Homestead: History in the making

History in the Making: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Championship Scenarios Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup -- Clinching Scenarios DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 17, 2004) -- Heading into Sunday's season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, here...

History in the Making: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Championship Scenarios
Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup -- Clinching Scenarios

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 17, 2004) -- Heading into Sunday's season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, here are some scenarios under which drivers can clinch the 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series title.

The top five drivers in the current NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings are separated by 82 points -- the closest margin in NASCAR history with one race remaining. It's also the second-highest number of drivers eligible to win the title with one race remaining (six drivers were separated by 113 points at this stage in 1992). The closest finish in NASCAR history came in 1992, when the late Alan Kulwicki won the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series title by 10 points over Bill Elliott.

The eventual champion likely must win the Ford 400 (worth 180 points), plus earn all 10 bonus points available (five for leading a lap, five for leading the most laps) to assure himself of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup title. Many championship-winning scenarios are possible depending on how the five contenders finish Sunday at Homestead, but the surest path to the 2004 title is via Victory Lane. The Ford 400 is the 10th race of the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup," the series' new method for crowning a champion, and race No. 36 of the 36-event NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season. Below are the drivers eligible to win the 2004 championship:

1. Kurt Busch
2. Jimmie Johnson (trails by 18)
3. Jeff Gordon (trails by 21)
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (trails by 72)
5. Mark Martin (trails by 82)

Kurt Busch (No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Ford) will win the championship if he wins the Ford 400. He can also win the championship if he finishes second and earns five bonus points for leading at least one lap.

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) can win the championship if he wins the Ford 400 and leads the most laps (for the maximum 190 points), and Busch finishes second without leading a lap, or finishes third but doesn't lead the most laps, or finishes fourth or lower. However, if Busch wins the Ford 400 without leading the most laps, and Johnson finishes second, then Johnson would win the championship by two points.

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) can win the championship if he wins the Ford 400 and accrues the maximum 10 bonus points. Busch also must finish third or lower and not lead a lap, or finish fourth or lower and lead a lap, or finish fifth or lower and lead the most laps.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) can win the championship if he wins the Ford 400 and accrues the maximum 10 bonus points. He also needs Busch to finish 15th or lower and not lead a lap, Johnson to finish 10th or lower and not lead a lap and Gordon to finish ninth or lower and not lead a lap.

Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford) can win the championship if he wins the Ford 400 and accrues the maximum 10 bonus points. He also needs Busch to finish 19th or lower and not lead a lap, Johnson to finish 13th or lower and not lead a lap and Gordon to finish 12th or lower and not lead a lap. Earnhardt Jr.'s finish wouldn't matter as long as he doesn't lead a lap. If Martin wins the race and Earnhardt Jr. finishes second and leads the most laps, the two would be tied and Earnhardt Jr. would win the tiebreaker (number of 2004 wins).

A FIVE-WAY TIE: This would happen if Martin wins the Ford 400, but doesn't lead the most laps; Earnhardt Jr. finishes second and leads a lap or finishes third and leads the most laps; Gordon finishes 13th; Johnson finishes 14th and Busch finishes 20th. Each driver would finish with 6,449 points. The tiebreaker would be number of 2004 wins. Busch has three wins, Johnson has a series-high eight wins, Gordon has five wins, Earnhardt Jr. has six wins and Martin has one win.

Here are the five closest championship-winning margins in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup history:

1. 1992 -- Alan Kulwicki wins the title by 10 points over Bill Elliott

2. 1979 -- Richard Petty wins the title by 11 points over Darrell Waltrip

3. 1989 -- Rusty Wallace wins the title by 12 points over Dale Earnhardt

4. 1997 -- Jeff Gordon wins the title by 14 points over Dale Jarrett

5. 1980 -- Dale Earnhardt wins the title by 19 points over Cale Yarborough

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Darrell Waltrip , Rusty Wallace , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Richard Petty , Cale Yarborough , Mark Martin , Alan Kulwicki