Well now, this is dramatic. But Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick, the three Chasers within 46 points of hoisting the Sprint Cup championship trophy, won't race in a vacuum on Sunday in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Millions of conjoined parts, agendas and emotions will spin around them like fly wheels. Here's a small sampling of 10 variables they, individually and collectively, might have to address.
Harvick, who led the standings for much of the regular season, has displayed an uncanny ability to turn up in the top-10 late in races no matter the duress he's sustained on pit road or in brushing walls or other race cars. He will not go away. At 46 points out entering the final race of the season, he remains a viable contender for a first title. And how he would revel in denying the younger upstart, Hamlin, or ending the championship run of a fellow Southern Californian whose careers have intersected since before they began driving Cup. Both Harvick and Johnson, having moved to the Charlotte area to find their fortune, bunked for a few months at Ron Hornaday's Lake Norman, N.C., home in 1999, fishing, Jet skiing, before each was discovered by their current team.
There figures to be a Roush Fenway driver impeding the way, and that could complicate matters for all three title contenders. Roush had won five Homestead races consecutively -- and six of seven -- until Hamlin's victory last fall. Carl Edwards, the 2009 winner who broke a 70-race winless streak at Phoenix, might be particularly pesky.