The Hottest NASCAR Storylines Heading into the Season Finale at Homestead-Miami
Here we are, folks. We're less than a week away from the season finale for all three of NASCAR's major touring series. This is the culmination of a year's work for many teams, and with that, we've got some big headlines leaving Phoenix.
While the Camping World Truck Series championship is all but wrapped up, the Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series titles are still up in the air, and if there is one thing that can be said about NASCAR, it's that anything is possible.
Here's a look at the biggest storylines heading into the Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami.
Martin Doesn't Claim "Retirement," Yet Says Homestead-Miami Is Last Cup Start
We all knew this day would come.
After finishing the season as a substitute driver for Tony Stewart, Mark Martin will be stepping out of a fire suit and into an advisory role for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. He'll be on hand for testing sessions, handling all of Stewart's preseason testing before his return at Daytona Speedweeks and will just be around to offer advice when needed.
All things considered, Martin was also planning on retiring after the 2005 season, so it's easy to view this with a bit of skepticism. Still, if this is the last we see of the Batesville, Ark., native on a Sprint Cup grid, then Sunday is going to be a sentimental day.
Pastrana Hangs Up Helmet After Brief NASCAR Stint
Well, you can't fault the guy for trying.
After a rather lackluster rookie season in NASCAR's Nationwide Season, action sports superstar and X Games staple Travis Pastrana announced he is quitting NASCAR due to lack of funding, poor results and the long season.
The decision to quit, although understandable, does come as a blow to NASCAR, as Pastrana's venture into stock car racing brought several of his fans from outside NASCAR and boosted NASCAR's fan demographic. Pastrana admitted that he might go back to racing off-road trucks and rally cars down the road.
Still, it is a shame considering I had him pegged as NASCAR's next big thing.
Truck Series Championship Virtually a Lock for Crafton
Thirteen years after making his first Camping World Truck Series start for ThorSport Racing, Matt Crafton is poised to finally capture that elusive series championship this Friday.
You can't help but feel sentimental for the driver of the No. 88 Toyota Tundra, whose previous best points finish was second in 2009. However, he has been consistent throughout the course of the 2013 season, with seven top-fives and 19 top-10s to go along with his lone win this season at Kansas.
Crafton hasn't exactly blown up the win column this season, with the win at Kansas being his third career win in a career that started with his debut in 2000 at Fontana, where he finished ninth. Still, Crafton has hung in there through thick and thin, and to finally win a championship in NASCAR is huge for Crafton and the organization he has raced for in all but one season (in 2004, he raced for Kevin Harvick Incorporated).
In three Nationwide Series starts this season, he has two top-fives and three top-10s, so if he were to go to the Nationwide Series, he could post some strong results, maybe even win some races. But it is because of drivers like Crafton that the truck series is such a great division, so let's hope Crafton hangs out there a little longer.
Can Dillon Hang On?
We could be in for a big day in NASCAR history on Saturday, as Austin Dillon will attempt to hold Sam Hornish Jr. off to win the 2013 Nationwide Series championship. For one, if Dillon and his No. 3 crew manage to win the title, Dillon will become the second driver (behind Greg Biffle) to win a championship in both the Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series. (Dillon won the truck title in 2011, while Biffle won the truck title in 2000 and the Nationwide title in 2002.)
Another thing that may make this a big deal is the fact that Dillon could win the championship without winning a race. Although it is common knowledge that it has been a possibility throughout NASCAR's history that a driver could win a championship without winning a race, this could be the first time that it has actually happened in any of NASCAR's major touring series.
Despite being winless, Dillon has 13 top-fives and 22 top-10s with seven poles to boot in what has been an otherwise banner year for the Richard Childress Racing driver. However, he leads Hornish by eight points. With both drivers posting strong runs at Homestead-Miami in the past, look for Saturday's race to be a nail-biter.
Is the Title Hunt over for Matt Kenseth?
If Matt Kenseth had finished within striking distance of Jimmie Johnson at Phoenix his chances at winning the title would have still been great. Instead, he finished a lap off the pace in 23rd while Johnson padded his point lead with a third-place finish.
It looks bleak for the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team heading into Homestead-Miami. Johnson could clinch the Sprint Cup title if he finishes 23rd or better, 24th or better with one lap led or 25th or better with most laps led.
So barring any major catastrophe on Johnson's part, Kenseth's holiday season looks to be a long one without a Sprint Cup championship trophy.
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