Road to the Championship Round: Jeff Gordon

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Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. will race for the Sprint Cup championship Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway on NBC.

Gordon, who is in his final Cup season, is vying for his fifth series title and his first since 2001. Few athletes in sports have had the chance to win a title in their final season.

Here’s how Gordon got here:

REACHED FINAL: Via victory at Martinsville

2016 VICTORIES: 1 (Martinsville II)

TOP 10s: 20

AVG. FINISH IN CHASE: 7.7

LAPS LED IN CHASE: 89

AVG. FINISH AT 1.5-MILE TRACKS IN 2016: 13.3

LAST YEAR’S HOMESTEAD FINISH: 10th (led race-high 161 laps)

OUTLOOK: The sentimental favorite looks to cap his brilliant NASCAR career with his fifth title, although Gordon notes his previous four crowns came in Winston Cup and that he’s never won a Sprint Cup title. His last championship came in 2001. He finished second to teammate Jimmie Johnson in 2007 but has finished in the top five in points only once since.

QUOTE: “Homestead is such a unique racetrack that I think everything you’ve seen up to this point really doesn’t tell you what you’re going to see in Homestead. It’s an abrasive track. Pit strategy is extremely important as we saw last year, running up against the wall, picking different lanes. I mean, there’s going to be a lot of factors. But I don’t know, I think even after Saturday’s practice you’re not really going to know who’s the favorite even by lap times.’’

DUSTIN LONG SAYS: Jeff Gordon has been touting his success at Homestead for quite some time, noting how well he runs at tracks with worn surfaces. While many look to Kevin Harvick to repeat, this might be among the best places for Gordon to have the season finish (other than Martinsville). Since securing a spot in the championship round two weeks ago, this team has had the luxury to focus on Homestead. That could be enough to get him the championship.

NATE RYAN SAYS: A fitting capper to a first-ballot Hall of Fame career would be capturing his first championship in 14 years. Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet lacked speed for much of the season, but it’s turned a corner with the best average finish through the first nine races of the playoffs. The biggest edge, though, is the experience of Gordon, who has spent the better part of two decades shouldering the weight of immense expectations and pressure. This will be like no other weekend in some ways for the four-time series champion, but other parts still will be like any other.