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NASCAR NOTES: Mind games in Miami

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(Source: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images for NASCAR) (Source: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images for NASCAR)
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Many depicted the 2012 Chase for the Nextel Cup as a Heavy Weight Title Match. We are now in round 10 of that battle and two competitors stand ready to come to blows if needed to win the title.

As both Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski prepare to square off this weekend in Homestead, it is clearly a "Rocky Balboa" moment. You have the seasoned championship veteran facing off against this relatively unknown kid that is brash and full of youthful confidence.

Johnson knows the pressure of performing on this type of stage and plans to use the days prior to the event to rattle his young opponent.

"He may be very comfortable and calm now," said the five-time champ on the building pressure of this week. "At some point the magnitude hits, and I've lived through it five times. There's a turning moment, and we'll see how he responds"

Facing a 20 point deficit, Johnson knows that his only hope is to lead the most laps and win in the final race.

"I think either way we'll be in good shape," said Johnson on his situation. "We'll have a fast race car and go out and race hard, and then if some luck comes our way, we'll hopefully be ready to capitalize on that, as well."

Keselowski has never faced the type of pressure that he will face this weekend. It has brought many experienced drivers down and Johnson is quick to point out how misfortune can jump up and bite you.

"We look at the IndyCar championship and how it unfolded at Fontana," observed Johnson on how Penske lost the title there in the final race. "It seemed like it was a lay-up race, and things can happen."

The mind games are just part of the hype of the contest. How you handle it will either make or break you. Keselowski is putting his strength in those surrounding him.

"I think it comes from the people that you're surrounded by and how comfortable they are," said Brad on his support group. "I think that's probably the biggest thing that you can do is be surrounded by people that share that same passion that you have but also put out a level of calmness that is somewhat addictive."

The tendency of someone in Keselowski's situation is to be a little more cautious but, the point leader is not planning on changing his style in the final event.

"I'm going to go out there and play my game, race my way," Keselowski said on his strategy. "That's got us to this point, and if we do that, we'll be fine, and I think that's our approach."

If you go back to the Rocky reference, Johnson has been using his best Apollo Creed impression to intimidate his young challenger. Keselowski is the perfect Rocky in that he just doesn't know what he's up against. In the final round, the young challenger knocks out the champion. It will be interesting to see how this all turns out.

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