NASCAR Homestead Preview

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“I just can't wait to get into the car and get things going,” he says. “I really try to keep it simple and try and keep things the same…focus on the race and treat it like I would any other race.”

Let's face it. The NASCAR Sprint Cup is Jimmie Johnson's in all but name.

To further flog an already overused metaphor the fat lady may not be singing but she has the lyrics right in front of her.

Those lyrics will doubtless refer to the 108 point lead Johnson holds over Mark Martin, the only man now capable of denying Johnson his 'four-peat' and a slice of NASCAR history. The margin means that Johnson need only finish 25th to secure the title, regardless of how his Hendrick teammate fares in the race.

But Johnson and the no.48 team's four-peat is not the only first on offer to Hendrick Motorsports. With Johnson, Martin and Jeff Gordon in third in the standings the team is on course to become the first team to take the top three places in the final standings. An accolade that would rubber stamp the team's obvious domination of the sport in recent years.

The only man who can prevent that is Dodge driver Kurt Busch, who sits 42 points behind Jeff Gordon.

However, while a handful of teams will be focussed on closing out this season with a title, or their own mention in the final race report, many, many others will be looking forward to 2010, with NASCAR having one of the shortest off seasons in racing, with the Daytona 500 an astonishingly close February 14.

“[Finishing 2009 well] gives you momentum through the off-season,” explains Jeff Gordon. “What you're working on, it gives you confidence, it gives you bragging rights. It's a great feeling to end the season well.”

Brian Vickers, a chaser who has fared less well; languishing down in twelfth agrees as he and his Red Bull team look to continue their upswing next year. “What's more important finishing eleventh or twelfth or learning something that can dramatically increase our chances of winning the championship in 2010?” he asks. “If we can learn something that will help us get a head start in 2010, to me that's more important to us as a team than finishing eleventh.”

But, though he is highly likely to once more come up short of the title once more perhaps 2009 will be remembered for Mark Martin's renaissance as much as Johnson's victory. A man whose career appeared to be waning to have won five races.

“I'm going to look at 2009 and say I've had the best year of my life,” says the 50 year old.

And don't forget, it can still get better.

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