NASCAR Homestead preview: Who will take the championship and the Ford 400?

Here are some storylines, notes and drivers to watch for during today's NASCAR season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway:


Varying strategies for Keselowski and Johnson

Throughout the Chase, the plan of attack for Brad Keselowski and his crew chief Paul Wolfe has called for them to be aggressive – both on the track and in the pits. That mindset has obviously paid dividends, as Keselowski enters Homestead with a cushy 20-point lead over Jimmie Jonson, and a 15th-place or better finish will secure what would be his first Cup title.

But how does Penske Racing approach the Ford 400? Does the team stick with its game plan and continue to be aggressive, or is it best to be lean conservative and not do anything that may jeopardize the championship? Both tactics have their plusses and minuses, but it appears the No. 2 team will continue utilizing the strategy that brought them here.

Meanwhile, for Johnson, it's pick a cliché – go for broke, wreckers or checkers, go big or go home – and all more than apply to him this afternoon.

If he is to win his sixth championship, Johnson not only needs Keselowski to struggle, but he needs to do everything he can to secure max points. And even then, it still may not be enough, because Johnson's destiny is out of his hands, as it is all dependent on how the man he's chasing performs.

Round II for Bowyer and Gordon?

As one eye is watching how the championship unfolds, the other will certainly be focused on Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon and whether there are any repercussions from their encounter at Phoenix. While Bowyer has refused to expound on the incident this weekend, we do know his anger hasn't subsided.

Now, does that means Bowyer is going to try and extract revenge upon Gordon the first chance he gets, who knows? But with Bowyer just two points behind Kasey Kahne for third in the standings, and with what appears to be a fast Toyota underneath him – he was fifth in final practice – my guess is that Bowyer will be focused more winning the race than he will be on his rival.

Worth Noting

• Homestead-Miami Speedway is one of two tracks Hendrick Motorsports has yet to visit Victory Lane. The other track is Kentucky Speedway, which was added to the Cup schedule just last year.

• If Kurt Busch fails to win today, it will snap his streak of 10 straight years with a victory.

• With Kevin Harvick's win a week ago, it leaves Carl Edwards, Paul Menard, Kurt Busch, David Ragan, Trevor Bayne and Regan Smith as drivers who won last year but have yet to do so in 2012.

• The Ford 400 is a milestone race for Tony Stewart, as it will be his 500th Cup start - all consecutive.

• Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle and Regan Smith will all be in backup cars today after wrecking in one of Saturday's two rounds of practice. Also, all four drivers will be required to start at the rear of the field.


1. Kyle Busch

In the last three weeks, Kyle Busch has finished no worse than third and overall is finishing the season stronger than he ever has in his career. However, what he hasn't done thus far in the Chase is win and that's something he's accomplished just once in his career. But there is a good chance that changes this afternoon, as the No. 18 Toyota was fastest in final practice and throughout the weekend Busch has been strong in both the Truck and Nationwide Series races.

2. Matt Kenseth

Since 2000, Matt Kenseth has driven a Sprint Cup car for Roush Fenway Racing. But today marks the final time he will be behind the wheel of a Roush Ford, as he is moving to Joe Gibbs Racing next season. And on a track where he's won and was among the fastest in practice, don't put it past him to get one last win in his swan song.

3. Martin Truex Jr.

It may not seem like an obvious selection, but Martin Truex Jr. is a good pick whenever the NASCAR circuit travels to Homestead. In his last six races on the 1.5-mile track, he has finished no worse than 11th and has been in contention for the victory the last two years. And it also doesn't hurt that Truex had the third-best 10 consecutive lap average in final practice.

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