Five things to watch in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup season finale

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. – The phrase struck Jeff Gordon.

The end.

It came in a question about if his children recognized that this was the end of Gordon’s Sprint Cup career.

“Gosh, the end,’’ Gordon responded. “It’s like, the end, man.’’

Yes, it is. A constant every weekend of the NASCAR season since the 1992 finale, Gordon will climb into his No. 24 car for a final time. When the checkered flag flies, his Sprint Cup career will be complete.

Friends and family have come to Miami to see Gordon’s final ride (coverage starts at 1:30 pm ET on NBC on on Live Extra), making this as much a celebration as a goodbye. Still, this is it for Gordon, and he has the chance to leave the sport with a fifth championship.

“It would be the best one,’’ Gordon said of his titles if he wins today. “I can tell you that.’’

Standing between Gordon and a championship are the other three title contenders – reigning champion Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.

Gordon’s last ride is among the storylines today.

RAIN-SHORTENED RACE? After last weekend’s rain-shortened race at Phoenix International Raceway and with rain in the forecast today, the question is if NASCAR’s policy of making a race official once it is past halfway is acceptable for such an important race.

NASCAR Chairman Brian France said nothing will change with the sanctioning body’s policy.

“We typically want to come away on race day with whoever watched the race, watched the event, saw the conclusion of that event,’’ France said. “And that’s if you are over 50 percent. It’s not lost on us all the benefits that could happen if we elected to want to complete every lap. We get that, we understand that.

“Then we look at lots of other things that can come into play on that.  How long do we sit down here in South Florida with our media partners, etc., etc. There’s a whole safety element that we have to deal with and so on. But we’re looking at everything. Our view now is that like a lot of things that aren’t necessarily perfect, so to speak, that’s part of the game. That’s part of racing that it’s part of the strategy.’’

TIRE WEAR: Homestead’s surface wears tires and there’s a difference in lap times between a new tire and a tire with some laps on it.

Teams are allowed 12 sets for the race. Last year’s race featured 13 cautions, the most in the race since 2004. One key, though, is if there’s several cautions, how will crew chiefs manage their tires?

“You could put yourself in a spot where you run out of tires, and it would be very easy to do,’’ said Adam Stevens, crew chief for Kyle Busch. “But you never know when they’re going to have a long green-flag run, and if you’re coming off a 10‑lap run, and you elected not to put tires and then it goes 60 or 70 laps green, you’re going to be in bad shape.

“Tire usage on a track that has a lot of tire falloff is always a concern, and in looking at the caution history, I don’t think that it’s as cut‑and‑dry. You go to a lot of places, you’re going to have a lot of cautions, but we’ve seen Homestead with very few cautions or very many cautions, so it’s really hard to say how that’s going to shake out.’’

MATT IS BACK: Matt Kenseth is back after serving a two-race suspension for intentionally wrecking Joey Logano at Martinsville, a move done in retaliation for their incident at Kansas.

Since his suspension, Kenseth has had a meeting with NASCAR Chairman Brian France and series officials brokered a meeting between the drivers before Friday’s practice.

STREAKING: This will mark Kasey Kahne’s last chance to earn a win and extend his streak of scoring at least one win in five consecutive seasons. Only four drivers have won at least one race in five consecutive seasons – Jimmie Johnson (14 years), Kyle Busch (11), Denny Hamlin (10) and Kevin Harvick (six).