NASCAR season comes to a close with four drivers vying for Chase title at Homestead-Miami

NASCAR writer R. Cory Smith takes a look at the final four drivers in contention during Sprint Cup finale

Michael Thomas Shroyer—USA Today Sports
Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson (48) celebrates winning the Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Thirty-six races. Thirty-six drivers cut from championship contention. On Sunday, it all comes down to one race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.Of the final contenders, all four are completely different in terms of championship experience. Jimmie Johnson is a six-time champion looking for a record-tying seventh. Kyle Busch has just one title, but is the reigning champion.As for Carl Edwards and Joey Logano, neither have a title but have been in this situation before. Both drivers have had a title in their grasp in the final weeks of the season, finishing in the top five a combined six times.Let’s break down their chances.Joey LoganoKarma was finally on Sliced Bread’s side at Phoenix. After being bitten by some terrible luck last season when Matt Kenseth intentionally gashed his title hopes at Martinsville, Kenseth wrecked in the final laps last Sunday to hand Logano the win and a championship four berth.While he hasn’t visited Victory Lane as often as the last two seasons, Logano is still just as consistent as ever in the Chase. Two of his three wins this season, however, have come in elimination races at Talladega and Phoenix, boding well for the final cutoff event.Logano heads to Homestead as the top overall seed after posting five top-five finishes in the first nine races of the Chase. At just 26 years old, the former Joe Gibbs Racing driver has a chance to upset his old team and bring a second title to Team Penske in the last five seasons.Jimmie JohnsonNo driver in NASCAR has as many championships as Mr. Six-Time. Trailing only Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty in career crowns, Johnson needs just one more to equal them with seven.The lone Hendrick Motorsports driver in the finale has turned back the clock this season with two clutch wins during the Chase. That pair of wins came at Charlotte and Martinsville, tracks where Johnson has typically dominated but had not won at in more than two years.Classic JJ is back, which means he’s prepared to close the door on the rest of the contenders at Homestead. With 10 top-10 finishes and four top fives over 15 races in the season finale, expect Johnson to be in contention when the final laps of the 2016 season are winding down.Carl EdwardsThe first of the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers to advance with his win at Texas, Edwards has seen the rug pulled out underneath him several times in his career.In his first full season with Roush Fenway Racing, Edwards finished third. In 2008, he racked up nine wins only to finish second behind Johnson. He would finish second again in 2011 to Tony Stewart because he only tallied one win throughout the year.It’s only Edwards’ second season with JGR, but he’s proved to be one of the best drivers in the stable this season. After one of the most consistent years of his 12-year career, a backflip at Homestead would be a payoff moment for a man who’s been a bridesmaid twice.Kyle BuschUnlike the previous three drivers on this list, Busch has something at Homestead none of them have achieved: a checkered flag. That’s a crucial component for a title contender, especially since that is the only thing that would guarantee a title.Busch tallied three wins over the first 11 races before struggling in late May and June. He kissed the bricks again at Indianapolis, but has gone 15 races without visiting Victory Lane since the Brickyard 400.The last time he did that? Last year, when he capped off the season with a win at Homestead. Yeah, we know exactly how that turned out.