NASCAR Ignition Points - Homestead

This week's thoughts on the NASCAR Round Table from heading into Homestead-Miami Speedway.

1. Now that we know who the final four are ahead of the NASCAR Sprint Cup finale, who do you think will win and why?

Lee Spencer: Joey Logano has the most momentum entering Homestead and the least to lose. He learned valuable lessons in the 2014 Championship Round and was the favorite last season before Matt Kenseth squashed his title hopes. Only Logano and Busch have made it to the final four under this format. Now it's Logano's turn.

Jim Utter: We have never seen Jimmie Johnson in a "must win" situation at Homestead - usually when he entered the race with a chance to win the championship, he was nursing a points lead. But if there is a team with more championship experience that can seemingly turn it "on" and "off" when it needs to, I think it's Johnson and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team. There's not a lot of talk from the No. 48 on championship No. 7, but make no mistake, they will do whatever it takes to get it.

Nick DeGroot: Jimmie Johnson is my pick. I don't think he will be the strongest of the four at Homestead, but I think his team's unparalleled experience in such a high-pressure situation will pay off immensely. He and Chad Knaus have gone into the season finale in title contention countless times, emerging as the champion more often than not. And the fact he has never won at Homestead does not concern me. I firmly believe the No. 48 team will be the most collected group on Sunday and will be mistake-free en route to an historic seventh crown.

Tim Southers: As much as I would like to see Joey Logano win it to finish out Roger Penske’s 50th anniversary in motorsports, it’s hard to bet against Jimmie Johnson. I think Johnson will join Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. with his seventh championship.

2. Who is your pick to win the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship?

Lee: Before Elliott Sadler lost his crew chief for a lug nut penalty on Saturday, I thought the No. 1 team was a lock. Now, I'm leaning towards Daniel Suarez. He's getting hot when it counts and his crew chief Scott Graves won the Xfinity title last year.

Jim: Before the Chase started, I would have easily picked Erik Jones, but Elliott Sadler's team has risen to the occasion during the Chase. He has week-in and week-out been one of - if not the - top performing series regular. Jones and Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 20 just seems to missing a little something from earlier this season, when they appeared to be in contention for a win almost every week.

Nick: Daniel Suarez has been impeccable during the Chase, even outshining teammate Erik Jones. The Mexican racer is looking to make some history of his own at Homestead and he has a lot of things going for him. Unless some unforeseen issue befalls him, Suarez will be the Xfinity title

Tim: I think we’ll see Daniel Suarez make history and win the championship and be the first driver to graduate from the NASCAR Next and NASCAR Drive for Diversity program win a NASCAR national championship.

3. Who is your pick to win the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship?

Lee: Johnny Sauter. I believe his maturity has finally caught up to his talent. Having watched Sauter since his ASA days, the potential was always there. Now he has the team, the crew chief and the equipment to bring the crown back to Wisconsin.

Jim: Tough pick here. From an experience standpoint I would probably go with Matt Crafton, but I can't ignore the greatly improved level of performance from Johnny Sauter in the Chase. I don't see any reason why that performance would drop off at Homestead and for that reason, I'll go with Sauter earning his first NASCAR title.

Nick: I believe this title bout will come down to Sauter and Crafton with the former finally securing that illusive Truck title. He came close to sweeping the entire Round of 6 and I see no reason why that team will be slowing down this Friday night. If Crafton or any of the other three want a chance, they'll have to catch him first.

Tim: I think Timothy Peters will surprise everyone and get his first NASCAR championship. He and crew chief Shane Huffman will have to be on their ‘A’ game to beat Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton but it will be a happy scene watching Tom DeLoach celebrate his team winning a title.

4. Which driver would give you the biggest surprise in winning a championship from any of the three NASCAR series running this weekend?

Lee: Christopher Bell in the truck series simply because it's his first full year in NASCAR. But having watched Bell wheel a midget, I can guarantee he'll be a stock car star in the near future.

Jim: Not because he hasn't shown during the season that he isn't capable, but going into the 2016 season I'm not sure many people saw Daniel Suarez making the vast improvement he's made, winning races in two series and having a shot at a NASCAR national series title already in his brief NASCAR career. A victory by Suarez would be well-received in NASCAR and around the world.

Nick: For me, none of the final four at the Cup level would be a surprise. I'd look to the Xfinity Series and that other JR Motorsports driver who squeaked his way into the Championship 4 -- Justin Allgaier. He has no wins this year and hasn't made much noise, despite his consistency throughout the entire season. An Allgaier championship would be something few see coming.

Tim: I think Christopher Bell just because he has the least amount of experience in NASCAR. He’s a great talent who I think will win a lot in NASCAR but in this scenario, I think he would be a long shot.

5. As the Chase heads into its final weekend for the NSCS and for the first time in the NXS and NCWTS, how would you grade each Chase from the 2016 season?

Lee: Had it not been for the Chase, the truck championship would have been a complete blow out. With the playoff system, William Byron, who by far had the best season, was eliminated on Friday when his engine blew. The driver with more than 27-percent of the series wins will not compete for the title this weekend. But because Johnny Sauter would still be leading the standings by 9 points under the old system, I give this Chase a "B". Under the previous Xfinity point system, Erik Jones would not be in the top four despite having four wins. The Chase worked in his favor despite suffering through four wreck-related DNFs. I expect the NXS Chase field to be more substantial next season with more Cup-affiliated teams coming on board. I'd also offer the Xfinity Chase a "B". Similar to Byron's dilemma, watching Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. -- two of the most consistent racers all season -- be eliminated in the second round prevented the Cup Chase from living up to its potential. Overall, winning should be held at a premium. There was too much riding around in the Cup Chase for drivers that should've been up on the wheel. For now, C+, but I reserve the right to alter my grade next Monday.

Jim:I'd give the Sprint Cup Series a B+ ... There has been plenty of twists and turns, particularly in the last three races. What the Chase has lacked this year are driver v. driver feuds, but I think everyone was spoiled by the Logano/Kenseth incidents of a year ago. I'd give the Xfinity Series a B-  ... There have been good storylines in the Xfinity Chase but the excitement that comes from drivers winning their way into Championship 4 was lost when Cup series drivers swept all three races in the Round of 8. With the recent rules change, that should change next season. I'd give the Truck Series an A- ... The No. 1 seed, William Byron, didn't make it to the championship race, Sauter virtually "came alive" during the Chase after having not won since the Daytona season opener and no Cup drivers stole the spotlight in Victory Lane during the Chase.

Nick: I think each Chase has given what I'd call the expected drama, which comes from the tightening of the noose each round where more and more drivers get clipped from the field. Personally, I would have liked to have seen more of what we got in the Phoenix Cup race, but there's a good possibility of things reaching an all new level at Homestead.

Tim: I think the drama at Phoenix saved the Chase in the Sprint Cup Series from that standpoint and I would say it’s been an A- heading into Homestead. For the Xfinity I would also give it an A- from the standpoint of the good storylines heading into the finale with a popular veteran in Elliott Sadler still alive and Justin Allgaier giving Jr. Nation fans something to cheer about. Daniel Suarez would be a great storyline if he won as well. For the Camping World Truck Series I would say it’s been a B+ as veteran Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton and Timothy Peters should put on a great show.

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About this article
Drivers Jimmie Johnson , Matt Crafton , Johnny Sauter , Carl Edwards , Elliott Sadler , Timothy Peters , Justin Allgaier , Joey Logano , Christopher Bell , Kyle Busch , Daniel Suarez , Erik Jones
Teams Red Horse Racing , Team Penske , Joe Gibbs Racing , Hendrick Motorsports , JR Motorsports , Kyle Busch Motorsports , ThorSport Racing
Article type Special feature
Tags camping world truck, nascar, sprint cup series, xfinity