Found November 12, 2012 on Fox Sports:
As cliche as it sounds, what a difference a week makes. Last Monday morning, Jimmie Johnson held a slim but steady seven-point lead with two races remaining. Now, thanks largely to a blown tire, and Brad Keselowski's ability to avoid catastrophe, he's staring at a formidable 20-point deficit as the Sprint Cup heads to South Beach. Keselowski continued his impressive run, not backing down from tracks he's struggled at, posting a solid sixth place in Phoenix on Sunday. That finish, coupled with Johnson's difficulties, likely shaped this championship, but the race will long be remembered for the wreck, and subsequent fisticuffs shared by Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer and their respective crews. If you haven't seen the video of Bowyer sprinting through bodies, or the melee that ensued in pit row, do yourself a favor and check it out. It was straight out of a WWE pay-per-view, and for better or worse, provides this sport with the type of drama it's lacked recently. Lost in the Chase and the scrum was Kevin Harvick winning his first victory in more than a year, a major accomplishment considering his disappointing year. The season wraps up this week in Miami-Homestead, where Tony Stewart won a year ago in route to clinching his championship, and Carl Edwards took the checkered flag in 2010. UPGRADE Brad Keselowski - It's actually hard to recommend Keselowski, as he's hardly been useable in Miami, averaging just a 20th-place finish in his last four visits. Pair that with his 20-point lead, and it's easy to see how Keselowski could play this race ultra-conservatively. That just doesn't seem like his style, however, and he's impressed in recent weeks at tracks he's similarly struggled on. It's the last race of the year, and he's the points leader - if you can use him, do. Jimmy Johnson - Johnson has never won at Miami, but has seven top-10 finishes in 11 races, and knows what he has to do here. Similar to Keselowski's opportunity to play this safe, Johnson has to leave it all on the track if he hopes to pull off a miraculous comeback and win his sixth championship. It could lead to mistakes, but if there's any driver out there capable of pulling this off, it's Johnson. Carl Edwards - Edwards is coming off his best finish in four races, and simply loves racing in Miami. He's got seven top-10 finishes in eight tries, including two poles and two wins. He'll reward you for waiting until season's end to use him. Danica Patrick - Don't look now, but Ms. Patrick is starting to show signs of life. She was running 13th on the second-to-last lap in Phoenix before being rear-ended, turning in consecutive surprisingly solid finishes. Kasey Kahne - Kahne sits third in points, but has no chance to win the Cup championship. It doesn't matter as he's averaged a 12th-place finish in his last five visits to the Homestead, and has three top-5 finishes in his last four races. He's finishing the season strong. DOWNGRADE Juan Pablo Montoya - Similar to most of the names below, Montoya simply has no history of success at Miami, and also has little reason to race this week. He's averaged a 27th-place finish in five races, and has no top-10 outings. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - Earnhardt, Jr. is coming off a 21st-place finish in Phoenix, and averages a 29th-place spot in his last five visits to Miami. He's simply driving to be driving as the season ends. Joey Logano - He's only sniffed the top-10 once in his last five starts, and doesn't have a history of success at Miami, averaging a 27th-place finish in three starts. The offseason can't come soon enough for the youngster. Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon - Gordon has been successful in Miami, averaging an 11th-place finish in his last five trips. Bowyer hasn't been much worse, pacing 14th over that span. But numbers are out the window here. As much as most fans would love to see a "rematch" of sorts in the infield, or on the strip at South Beach, expect these two to keep their distance, and be uber-conservative. Not by choice here, but it's hard to see NASCAR officials allowing anything to fester into the offseason. Get a FREE RotoWire 10-day trial (no credit card required) at RotoWire.com .
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

CUP: Keselowski, Others Angered By Outcome

Brad Keselowski was furious after Sunday’s race, despite retaking the points lead…

Keselowski needs to focus on title

I'm a big believer in the basic theory -- don't get off your gameplan in the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship race. Don't get off of what got you here the first 35 races. I'm living proof that getting off your gameplan will cost you a championship. We went to Atlanta the final race of the year in 1992 with Davey Allison, Robert Yates Racing and the No. 28 car and we...

NASCAR's Keselowski can't tweet in car anymore

Brad Keselowski became an instant social media darling for hopping on Twitter during a lengthy delay in the Daytona 500. The tweets made Keselowski the center of attention. NASCAR seemed trendy and hip - a description its executives surely adored. Turns out, tweeting from the car isn't that cool with NASCAR: Keselowski was fined $25,000 on Monday for tweeting during the red...

Keselowski can't tweet in car now

Brad Keselowski became a social media darling after hopping on Twitter during a lengthy delay in the Daytona 500. Keselowski was the center of attention, and NASCAR seemed trendy and hip - a description its executives surely adored. Turns out, tweeting from the car isn't cool with NASCAR. Keselowski was fined $25,000 on Monday for tweeting during the red flag at Phoenix International...

All cards have fallen in Brad Keselowski’s hand for championship title

Brad Keselowski went into Phoenix International Raceway trailing Jimmie Johnson for the points lead, he left the race with a sixth place finish – and a 20 point lead over Johnson going into the last race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The difference was a blown tire and crash for Johnson on lap 235 of the AdvoCare500 – it turned the title picture around again, and...

Points leader Keselowski 'ashamed' of finish

By Tom Jensen SpeedTV.com Brad Keselowski should have been beaming. His sixth-place finish in Sundays AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, combined with Jimmie Johnsons crash, meant Keselowski will win the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway if he finishes 15th or better there. And given that hes only finished worse than 11th once...

Brad Keselowski AdvoCare 500 Race Recap

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Brad Keselowski, driver of the Penske Racing No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), finished sixth in the AdvoCare 500 – the second-to-last race in the 2012 Chase for the Championship – at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) on Sunday afternoon. Keselowski looked to have a car capable of contending for the race win, but was...

Brad Keselowski AdvoCare 500 Qualifying Report

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team qualified 14th for Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 – the ninth race of the 2012 Chase for the Championship – at Phoenix International Raceway. Keselowski toured the one-mile oval in 26.350 seconds, or 136.622 miles per hour, in in the Friday afternoon time trial session. Sam Hornish Jr. qualified 26th in...

Johnson crashes in Phoenix race

Jimmie Johnson's bid for a sixth NASCAR championship took a huge hit when he crashed late in Sunday's race at Phoenix International Raceway. Johnson appeared to have a tire problem 77 laps from the scheduled finish, and his car shot hard into the wall. The crash came just seconds after championship contender Brad Keselowski moved into the lead on the track. Johnson started...

No goal is too big for Johnson

What does Jimmie Johnson have yet to prove? How about eight Sprint Cup championships? "I want to be considered the best driver to ever sit in a stock car," Johnson said. "The undisputed way to pull that off is to win eight championships. That's what I said a few months back and I know that I put that mark way, way out there in front of me and it's a lofty...

NASCAR: Cup title would be closing joy for otherwise emotionally bad season for Penske

There’s now one race left between a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title and Brad Keselowski. It would be the first for Keselowski’s team organization Penske Racing and the first for the young driver. The title would put a happy ending to what was otherwise a torturous year for Roger Penske and his group. Penske brought back the IZOD IndyCar Series to Belle Isle in getting a group...

Most Exciting Race Of The Season? The AdvoCare 500 At Phoenix Had It All

Frequent heartburn sufferer and comedian, Larry the Cable Guy jokes with NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon at the Phoenix International Raceway before the race to promote new Prilosec OTC Wildberry and encourage fans to enter the Wild American Flavor Sweepstakes at www.WildberryFlavor.comon Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) *Editor’s Note: This Phoenix race...
Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.