Brad Keselowski enters Sunday's race at Homestead-Miami Speedway with his first career Sprint Cup title in his sights.
With a 20 point lead entering the race, all Keselowski needs to do is finish15th or better and he will clinch the points lead and win the championship. Due to a crash in practice on Saturday, Keselowski will have a front row seat to the action.
The Chase leader will start in the front row of Sunday's Sprint Cup finale at Homestead after Joey Logano got in an accident with Denny Hamlin and Greg Biffle at the track.
"It's unfortunate what happened to Joey and those guys,'' Keselowski said to the Associated Press. "Obviously, it's a good place to be. I'm going to do what I can to lead the first lap, and I think we have a car to do it.''
Jimmie Johnson, who ranks second in the standings, will start the race in the outside lane at the 10th spot.
"I hope he tries really, really, really hard to lead that first lap,'' Johnson said with a smile. "I know (Marcos) Ambrose next to him is going to try hard, too. That could be good for me."
The five-time champion has tried to rattle Keselowski throughout the week, mentioning past comebacks during championship races, as well as the fact that the points leader entering the last race in the past two years has failed to win the championship.
"You know, of course, I'm going to find points that give myself motivation and my team," Johnson said to the Chicago Tribune. "And, Brad, if you'd like me to call later and remind you of any other examples, I certainly can, of guys that didn't pull off the season finale as they would hope."
Johnson will have to overcome some history to win the championship on Sunday. According to the Sporting News, if Johnson wins, "it would be the biggest comeback in Sprint Cup history in the final race."
"But one thing I've learned is that, regardless of how experienced anyone is in this championship battle, at some point the magnitude of it hits you," Johnson said. "At some point -- he may be very comfortable and calm now; it may not happen until he's in the car -- but at some point that magnitude hits, and I've lived through it five times."
While Keselowski is going for his first career title, he appears to have the confidence of a champion and is unfazed by Johnson.
"There's pressure applied and pressure felt," Keselowski said to USA Today. "Certainly, (Johnson's) trying to apply pressure. Certainly, I don't feel any."
Last week's race at Phoenix was marred by crashes, multiple restarts and a controversy as Jeff Gordon intentionally knocked into Clint Bowyer late in the race. Gordon slammed his car into Bowyer and also took out Joey Logano and narrowly missed Keselowski.
The two drivers and their crews got in a physical altercation following the crash, forcing the police and NASCAR officials to step in hold the sides back. Kevin Harvick won the race, but all the talk afterwards was about the fight.
"It's pretty embarrassing for a four-time champion and what I consider one of the best this sport's ever seen to act like that," said Bowyer last week. "Just completely ridiculous."
The crash enabled Keselowski to finish in sixth, just 20 points ahead of Johnson before the final race of the year.
"I think to think that a top-15 finish is a layup is tough," Johnson said to the Charlotte Observer. "This garage area is tough, the weight of the race. I don't care who you are, it'll show up at some point in time and thoughts will run through your head. And with all that being said, a 15th-place finish is not a layup for those guys."
According to the Sporting News, "Keselowski must finish just 15th or better Sunday to win the championship, 16th or better if he leads a lap. No driver in that situation has ever lost the title."
Keselowski has won five races this season, and also finished in the top-10 in 24 different races.
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