NASCAR Homestead-Miami preview: Will Brad Keselowski take the crown?

Chris Trotman

The coronation day for Brad Keselowski has arrived. Or has it? After 400 miles Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the racing world will know for sure.

One thing is certain: Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who's overcome a deficit in the season finale before, won't go quietly.

Keselowski and Johnson will decide the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title Sunday in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN), the final chapter in a hard-fought 10-race Chase postseason. What's yet to be seen is whether the 2012 campaign ends in a crowning achievement for a first-time title contender or a sixth title in an era of dominance for one of the sport's best.

Keselowski overtook Johnson in the standings last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, capitalizing on Johnson's tire failure and crash to stretch out a 20-point advantage. He needs only to finish 15th or better Sunday, regardless of how Johnson performs, to win his first Sprint Cup crown, but knows that the same sort of gremlins that derailed Johnson could visit him this weekend.

"I know that the troubles that they had are the same troubles that we could have next week, and so you try not to take anything for granted," Keselowski said after finishing sixth last Sunday at Phoenix. "You try to just focus on what lies ahead, and we've got to do the best job we can at Homestead. That's where my focus is."

The 1.5-mile Homestead oval is one of five tracks where Johnson -- who will be making his 399th start Sunday in NASCAR's premier series -- hasn't won during his 11-year career. He's had success at Homestead with two pole positions and a pair of runner-up finishes, but for the most part, Johnson hasn't needed to win there.

In four of his five consecutive championship seasons, Johnson has held a comfortable lead heading into the season finale. In the one exception in 2010, Johnson overcame a slight deficit in the standings, coasting home in second place after early misfortune fell on points leader Denny Hamlin.

Johnson will need a much larger rally Sunday, but isn't ruling out the possibility.

"My brain won't stop . . .," Johnson tweeted from his personal account after the race Sunday. "This championship is far from over."

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