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NASCAR gears up for Sprint Cup finale

Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express

Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, stands in his pit box after he was replaced in his car by Brian Vickers during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. (May 5, 2013) Credit: Getty

Denny Hamlin. Joey Logano. Kevin Harvick. Ryan Newman.

One of these drivers will win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The champion will not have to win the Ford EcoBoost 400 to claim the Cup; just finish ahead of the other three.

"We're going to Homestead to race for a championship. I don't even care how we got here," said Harvick, who struggled to find success early in the season but punched his championship ticket by dominating last week's race at Phoenix.

A look at the final four:

Hamlin: Emerged from the eight-driver Eliminator Round by virtue of top-10 finishes in each of the three races. His lone win this season came in the first race at Talladega Superspeedway. The Joe Gibbs Toyota driver has lived the pressure of a Chase finale before -- and not fared well. In 2010, he took a 15-point lead into the race at Homestead but could not hold off Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin, who turns 34 on Tuesday, seems a more mature and relaxed driver this time around. He's won twice in nine career starts at Homestead (including last year's race) and has the benefit of crew chief Darian Grubb, who helped Tony Stewart to the 2011 Cup title.

Logano: The 24-year-old from Middletown, Connecticut won five races this season and had the best average finish of any driver in the Chase (5.3). However, his average finish at Homestead is 20.8 in five starts. He started on the HMS pole for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2012 but finished 14th. Paired with crew chief Todd Gordon, Logano has blossomed since joining Keselowski at Penske Racing in 2013. He's been at his best in the Chase, finishing no worse than 12th in any of the previous nine races. The No. 22 Ford has overcome adversity and rallied from deep in the pack the last two weeks. At Texas, the problem was loose lug nuts. At Phoenix, Logano left his pit stall with the fuel tank nozzle still engaged.

Harvick: Winning at Phoenix was no surprise for Harvick, who has taken the checkered flag in four of the last five Sprint Cup races there. It's been a different story at Homestead where he's finished in the top 10 in 11 of 13 career starts but never won a race. In his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing, Harvick finished 36th or worse in four of the first seven races this season. But his Chevrolet team found speed beginning the next week with a win from the pole at Darlington. Harvick, 38, went on to lead all drivers by winning the pole eight times this season -- twice in the Chase after his team switched pit crews with owner/teammate Tony Stewart, who failed to qualify for the Chase. His car has also led the most laps in 2014.

Newman: The winless driver, 36, bumped Kyle Larson out of his way at Phoenix last weekend to take the position he needed to qualify for the final four. The last-lap maneuver also bumped Jeff Gordon from the field of finalists. A winner of 17 races in his career, Newman is in his first season with Richard Childress Racing, which last won a championship 20 years ago with Dale Earnhardt Sr. Always a threat to win a pole under NASCAR's old qualifying system, Newman's Chevrolet hasn't found that sheer speed with crew chief Luke Lambert this season, but has been consistent enough to post 15 top-10s.

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