Commentary

Jimmie who? Biffle will make it 4-for-5 at Homestead-Miami Speedway

The Eliminator: Homestead

Updated: November 14, 2008, 10:06 AM ET
By Matthew Willis | ESPN.com

And then there was one … as in races left in the season.

Well, actually there are three, but I don't usually pick the Nationwide and Truck Series winners. That's for you, the loyal fans, to do at home. Consider it the take-home version of the game.

Wait a minute … a take-home version of The Eliminator? I could make a fortune! Could we get this ready in time for Christmas?

And then there were two … as in drivers still left competing for the Sprint Cup championship.

Well, actually, this is more like one. Jimmie Johnson is like a kid on Christmas Eve. He sees that present under the tree, he knows he's getting it in the morning, but he can't open it just quite yet.

Johnson needs just a 36th place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway to wrap up the three-peat, but let's flash back briefly to 2005. Jimmie Johnson, then second in points, finished 40th at the finale at Homestead after a mid-race crash.

Carl Edwards, on the other hand, finished fourth after leading the most laps. But he finished behind three of his teammates, who surely would have let him by had a championship been in the balance.

Let's not call this one over yet, but it's keeping us from the real story. Yes, my loyal readers and I won't be seeing much of each other for the next few months, and it's a little touching. Sure, I'll have more free time, but I'll surely just waste it. I just found a Web site where you can play old video games online, after all.

It then occurred to me that maybe TLR (The Loyal Readers) might not be emotionally attached because I don't have a picture with my column. A reason, I suspect, that I was left off the Sporting News' list of the 60 Most Beautiful People in NASCAR (I like to think of myself more as classically handsome). So, here's the best I could do for you before the season's up:

/\/\/\/\/\/
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o o
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That was the best I could do. I still think it's pretty cool. (Note to editors: Any way we could just use that as my picture with the column?)

I think that's enough jibber jabber to last TLR for the next few months. I need to get eliminating.

Just one more refresher on the rules. Most people pick a race winner by focusing on why a guy will win. I, on the other hand, focus on why every other driver in the field can't win. By process of elimination, only one driver will remain, and he HAS to win. Here we go …

Can't decide on a vacation spot? Well, here are a couple of possible destinations. Dating back to 2000, seven of the last eight Homestead winners also finished in the top 20 earlier in the season at Las Vegas. Two of those drivers, Mark Martin and Jeremy Mayfield, won't be in the field this week, so we're already down to just 18.

Ever since the Cup Series finale was moved to Homestead, every winner had at least one win earlier in the season. That takes another 10 off the list, including a couple of "I can't believe you haven't won yet" guys in Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick. It also brings us to …

Trivia break! Only one Homestead-Miami winner got his first win of the season in that race. I need to know that driver.

Let's keep elimination fact No. 3 in the Southeast. The past six winners at Homestead-Miami all finished in the top 10 in the past Atlanta race. Half of our remaining drivers are out, and we just have four left in the running.

Chevrolet may have locked up the manufacturers' championship at Phoenix, but this fact's for the Fords. Ford has won four in a row at Homestead-Miami, all coming from Roush Fenway Racing. That eliminates the Toyotas of Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, and we are left with two.

This fact will make it pretty obvious who has been eliminated. In every race the Cup Series has run at Homestead, no driver higher than third in points has won. Carl Edwards will need a strong run to even have a shot at a title, but the fact takes him out, leaving just one.

Trivia break! In 2001, Bill Elliott won his first race since 1994 at Homestead, leading an unlikely top three of him, Michael Waltrip and Casey Atwood.

Who does The Eliminator like in the finale? Put me down for Greg Biffle, who will have won four of the past five races at the track. Remember, the numbers don't lie. And also remember to have a safe and fun offseason!

Eliminator breakdown
  1. Seven of the past eight Homestead winners finished in the top 20 in the last Las Vegas race (28 drivers eliminated, 18 remaining).
    Drivers eliminated: AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Marcos Ambrose, Dave Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Bill Elliott, David Gilliland, Jeff Gordon, Robby Gordon, Sam Hornish Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Sterling Marlin, Chad McCumbee, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard, Joe Nemechek, Max Papis, Tony Raines, David Reutimann, Scott Riggs, Ken Schrader, Regan Smith, Scott Speed, Tony Stewart, Brian Vickers, Michael Waltrip.

  2. Every time the Cup finale was held at Homestead, the race winner previously had a win that season (10 drivers eliminated, eight remaining).
    Drivers eliminated: Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Travis Kvapil, Bobby Labonte, Casey Mears, Juan Pablo Montoya, David Ragan, Elliott Sadler, Reed Sorenson, Martin Truex Jr.

  3. The past six Homestead winners finished in the top 10 in the last Atlanta race (four drivers eliminated, four remaining).
    Drivers eliminated: Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman.

  4. Ford has won four straight Homestead races (two drivers eliminated, two remaining).
    Drivers eliminated: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin.

  5. No driver higher than third in points has ever won at Homestead (one driver eliminated, one remaining).
    Drivers eliminated: Carl Edwards.

  6. And your winner is: Greg Biffle.

Matt Willis is a studio researcher at ESPN.

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