Homestead-Miami story lines

Jay Hart
Yahoo! Sports

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – The Jimmie Johnson victory parade begins at 4 p.m. ET. That's when the green flag drops on the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Johnson needs only to finish 36th or better to clinch his third straight title. And while something could still prevent him from joining Cale Yarborough as the only other driver to go back-to-back-to-back, it's not likely.

With this in mind, here's a look at five story lines heading into Sunday's season finale:

1. Will Jimmie go for the win? Johnson said last week at Phoenix that he'd love to clinch in style, and what better way to do that than with a win. He's never won at Homestead-Miami, but he was consistently in the top 10 in practice.

A win would give Johnson eight on the season, which would tie him with Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards for the Cup Series lead. Don't think that's not on his mind, too.

2. Goodbye, Tony: Tony Stewart's 10-year run with Joe Gibbs Racing will come to an end with the checkered flag on Sunday. JGR is the only NASCAR team Stewart has ever known. Next season, he'll drive for himself in an owner/driver role.

In his decade-long run with JGR, Stewart won 33 races, two Cup titles and established himself as one of the sport's most popular drivers.

Next year, he faces a challenge that's proven difficult to overcome. The last time a driver/owner won a race came way back in 1998 when Ricky Rudd won at Martinsville.

3. End of an era: With the economic troubles trickling down to NASCAR, expect the sport to have a different look when the cars hit Daytona International Speedway in February. Some will be unsponsored; others might not even show up; and all will be without the benefit of spending a few weeks testing in January thanks to NASCAR suspending all testing in 2009.

4. Rookie of the Year: In one of the more underwhelming races for Rookie of the Year honors, Sam Hornish Jr. leads Regan Smith by just three points.

Neither has scored a single top 10 this season, though Smith did have an apparent second-place finish at Talladega taken away when NASCAR ruled he passed Stewart under the yellow line.

Whoever finishes above the other won't necessarily win the award. That decision is ultimately up to a panel that consists of, among others, last year's Rookie of the Year, Juan Pablo Montoya.

5. Last chance for Jeff: Aside from his rookie year, Jeff Gordon has never gone an entire season without winning a race. That streak could end at 14 years as Gordon has gone winless so far in 2008.

In fact, Gordon has won at least two races every year since his rookie season, a streak that will definitely come to an end.

Grabbing that first win on Sunday will be an uphill battle as Homestead-Miami is one of only two tracks on the current schedule where Gordon has never won, Texas Motor Speedway being the other.

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