A week of pomp and circumstance is nearly over in Daytona Beach. On the eve of NASCAR’s most prestigious race, the Daytona 500, Cup cars roar around the historic 2.5-mile superspeedway in the final practice session of the week — known as Happy Hour — looking for that last little bit of speed. Or handling. Or integrity. Or answers of some sort.
1. Joe Gibbs Racing easily the early favorites The sabre-rattling from the Joe Gibbs Racing camp early in Daytona Speedweeks has been impossible to avoid. Simply put: they’ve won everything, save for the Daytona 500 pole in single-lap qualifying.
Ricky Craven didn’t put a full-court press on Victory Lane during his Sprint Cup driving career. He won only twice over a span of 11 years, but in his life as a racing analyst for ESPN — a role he’s held since 2008 — he has emerged as one of sports television’s most respected commentators.
1. Face the facts: Cup championship is Johnson’s to lose There’s a good share of NASCAR fans who probably aren’t too happy with what’s coming Sunday afternoon with the sport’s five-time champion, Jimmie Johnson, on the verge of making it six — all in a span of nine years.
Matt Kenseth needs a miracle. For starters, he must run beyond his 13.8-place average finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend, but a little luck in the name of a bad Jimmie Johnson outing would be the supplemental boost needed to overcome a 28-point deficit and win his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
If Jimmie Johnson wins his sixth NASCAR Spring Cup championship, Phoenix will have been its defining moment. It’s not over until the fat lady sings, of course, but the next six days sure feel like a coronation with his No. 48 needing to finish just 23rd or better at Homestead. It’s a well-deserved top story for a driver that has dominated Sprint Cup racing for the past decade.
1. Johnson hopes for no Phoenix repeat There’s plenty in Jimmie Johnson’s career that the five-time champion would love to repeat. Championships, Daytona 500 wins and beating other drivers in side-by-side duels all probably make the cut.
But Johnson’s race at Phoenix International Raceway a year ago this week? Well, that’s one result that is awfully forgettable.