NASCAR & Auto Racing

Zoo Miami cheetah predicts winner for NASCAR Sprint Cup

Koda the cheetah sniffs out the winner of the Sprint Cup title and it’s ... defending champion Kevin Harvick.
Koda the cheetah sniffs out the winner of the Sprint Cup title and it’s ... defending champion Kevin Harvick. Photo courtesy of Homestead-Miami Speedway

Race cars are fast, and so are cheetahs.

So, on the surface, it makes perfect sense for a cheetah to pick the winner of Sunday’s season-long Chase for the Sprint Cup championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Well, that would be correct if it makes any sense for any animal to select the winner of a NASCAR race.

Nevertheless, that’s exactly what happened at Zoo Miami on Thursday as NASCAR headed into its weekend of season-finale races highlighted by the Ford EcoBoost 400 on Sunday that will crown the Sprint Cup champion.

NASCAR and Zoo Miami are hoping for better prediction results than a year ago when a binturong, a bearcat-like Asian animal, did the picking — and did it quite poorly.

“I’ve got to be honest with you, we had an animal make a pick last year, and he picked the guy that came in fourth place,” Zoo Miami director Ron Magill said. “So we fired him, he’s done. We thought we’d bring in the cheetah. The cheetah is the fastest land animal there is, seems to be a no-brainer, so we thought hopefully he can pick who is going to be the fastest car. If he picks wrong, next year we might do it with a tortoise.”

This year, the 2-year-old South African cheetah named Koda nosed around miniature model cars of the four possible winners — Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch — and finally decided upon Harvick.

Like the cheetah, Homestead-Miami Speedway president Matthew Becherer also made a prediction — being tactful, politically correct and not naming an outright winner.

“You can expect a lot of thrilling racing this weekend, not just on Sunday but also on Friday and Saturday,” Becherer said. “Last year, all four guys in the Championship 4 during the Ford EcoBoost 400 ran in the top five all day. I expect exactly the same this year. In fact, don’t be surprised if the new champion is also the winner of the Ford EcoBoost 400.”

MESSAGE TO GORDON

Gordon will be making the final ride in his storied NASCAR career Sunday, and fans will have the opportunity to give him a special farewell.

Fans in Sections 206 through 254 will have cards attached to their seats, and when they hold them up there will be a goodbye message to Gordon. There also will be a second-card stunt highlighting the four finalists for the Sprint Cup Series.

Fans in those card sections are being asked to be in their seats by 2:45 p.m. for the 3 p.m. race.

THIS AND THAT

▪ Tim McGraw, who recently released his new album Damn Country Music, will perform a prerace concert before Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400.

▪ How did the monster-sized Homestead-Miami Speedway (650 acres) on the outer reaches of Homestead come into existence? Thank Hurricane Andrew. It might be the one good thing the infamous storm of 1992 did. After the hurricane, motorsports promoter Ralph Sanchez made a deal with the city of Homestead to build the speedway as part of the area’s revitalization.

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