Well, here we are. A long, strenuous 35 races has come down to just 400 miles, and 267 laps. This season we’ve seen triumph, admiration, controversy, calamity, emotion and anger. There’s been great racing, maybe a bit on the boring side on occasion, but overall a decent 2019 campaign.
And, sadly, this Ford Championship Weekend is the final one. Next season, Miami moves to earlier in the season, with ISM Raceway now being the one to close out the year.
Fans are not as happy with that change, but it means Homestead-Miami Speedway is going to let it all hand out, and every driver in the field will be looking to make an enormous impact. It’s not just those four guys with the green spoilers looking to make an impact; so many in the field will be making changes for 2020, they want to end their season with a strong showing.
Look at Matty D, who’s emotion outcry after coming so close at Bristol got the ball rolling to see him get a ride for next season. Then, Paul Menard decides he’s calling it a career after another successful season with the Wood Brothers. When the team asked who they should get to fill the ride, all he said were three simple words.
“Go get Matt.”
And now, he gets to run in the best equipment he’s ever raced in, and may finally put that win in his belt that he’s been deserving for so long.
Then there’s drivers making moves, and wondering where they will be. Daniel Suarez thought he was in for 2020 with his current team, then this week it is revealed he’s out, and Cole Custer is taking over. Daniel Hemric is making his final run in the No. 8, with Tyler Reddick moving in. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is out at Roush-Fenway.
So many people are racing for different reasons, it adds to the major drama unfolding in front of everyone.
Then, you add in the face all four Playoff title contenders are starting out front, with it being winner-take-all like it has since the 16-driver field was introduced, and it makes for an intense showdown.
It is all the elements one needs to conclude a season. A three-driver stranglehold comes into the title race with a 75 percent chance of walking out with a trophy. But, that other 25% is an underdog that also is a former champion, and one to not be overlooked. This race has every element that is necessary to make the crowd stand in amazement, wonder, and maybe anger if the one they want to be victorious ends up short.
Just take last year, and the “Big Three” that were all favored in the title picture. They all finished in the top-four when the checkered flag waved.
The problem…they finished 2-3-4, because P1 belonged to Joey Logano, who spoiled the title run and claimed the trophy himself. That is how this winner-take-all format has become so critical. Yes, the season-long run is important, and as always that final race is the most important of all. But, when it literally is may the best finish better than the rest, or at the very least the other three, that pressure builds up like air in a tire, and if it gets to be too much, eventually it will blow.
This is it…the final checkered flag of the season. Two men possibly will be celebrating at night’s end, one in victory lane as the race winner, and one on the front straightaway as champion. But, I’m willing to bet that just like every season since 2014 when this format became official, we will have one man winning the race, and the title.
It’s time…let’s do this.