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It comes down to four drivers and one last race for NASCAR title

It comes down to four drivers and one last race for NASCAR title
The NASCAR drivers going for the Sprint Cup championship will be (from left to right): Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman. (Getty Images and Associated Press)

The four-driver field is set for the winner-take-all season finale that will decide NASCAR's Sprint Cup championship.

In the last of three rounds of eliminations in NASCAR's Chase for the Cup playoff, Kevin Harvick won Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway to reach the final round this Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.

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He'll be joined by the three drivers who finished highest in points after the Phoenix race: Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman.

The driver who finishes highest among those four at Homestead-Miami wins the season championship. Simple as that.

Here's a look at the four drivers, none of whom has ever won a Cup title:

Kevin Harvick

The driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing comes off a dominating victory at Phoenix, his second win during the 10-race Chase and his fourth win of the season.

The Bakersfield native has never won at Homestead-Miami, but he does have five top-five finishes in 13 starts at the 1.5-mile oval south of Miami.

"Just do it one more week," Harvick, 38, said after his Phoenix win. "Obviously the 22 [Logano] has had speed and won races. Denny [Hamlin] has a good history . . . at Homestead. So you just go down there and approach the week just like we approached this week."

Denny Hamlin

Indeed, the driver of the No. 11 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing has one advantage: Hamlin, 33, is the defending winner of the race at Homestead-Miami, and his victory last year was his second at that track.

This year, Hamlin has one win, at Talladega, and seven top-five finishes.

He's eager to win the championship after coming up just short in 2010, when he finished second in the title standings to Jimmie Johnson.

"I feel pretty optimistic" about Homestead-Miami, Hamlin said Sunday. "It's just a track that suits me for some reason. We're on house money now [in the Chase] so let's go have fun."

Joey Logano

The youngest of the four Chase finalists at 24, Logano also has the most wins in the group, with five this season, including two during the Chase.

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Logano drives the No. 22 Ford for Team Penske, and he's been strong all year, with 16 top-five finishes. He's never won at Homestead-Miami in five starts.

One key for Logano will be keeping his cool if things go wrong early in the race. At Phoenix on Sunday, Logano could be seen repeatedly banging his fist on the steering wheel in frustration after a pit-road miscue temporarily put him one lap down from the leaders.

The key is "everyone keeping their heads together," Logano said Sunday, adding that the finale will be "a pressure cooker."

Ryan Newman

Newman drives the No. 31 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, where he moved this year after being cut loose from Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of last season.

The Chase was revamped into a knockout-style format this year, partly to put a greater emphasis on drivers winning races, instead of just collecting points. Yet Newman, 36, has proved that consistency and points still can earn a chance to win the title.

Newman has not won a race this year, but he has four top-five finishes and 15 top-10 finishes. He's never won at Homestead-Miami and has only one top-five finish in 12 starts there.

"We all had an opportunity in Daytona" — at the season-opening Daytona 500 — "to start our Chase for the championship, and now four of us have a chance this coming weekend," Newman said.

Twitter: @PeltzLATimes

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