Monday, November 10, 2014

Your Final Four

So now Phoenix is in the rearview, and I have to say, I'm feeling vaguely cheated.

No trash-talking. No post-race brawls. No bloodied lips. It's like NASCAR wasn't even trying.

Uneventful as it was, though, we have our Final Four going to Homestead, and Ryan Newman was your money bet. You could have made some serious coin betting that a guy who hasn't won a race all season would wind up in the winner-take-all last race of the season, but there he is, hanging around like a stubborn cold.

It took a last-lap pass of Kyle Larson for 11th yesterday to get him in, ensuring this year's Heartbreak Kid would be Jeff Gordon, who ran second to Kevin Harvick and would have made the Final Four himself if Larson could have held off Newman. So Gordon's entire season literally was decided by a few yards on the track and a handful of seconds on the clock. Brutal.

Now it's down to Harvick, Newman, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. If you go strictly by the numbers, you like either Hamlin or Harvick; Hamlin has two wins at Homestead, including last year, and Harvick has 11 top 10s, five top fives and two second-place finishes in 13 starts.

Logano, meanwhile, has finished in the top ten at Homestead only once, an eighth last season. And Newman has no Ws and only four top tens in 12 starts.

Still ... the heart loves Newman, mainly because he's just quietly gone about his business and stayed under the radar throughout the season. Plus, the irony would be delicious if he winds up winning the title without winning a race.

The Chase was born, remember, because no one was happy that Matt Kenseth won a title while winning only one race. Imagine the hand-wringing if, after all the tweaking and tinkering NASCAR has done with the Chase, Newman goes Kenseth one better.

So that's the heart's pick. And the head's?

The Blob said Harvick back at the start of this. Still does.

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