Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Race for the 2016 Sprint Cup Series Championship


MIAMI – A legend, a title defender, and two drivers out for their first championship trophies will drive onto the Homestead-Miami Speedway 1.5-mile oval this Sunday. Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Carl Edwards are the Championship 4 drivers set to compete amongst a full field of drivers in the Ford EcoBoost 400 to battle it out for the 2016 Sprint Cup Series Championship.

In 2013, the year before NASCAR changed its playoff format to the current elimination-style for the Sprint Cup, Johnson won his sixth Cup championship. It had been three years since he won five in a row from 2006-10. If Johnson were to win this year, he would join Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. as the only drivers to win seven Cup championships.

Johnson’s toughest competition may come from last year’s winner, Busch, who is looking to win back-to-back championships. Busch came back from missing the first 11 races of the 2015 season to a broken leg and foot after a crash in Daytona to win the 2015 Sprint Cup championship. While his experience with the format of the championship race is invaluable, he has yet to win during the 2016 postseason. His presence in the Chase is a testament to his consistency, with six top-five finishes and eight top-10 finishes in the postseason Chase races.  

“I’m definitely excited for the opportunity,” said Busch. “Once you’re eligible, or once you are locked in to the final four pack, that opportunity to go to Homestead and have a chance for that championship is certainly exciting.  But then past that, you definitely have to put your focus forward on being able to make sure that you go out there and achieve and excel.”

Logano, who was also a part of the Championship 4 in 2014, is excited for the opportunity ahead.

“I think this is the moment we all really embrace and enjoy,” said Logano.“ As a competitor, you hope to bring a championship moment and I’m really fortunate to come here and have a shot at it.”

Edwards is also vying for his first championship trophy, but this year’s Chase is far from his first rodeo. In 2011, Edwards narrowly lost the championship to Tony Stewart in  agonizing finish by virtue of tiebreakers in the closest finish in NASCAR championship history. But Edwards is only looking ahead.

“I’m pretty excited,” said Edwards when asked about nerves going into the race. “I mean, I know how it works,” he added laughing.

It is more than apparent that all four competitors are looking forward not just to the possibility of a trophy in Victory Lane, but the good-natured competition they’ll encounter along the way.

The Ford EcoBoost 400 and 2016 Sprint Cup Series Championship is the culmination to the 2016 NASCAR season.