It was February 27 when the first green flag of the season went in the air. It was a day later than expected, but no one could have ever anticipated the fireworks that would ensure on that night. It was an evening where a race win was overshadowed by a track-drying vehicle going into flames.
Now, it has come down to the final race of a season that has seen rivalries, change, fights, and suspensions.
Last weekend at Phoenix saw wild action end the race, but it also saw a championship battle narrow down to just two drivers. Just like one year ago, the championship will be decided between two drivers in one race. When the checkered flag waves, it will either be Brad Keselowski or Jimmie Johnson hoisting a trophy above their head in victory.
The season started out at one beach in Florida, and the season will end at another beach in the same state.
The Homestead-Miami Speedway welcomes in Ford Championship Weekend for yet another fantastic finale, and everyone in the Sprint Cup Series is ready to finish out a season of incredible action. Likewise, the writers in the Fan Vs. Fan Victory Pool are ready to crown their champion for the second straight year. There are four writers in contention to win the title this season, including last year's champion.
Who will win the pool? Who will take the championship? Those questions have yet to be answered, but the question before the green flag waves in this case is "Who did the writers choose for a race win?"
Here we go. For the final time this year, take a look at the writers' picks for the season-finale Ford EcoBoost 400:
Misan Akuya: Matt Kenseth
First off gotta thank Jeff Gordon for taking out my pick. Now I am going to go with Matt Kenseth. He is going to end his legendary tenure at Roush Fenway on a bang. His tenure at Roush will be like Tony Stewart's tenure at Gibbs, David Pearson's tenure at the Wood Brothers.
He has a win at Homestead and Kenseth may get another one.
James Broomhead: Greg Biffle
Big, or should that be Biff, swing at picking a slightly unexpected winner this week.
I'm sure I'm not the only writer saying this here, but I'd like - again - to thank Dustin for organising this competition and doing everything that goes with it. Thanks for another year.
Kelly Crandall: Martin Truex Jr.
Billy Fellin: Carl Edwards
Michael Hirshbein: Kevin Harvick
Christopher Leone: Carl Edwards
Maybe the announcement about working with Jimmy Fennig for 2013 will have both him and Chad Norris fired up to finish on a high note.
Kara Martin: Clint Bowyer
Ryan O'Hara: Tony Stewart
I made a good run but three bad finishes in the Chase did me in.
Dustin Parks: Carl Edwards
Had that wreck not happened last week to Jimmie Johnson, I would likely be in the title picture as well. But, I'm over a race out, so no title this season.
Still, I'm staying with the driver I had for this weekend anyway. Edwards most recently won here in 2008, and NEARLY had the race last year along with his first title. Now, with knowledge that he's getting Jimmy Fennig once Kenseth heads over to Gibbs will be an extra large confidence boost to the No. 99 team.
What better way to end the season that backflipping to victory and celebrating with the fans that supported him through the struggle of 2012.
Patti Rodisch: Carl Edwards
Sal Sigala Jr: Clint Bowyer
Rob Tiongson: Tony Stewart
Oh this is another tough pick and after using up my best racers in the Chase, I'm hoping the best from last year's Chase will clinch the title for me.
A good top-10 finish is all I need so hoping Smoke gets it done!
Standings following Phoenix:
Rob Tiongson (2363) Kyle Busch finished 3rd (4)
Sal Sigala Jr. (2339) Brad Keselowski finished 6th (3)
James Broomhead (2331) Kyle Busch finished 3rd (3)
Kelly Crandall (2317) Kyle Busch finished 3rd (4)
Dustin Parks (2314) Jimmie Johnson finished 32nd (2)
Ryan O'Hara (2311) Clint Bowyer finished 28th (3)
Christopher Leone (2294) Mark Martin finished 10th (4)
Billy Fellin (2286) Kyle Busch finished 3rd (5)
Patti Rodisch (2282) Kasey Kahne finished 4th (2)
Michael Hirshbein (2280) Carl Edwards finished 11th (1)
Kara Martin (2260) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 21st (3)
Misan Akuya (2238) Clint Bowyer finished 28th (1)
Final Thoughts: An incredible year that's seen unpredictable success, angry drivers, and unbelievable moments comes down to one event. It will be 400 miles of nervousness for two teams, but in the end it will be one driver and organization stealing the spotlight.
Will it be the hottest driver of the last year and a half, who came on like an inferno after breaking his foot, and is now on the cusp of winning his first Sprint Cup championship?
Or, will it be the original Chase master, the one that spent five years taking home a title that until 2011 could not be wrestled from his grasp? Now, he and his team are looking for a six-pack, something that no other driver has accomplished.
The season finale will kick off with NASCAR Countdown on ESPN beginning at 2 p.m. ET. One hour later, the team of Alan Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree will have the call for the race and the championship.
Summary of Picks:
Martin Truex Jr-1