Homestead: Season finale preview

* Hendrick Motorsports To Capture Seventh Title Johnson's Season * Reminiscent Of Gordon In '98 Is Johnson NASCAR's "Mr. October"? * Blaney Close To Locking In No. 22 Toyota For Next Year Championship Johnson Has Edge Over Gordon For Hendrick's...

* Hendrick Motorsports To Capture Seventh Title Johnson's Season
* Reminiscent Of Gordon In '98 Is Johnson NASCAR's "Mr. October"?
* Blaney Close To Locking In No. 22 Toyota For Next Year Championship

Johnson Has Edge Over Gordon For Hendrick's Seventh Championship

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 13, 2007) -- Heading into the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, one thing is clear -- Hendrick Motorsports will win its seventh NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship. What is yet to be decided is which driver will win the title -- Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) or Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet).

The Hendrick Motorsports teammates are the only two of the 12 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers mathematically eligible to win the 2007 title. Johnson holds an 86-point lead over Gordon after rattling off four consecutive victories.

While the deficit is not ideal for Gordon, the margin is not insurmountable. Four times this season, Gordon has "out-pointed" Johnson by 87 points or more -- Daytona 500 (88 points), Texas in April (121), Pocono in June (153) and Indianapolis (119).

Johnson needs an 18th-place finish or higher, regardless of where Gordon finishes, to clinch the title. If he leads a lap, he needs a 19th-place finish and if he leads the most laps, he can finish 21st. On the other end of the spectrum, if Gordon finishes 15th or worse, Johnson clinches.

Gordon has had limited success at Homestead. In eight races he has three top fives and six top 10s. However, Homestead is one of two active tracks at which Gordon has yet to win. Johnson has two top fives and four top 10s in six Homestead races. He has finished below 18th in his two other starts.

Johnson Putting Together Season For The Ages

In just his sixth season in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, Jimmie Johnson is hitting milestones not seen since Jeff Gordon in 1998. Ironically, 1998 also was Gordon's sixth fulltime season.

Johnson's win at Phoenix was his fourth in a row, and 10th this year -- both marks unseen since Gordon's '98 season. Gordon won 13 races that year en route to his second consecutive title, and third overall.

If Johnson wins the championship this year, he'll be the first driver since then to win back-to-back titles.

His current four-race win streak ties a modern era record last achieved by Gordon in '98 (Pocono, Indianapolis, Watkins Glen and Michigan). The feat has been accomplished seven times since 1972, when the schedule was shortened from 48 to 31 races. If Johnson wins the Ford 400 on Sunday, he would be the first driver to win five straight races since Richard Petty in 1971.

Most Wins In A Season In Last 20 Years Driver Wins Year Jeff Gordon 13 1998 Jimmie Johnson 10 2007 Jeff Gordon 10 1997 Jeff Gordon 10 1996 Rusty Wallace 10 1993 Dale Earnhardt 9 1990

Chase Notebook Week 10: Johnson Is Epitome Of Clutch Performer

Recently dubbed "Mr. Martinsville" by teammate Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson has shown he is more like NASCAR's version of "Mr. October."

In each of the four years of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, Johnson and his No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet team have repeatedly stepped up their performance, in spite of the additional pressure and scrutiny. In 39 Chase races, Johnson has 11 wins -- a 28% winning percentage. In the other 179 races Johnson has started in his career, he has won only 12% (22). Johnson has also been the runner-up in six Chase races, meaning that he has finished in the top two in a resounding 44% of all Chase races.

Nobody else comes close to matching Johnson's Chase dominance. Greg Biffle (No. 16 Dish Network Ford) is second with four Chase wins in 39 races. Johnson has four Chase wins in his last four Chase starts. Biffle, however, has the advantage heading into Homestead. He has won the past three races at the track, averaging a Driver Rating of 126.1. Biffle has momentum heading into this weekend after finishing second to Johnson at Phoenix.

Other notes of interest:

* Although 10 of the 12 Chase drivers are out of title contention, all will have something to race for this weekend -- each of the top 12 positions can change hands following Sunday's race. Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet) has the most to gain. Hamlin is currently 12th, but can climb as high as seventh. The top 10 drivers will participate in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Awards Ceremony at the Waldorf=Astoria on Nov. 30.

* Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) will be making his 291st -- and final -- start for Dale Earnhardt Inc. this Sunday. Earnhardt Jr. is moving to Hendrick Motorsports after eight full-time seasons with the team his father built. Earnhardt Jr. has won 17 races for DEI.

On The Line: Knaus, Letarte Fuel Hendrick Motorsports' Dominant Performance

Championship contending crew chiefs Chad Knaus (Jimmie Johnson) and Steve Letarte (Jeff Gordon) were the guests on this week's NASCAR teleconference. Here are some highlights:

Knaus on winning a second championship:

"I would love to win a second championship. When that happens, kind of like what you said, that definitely elevates your status a little bit. I would love to have that. When I was younger, I did want to be a championship-winning crew chief. I can remember thinking about it and dreaming of it. So it's something that I've always wanted."

Knaus on Johnson:

"I think Jimmie's a fantastic driver. He's definitely one of the best drivers in our industry right now if not forever."

Letarte on what it takes to win the Chase:

"You need to shoot to win 10 races because at the rate some of these cars are running, and as good as these cars are running, its going to take an impressive average finish to win."

Letarte on what information is shared between the teams:

"We share everything, it's a complete open book. It is the way the company is set up, it's the way the engineering is set up and it's the way Chad and I work."

Locked In: No. 22 Toyota Close To Securing Spot To Start 2008

Dave Blaney (No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota) is on the cusp of locking his Bill Davis Racing entry into the first five races of the 2008 season. The No. 22 Toyota, owned by Bill Davis, is currently 35th in the owner's point standings and holds the final guaranteed spot in the field.

If Blaney finishes 34th or better in the Ford 400 on Sunday, he will guarantee at least a 35th-place finish for the season in the owner's points.

The top 35 teams in owner's points get automatic starting spots each week. The top 35 cars at the end of the 2007 season have guaranteed spots in the first five races of the 2008 season. After five races, the locked-in positions revert to 2008 points.

The No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Ford, owned by Glen Wood looks to be on the short end of the stick. Driver Bill Elliott has to finish second at Homestead to have a chance of moving into the top 35.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Rusty Wallace , Jimmie Johnson , Denny Hamlin , Chad Knaus , Dave Blaney
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Bill Davis Racing