five finishes and six top 10 finishes. He’s due.


What could come against the closer in his quest to win the Sprint Cup title is that he currently sits fourth in the driver standings. Harvick will not only have to drive his guts out he will also have to keep a close eye on the other three drivers with the same goal in mind.

The closer may also have to worry about the reliability of his equipment.  How many times have we seen Harvick dominate a race and lead the most laps only to come up on the short end of the stick when the dust settled.? Hopefully for Harvick’s sake, his equipment won’t fail him in the most crucial race of his 14 year Sprint Cup Series career.


Harvick rallies from falling to the back of the pack early in the race to once again live up to his name of “The Closer.” In the process, Harvick sheds the modern day Mark Martin reference and wins his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

His title to lose?

Joey Logano

The man known as sliced bread had a breakout season in 2014.

For his gallant efforts, Logano could be in line for the ultimate reward Sunday afternoon. Should Logano win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup title he would fulfill expectations that were set out for him since his rookie season back in 2008. At age 24 Logano seems tailor made to become a champion multiple times though the duration of his career.

Since his departure from Joe Gibbs Racing at the conclusion of the 2011 season, Logano’s been on the cusp of attaining superstar status. Joey’s 2014 season looks strikingly similar to his teammate Brad Keselowski’s epic championship run in 2012. There’s no doubt Logano has a lot to prove on Sunday afternoon.


Logano’s dream season has put him in prime position to claim a title at age 24, truly impressive indeed.

Remember, Jeff Gordon captured his first title at age 23, and look at what he went on to accomplish in his career. It wasn’t all that long ago comparisons were being made about the two drivers, and how they were alike at the same age.   Yes, Logano has a tremendous amount of talent, and it’s great to finally see him come into his own with Team Penske. Logano has two wins in this year’s chase equaling the total of his biggest chase rival Kevin Harvick. Logano’s done an outstanding job of coming up big in the clutch, much like the closer in 2014. He has the ability to take this title fight right down to the last lap at Homestead-Miami.


Inexperience could be Logano’s greatest downfall. Having never been in this position before and the simple fact he’s battling three drivers who had a chance to win a title in the past but failed could spell trouble for Joey. All three of his remaining Chase competitors have tasted the agony of defeat in tight championship battles, so there’s no question they will pull out all the stops to win out over the emerging superstar.

Harvick carries a ton of momentum heading into the season finale. Although Logano has two Chase victories, it’s hard ignore those victories came in the first half of the Chase, whereas Harvick’s two Chase victories came in the second half of the Chase.


There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Joey Logano will win a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship; it just won’t be this year.

Redemption 2.0

Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin’s rollercoaster 2014 season is a true testament to the Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s mental toughness. Coming off an injury riddled 2013 season, very few people expected Hamlin to rise back to relevance this quickly. I guess you can call this Hamlin’s comeback season. It’s been four years since he was this close to winning a championship, and considering the fact Hamlin was well out of the top 16 in points as late as July, it’s truly remarkable he has a fighting chance to win it all.


Hamlin’s been here before, narrowly losing the 2010 Chase to Jimmie Johnson. Hopefully Hamlin believes in the old idiom you have to lose one to win one.

At Hamlin’s disposal is championship winning crew chief Darian Grubb. Grubb sat atop the pit box for Tony Stewart’s historic championship run in 2011. Grubb is the only crew chief in the final four that has championship experience, and that is crucial for Hamlin if  the race comes down to late pit strategy for the win.

Another slight advantage Hamlin has over his three reaming Chase comrades is he owns two victories in the last five races at Homestead Miami.


Hamlin has only one victory in 2014 and that came in the spring race at Talladega.  Hamlin’s also had a rollercoaster Chase that’s featured only one top five finish. Not exactly numbers that constitutes a championship winning season. Crew chief Darian Grubb’s spent a better part of the season on the hot seat constantly subjected to rumors regarding his job security with Joe Gibbs Racing beyond this season. I’m not sure winning a championship would save Grubb’s job as Denny Hamlin’s crew chief. If history’s any indication, Grubb was released from his position at Stewart Haas Racing following a championship season in 2011; there are no sure deals in the racing business.


Hamlin struggles with his car for most of the race, but finds a way to finish inside the top 10. Unfortunately his bid to win a title comes up short for the second time in five years.

The winless Underdog

Ryan Newman

Ryan Newman’s first season with Richard Childress Racing can easily be considered a smashing success. Regardless of where he finishes on Sunday, Newman is set to record his career best finish in the point standings, and team owner Richard Childress is in position to claim his first Sprint Cup Series championships in twenty years.

Not too bad for a driver that most had written off after his disappointing exit from Stewart Haas Racing in the off season. Newman’s surprisingly successful first year with RCR is vital to the team’s long term future after mainstay Kevin Harvick spurned RCR for SHR.

Fans and critics alike have expressed their overwhelming dismay throughout the Chase in regard to Ryan Newman having a chance to win a title without recording a victory. Hey, he’s run consistently all season long to get here. Newman deserves a chance to win it all peeps; deal with it


Ryan Newman has worked his tail off to compete with some of the sport’s biggest names over a nine week period that saw it’s share of excitement, drama and heartache.

Amazingly Newman remains in the thick of things heading into the season finale. Attribute a large portion of the #31 team’s success to crew chief Lucas Lambert, perhaps the most underrated pit boss in this Chase. Newman & Lambert’s chemistry has flourished in recent weeks making them the consummate underdog story. Newman thrives on overcoming the odds. Expect him to hang around right to the bitter end.


Let’s start with the obvious — he’s winless! It’s widely believed this championship will be decided by a victory in the season finale. Newman would have to overcome insurmountable odds to capture his first title. Surely after a long grueling season and Chase, it’s unfair to expect Newman to save his best stuff for when it counts the most.


Newman’s refreshing performance gives other underdogs something to rest their hopes on for next season, so to all the cynics out there, you won’t have to worry about our sport being represented by a winless champion for at least this year.

Photo Courtesy of Andrew Weber -USA Today Sports