Sprint Cup

NASCAR Sprint Cup News Wire
  • Wednesday, December 17, 2014
    Busch testifies he told former girlfriend to leave
    By The Sports Xchange

    NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch insisted during testimony at a hearing Wednesday in Dover, Del., that he repeatedly asked his former girlfriend to leave his motorhome on the night that she alleges that he assaulted her.

    • Patricia Driscoll is pursuing a court order to keep Busch away from her, saying she fears for her safety. She testified a day earlier that Busch choked her and smashed her head into a bedroom wall three times.

      Busch, 36, said Driscoll, 37, came to the motorhome uninvited at Dover International Speedway in September and demanded that he let her son know that their relationship had ended. He contended that he asked her five times to leave.

      "I took my hands and cupped her cheeks and I looked at her eye to eye and I said, 'You need to leave.' I was defusing the situation," Busch testified.

      Busch's attorneys argue that a court order to protect Driscoll is unnecessary. They say Driscoll refused to accept that the relationship was over. Busch said Driscoll fabricated her story.

      Driscoll testified Tuesday that the two argued after a race in New Hampshire before the Dover incident and contended that Busch had an alcohol problem and was struggling with depression.

      The assault allegations are being investigated separately by Dover police.

      Busch's attorneys described Driscoll as a scorned girlfriend trying to destroy his career.

      Driscoll operates a Washington, D.C.-based defense consulting firm and serves as president of the Armed Forces Foundation, a nonprofit for veterans.

  • Wednesday, December 17, 2014
    Harvick feels at home at Phoenix
    By The Sports Xchange

    Facing a win-or-else situation and given his druthers, Kevin Harvick would pick Phoenix International Raceway for the make-or-break ride.

    • Harvick owns a series-best five wins at the one-mile tri-oval and has taken the checkered flag in three of the last four races there, including the past two.

      Currently eighth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, Sunday's Quicken Loans Race For Heroes 500 cutoff race at Phoenix (3 p.m. ET, ESPN) could not have come at a better time for the No. 4 Chevrolet. Harvick trails Jeff Gordon by just six points for the coveted fourth -- and final -- spot needed for advancement to the Championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

      Harvick can punch his ticket to Miami without having to rely on the misfortune of others by winning for a third consecutive time at the one-mile track.

      "As (the season) gets closer to the end, the intensity ratchets up," Harvick said. "At this point of the year, everybody's just going for broke trying to win a race, get the best finish they can to end the season on a good note. It's hard racing. It's fun."

      In 2011, PIR was repaved and remodeled for the fall race with changes that included concrete pit stalls, progressive banking, and degree alterations to the dogleg and turns. Since then, Harvick has won three of the six events there and also posted a runner-up finish. In his 18 Phoenix races prior to the repave, Harvick averaged a finish of 13.8. In the six races since, he has an average of just 6.2. With a victory on Sunday, he can sweep the track for the second time in his career (2006).

      "The track is still racy enough where you can make up time if your car is good, but you need to stay focused on strategy," Harvick said. "The track has definitely changed since the repave a couple of years ago. The weather really helps wear the track. It's incredibly hot in the summer and can get really cold in the winter, so there are some pretty extreme temperatures that have helped to age the asphalt."

      Coming off a runner-up finish at Texas, Harvick travels to the Sonoran Desert with some needed momentum after opening the Eliminator Round with a 33rd-place finish at Martinsville. Equipped with a fast Stewart-Haas racing Chevrolet, the 38-year-old has led the most laps in the series this season (1,819) and has captured the most Coors Light Pole Awards (8). Harvick boasts three wins this year, the most recent coming at Charlotte on Oct. 11.

      "Everything is just so intense right now," Harvick said. "Everybody is just kind of throwing caution to the wind to do all they can for their team. Everybody is racing as hard as they can. Just glad to be in the mix."

      Elliott "chasing" NASCAR history

      Chase Elliott has the chance to cement his name into NASCAR's record books this weekend.

      At the conclusion of Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series DAV 200 at Phoenix International Raceway (4 p.m. ET, ESPN), Elliott can become the first rookie and youngest driver -- 18 years, 11 months and 18 days -- to win a NASCAR national series championship.

      All he has to do is maintain his 48-point lead atop the NNS standings over his JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith. If Elliott leaves Phoenix with a 48-point advantage over second, he'll clinch the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series championship.

      "It would be phenomenal," Elliott said when asked about potentially winning the championship at Phoenix. "It would mean the world to me, and not just me, but our team, our sponsors, NAPA and everybody that makes it happen. We're going to give it our best shot to do so and we'd still like to have another win or two before the year is out."

      The 18-year-old rides a streak of 12 top-10 finishes, including seven top fives to the Avondale, Arizona track. He finished ninth in his second career start at the rain-shortened March Phoenix race and is fresh off a fourth-place showing at Texas.

      "This is the type of performance and momentum you want late in any season," Elliott said. "I am very excited about getting back out to Phoenix. In the spring we had a decent run, but due to the rain-out we never were able to get a full analysis of the weekend. I love short-track racing, which is what Phoenix is all about, but I certainly have a lot to learn about Phoenix and how to get around there."

      Two-man tussle for Trucks championship

      It's down to the seasoned veteran versus the rising star in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship battle.

      With just two races left, defending champion Matt Crafton leads Ryan Blaney by 23 points heading into Friday's Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway (8:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1).

      No matter the outcome at Homestead, at least one championship record will be set. Crafton would be the first back-to-back champion in the 20-year history of the NCWTS, while Blaney would be the series’ youngest title-winner at 20 years, 10 months and 14 days.

      Before heading to Miami, the two drivers will have to tackle Phoenix. Both have performed well at the one-mile tri-oval located in the Sonoran Desert. Blaney boasts two top-10 finishes in as many starts, while Crafton claims four top-five and nine top-10 showings in 13 races at Phoenix. Neither has won there.

      Blaney is confident he can catch Crafton even after losing ground on him at Texas.

      "We made a stop toward the end of the race under caution and I was able to get back up to ninth which was good but we lost points," Blaney said. "Now we need to win at Phoenix and Homestead to have a chance at the title and I think we can do that."

      Though unlikely, there is a mathematical possibility that Crafton clinches the championship at Phoenix. If he leaves there with a 48-point lead over Blaney, Crafton will lock up the 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title.

      "I'm not worried about points," said Crafton after his fifth-place finish at Texas. "We're going for a win at Phoenix, it's kind of a home track for me. We've been there a ton, and have a new truck so we're really looking forward to it."

  • Tuesday, December 16, 2014
    Ex-girlfriend says Kurt Busch is alcoholic, depressed
    By The Sports Xchange

    NASCAR driver Kurt Busch was fighting alcoholism and depression when he smashed his then-girlfriend's head into a wall in September, the woman told a family court in Dover, Del., on Tuesday.

    • Patricia Driscoll is seeking a protection order.

      Busch's attorney, Rusty Hardin, said the events of Sept. 26, when Busch allegedly hurt Driscoll, were partly her fault because she did not leave a Dover International Speedway motorhome as he asked her to do.

      "I am not to blame for him putting his hands on me," Driscoll said in court, according to the Wilmington (Del.) News Journal.

      Busch's representatives painted Driscoll as a gold digger and an unreliable source.

      In Tuesday's six-hour hearing, Driscoll was the only witness to testify. The hearing is due to resume Wednesday.

  • Tuesday, December 16, 2014
    Sprint to pull out of NASCAR after 2016 season
    By The Sports Xchange

    Sprint's run as the primary sponsor of NASCAR's top series will end after its current agreement in 2016.

    • The company, which has gone through a sale in the past year, made the announcement on Tuesday.

      Nextel and Sprint, which merged with Nextel, have held the rights since 2004 after replacing longtime sponsor Winston.

      "We are proud of our association with NASCAR's top series but have made the decision not to extend our sponsorship beyond the next two years," Sprint vice president of marketing Steve Gaffney said. "As we look to the future, Sprint is focused on investing in maintaining a competitive edge and providing consumers with the best value in wireless.

      "Sprint has long benefited from the unprecedented level of brand integration available in NASCAR, and the passionate fan base that is the most loyal in sports. Without question, the NASCAR sponsorship property has been a valuable investment for us and will be for our successor."

      There was no word from NASCAR on a replacement for Sprint.

      "NASCAR and Sprint have enjoyed a long and productive partnership that has returned significant value to both parties," NASCAR senior vice president and chief communications officer Brett Jewkes said. "We understand significant changes within Sprint and the highly competitive business environment it is in has led to a decision not to extend its Cup Series entitlement position following the 2016 season.

      "The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is a very unique, premium sports marketing platform with strong momentum, so we are very confident of moving forward in 2017 with an outstanding new partner. In the meantime, we look forward to Sprint's partnership on the best racing series in the world for the next two seasons."

  • Monday, December 15, 2014
    Heart issue sidelines Vickers
    By The Sports Xchange

    Brian Vickers will miss the start of the 2015 Sprint Cup season to address yet another health matter.

    • Vickers said Monday he checked himself into the hospital when he didn't feel right and learned his body was rejecting an artificial patch inserted to repair a hole in his heart five years ago.

      "My previous experiences have given me a very keen understanding of my body," Vickers said in a statement. "Late last week I knew something wasn't right, so I went to the hospital to be checked out. Following several tests, it was discovered that my body was rejecting an artificial patch that was inserted in 2010 to fix a hole in my heart. Saturday, I had to have corrective surgery to repair the hole and now I am beginning the recovery process."

      Vickers has 316 career starts and would require a special waiver from NASCAR to miss multiple races but still be in consideration for the Chase playoffs. He finished 22nd in the standings in 2014, his first with Michael Waltrip Racing.

      "Brian has been a part of the MWR family since 2012 and our thoughts today are with Brian, his wife Sarah and the Vickers family," MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman said in a statement. "As a race team, MWR has plenty to consider and we will confer with our partners, including Aaron's and Toyota. As this is fresh news, we will adjust our future plans as more information becomes available."

      This is the third instance of Vickers, 31, missing time because of health issues. He was also out for stretches during 2010 and 2013 to be treated for blood clots.

      Vickers has not been agreeable to taking blood thinners regularly because it would prohibit him from driving.

  • Wednesday, December 10, 2014
    Ganassi confirms Kanaan, Dixon for 2015 season
    By The Sports Xchange

    Tony Kanaan, who won the IndyCar Series season finale, will return to the No. 10 car in 2015, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams announced Wednesday.

    • Kanaan reached the podium in five of the final seven races in 2014 and won the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., on Aug. 30. He will be sponsored by NTT DATA.

      "I can't wait to begin working with everyone at NTT DATA," Kanaan said. "I know and have worked with them before so this will be great. As for the team, we really started to come together at the end of last season and, although we ended on a high note with the win in Fontana, I think we had a legitimate chance to win a few more times. We have a year under our belt working together now, and I expect to be contending more consistently in 2015."

      Ganassi said, "I think TK had a far better year than the numbers would indicate and his win in Fontana gives him and the team great momentum as we head into 2015."

      Kanaan joins Scott Dixon, a three-time IndyCar Series champion who earlier this week announced he would return for his 14th season with the team. Dixon finished third in the 2014 championship standings.

  • Saturday, December 6, 2014
    Harvick honored at year-end banquet
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed for The Sports Xchange

      LAS VEGAS -- As the culmination of a calculated risk that led to a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, the NASCAR industry joined together Friday night at the Wynn to honor 2014 titleholder Kevin Harvick, who claimed stock car racing's most coveted prize in his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing.

      In his speech at the Sprint Cup Awards Banquet, Harvick revealed just how much of a risk he took in changing teams after the 2013 season.

      "After 13 seasons at Richard Childress Racing, I made the move to Stewart-Haas Racing," said Harvick, who joined forces with long-time friend and SHR co-owner Tony Stewart this year. "And I have to admit, I was scared to death. I tried to play it cool, but it was a pivotal moment in my career.

      "I was venturing outside my comfort zone, and I had to make it work. Tony, I consider you to be one of my best friends. You promised me if I came to Stewart-Haas Racing, we would win a championship, and we did just that. You are a man of your word."

      In the first year of a new elimination format for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Harvick claimed the title with victories in the final two races. His win at Phoenix International Raceway propelled him into the Championship Round of the Chase at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he secured the title by triumphing in the season finale.

      All told, Harvick won five races, three in the Chase, won a career-best eight poles and led a series-best 2,137 laps. From day one at SHR, he showed tremendous speed.

      "The first time I was able to get in my No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John's Chevrolet, we were fast," Harvick said. "It didn't matter if it was an open test at Charlotte last December. A practice, a qualifying session or a race—we wanted to be at the top of the board."

      Nor was Harvick hesitant in offering praise to the architect of his race team, crew chief Rodney Childers.

      "He built new race cars and assembled a whole new group of guys between the end of the 2013 season right until we loaded up for the Daytona 500," Harvick said. "Under his direction, we accomplished a lot and became great friends in the process.

      "From the lead-up to the Daytona 500 until the checkered flag dropped at Homestead, Rodney asked for a lot from our people on this race team. Rodney, I can't say thank you enough for all that you've done."

      In accepting the championship owner's award, SHR co-owner Gene Haas pointed out that both titles won by the organization since he partnered with Stewart in 2009 required drivers Stewart (2011) and Harvick to win the final race of the season at Homestead.

      And in fact, Harvick finished one position and a mere half-second ahead of series runner-up Ryan Newman in the season finale.

      "We were one point away from our best finish of the season at Homestead," Newman said after leaving the stage.

      The overwhelming consensus among the 16 drivers who appeared during the ceremony was that the new Chase format had transformed the sport.

      "Even though we didn't make it to Homestead to battle for the championship, I truly believe NASCAR got it right this year with the new knockout format for the Sprint Cup," said Jeff Gordon, who won four times in 2014 but was eliminated from the Chase at Phoenix by a single point.

      "I cannot begin to describe the pressure and the intensity we faced week after week, race after race—and this year crowned a deserving champion."

      For the 12th straight year, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was named the NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver. Earnhardt, who finished eighth in the final standings, began posting on Twitter this year after his victory in the 2014 Daytona 500 and talked about how gratifying it was to see his timeline explode with tweets from fans who said they had voted for him as Most Popular Driver.

      One of the most touching moments of the evening was the awarding of the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award to Daniel Noltemeyer, a founder of the Best Buddies of Kentucky, an organization dedicated to facilitating the social inclusion of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

      Noltemeyer, who has Down syndrome, has become an enthusiastic ambassador for Best Buddies International. One of four national finalists, Noltemeyer received a $100,000 grant for his charity as the winner of the award, which was conferred for the fourth year.

  • Thursday, December 4, 2014
    Earnhardt wins prestigious Myers Brothers Award
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      LAS VEGAS -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he almost broke down on the stage in the Encore Ballroom after receiving the prestigious Myers Brothers Award, an honor his father, seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt Sr., received posthumously in 2001.

      "I felt like I was going to fall apart up there, talking about it," Earnhardt said after Thursday's Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon. "I couldn't figure out if I was nervous or excited. Once I got up there, I was running a hundred miles an hour -- I was so excited and happy.

      "I had as much fun delivering and giving that speech as I've had with any other speech. I really enjoyed conveying my appreciation, because it's so genuine."

      At the suggestion that his father would have been proud to see Earnhardt Jr. recognized for his work in developing young drivers through JR Motorsports and for the contributions of his Dale Jr. Foundation, Earnhardt quipped: "He probably would have derailed the whole thing. 'He don't deserve that. Don't give that to him -- not yet. He's only 40.'"

      Yet few owners have done more than Earnhardt Jr. in recent years to recognize and develop new talent. Brad Keselowski, the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, and Chase Elliott, the reigning NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, both are JR Motorsports products. So is Greg Ives, who succeeds NBC-bound Steve Letarte as Earnhardt's crew chief at Hendrick Motorsports in 2015.

      "It's a different award, unlike anything else, really, in the sport," Earnhardt said. "It's a feeling of being an asset to something and being important, feeling like someone values what you are and who you are.

      "It's a great honor, and just looking back at all the people that have won it, it's a long, long list of who's who and people that built this sport one brick at a time. ... It's really emotional."

      GORDON EXPLAINS PIT STRATEGY

      Jeff Gordon appeared to have a race-winning car in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but a decision to pit for four tires late in the race dropped him far back in the running order and relegated the driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to a 10th-place finish.

      In tying up that loose end from Homestead, Gordon explained that his decision was dictated by a choice made earlier in the race.

      "I think the question really needs to be about, before that, why we didn't pit," Gordon said. "You take all the information you have from past history of long green-flag runs to the end of the race, track position, who's coming, who's not. ...

      "We dominated that race, had a car that I think could have and should have won that race. But we all came in and got four tires. They throw the green, and caution comes out in three or four laps. We stay out, and I think we went one more round of green-flag run, four or five laps, and caution comes out again.

      "At that point, that's where the race changed for us and really took us out of contention, because we decided to stay out, and all those other guys decided to come in, and there were just too many cautions at the end."

      Gordon scoffed at the suggestion that he might not have wanted to restart up front on old tires at the end of the race, with the potential to affect the outcome of the championship battle.

      "Heck, no, that had nothing to do with it," Gordon said. "It was all about winning the race, and knowing that those guys behind us had fresh tires, because they elected to pit, and that place eats tires up. ...

      "What's really interesting is, when you look at (Sprint Cup champion) Kevin Harvick's position, he came down pit road and took four (tires) where some other guys took two, and he saw his championship chances completely go out the window. If you listened to his radio communication, it was, 'We're done, we're done.'

      "But enough cautions fell after that to bring them back into it, and he did a great job, obviously, moving up through there. And that exact same thing that helped win him the championship is what cost us the win for that race."

      LOGANO PUTS DISAPPOINTMENT BEHIND HIM

      Joey Logano came to Homestead as one of four drivers eligible for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

      He also came to the season finale with the best average finish through the first nine races of the Chase.

      But a mistake on pit road, when his No. 22 Ford fell off the jack as his crew was changing left-side tires, relegated Logano to fourth in the final standings.

      Logano has little patience with the maxim that you have to lose a championship before you can win one.

      "Who said that the first time?" Logano asked. "That's the worst quote ever. It is a heartbreak not to win it, but I'm a silver-linings person. I look at the positives. We won five races. We scored a ton of points throughout the Chase.

      "We had a lot of top-fives. The teams worked well together. We kept growing throughout the whole season, and it makes me excited for next year. Yeah, we didn't accomplish our ultimate goal this year, but we came really, really close, and for that reason, I like our shot for next year."

      TO THE VICTOR GO THE SPOILS

      Harvick's domination of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season was never more evident than at the Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon, where the reigning champion was recognized with seven awards.

      Harvick took home the American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award, the 3M Lap Leader Award, the Duralast Brakes Brake in the Race Award, the Mobil 1 Driver of the Year Award, the Freescale Wide Open Award and the Sunoco Diamond Performance Award.

      In addition, Harvick claimed the Goodyear Gold Car, a spectacular 1:12 scale model of his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet, a trophy that goes to the series champion each year.

      Billy Davis of Hendrick Engines was recognized as the Mahle Engine Builder of the Year for his work with Harvick's team. The Sprint Champion Crew Chief Award went to Rodney Childers, Harvick's pit boss, and the Sprint Cup Champion Sponsor Award went to Budweiser, Harvick's sponsor.

      THEY SAID IT

      "It don't even seem real." -- Dale Earnhardt Jr., in accepting the Myers Brothers Award.

      "It's hard to believe they've been together three years longer than I've been alive." -- Sunoco Rookie of the Year Kyle Larson on Chip Ganassi Racing's 25-year relationship with sponsor Target.

      "I want to thank everybody at Sherwin Williams for this award -- and for making me feel a little bit less like a loser today." -- Matt Kenseth, winless in 2014 after seven victories a year earlier, in accepting the Sherwin Williams Fastest Lap Award.

      "This format and this style is really something I've taken a liking to." -- Brad Keselowski on the knockout qualifying system, after winning the Coors Light Pole Award.

  • Tuesday, December 2, 2014
    Harvick pays tribute to military during visit to Nellis
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed for The Sports Xchange

      LAS VEGAS -- In a massive hangar that houses the fighter jets flown by the Thunderbirds, against the backdrop of a gigantic American flag reminiscent of George C. Scott's monologue in the movie "Patton," Kevin Harvick fielded questions from a group of enthusiastic NASCAR fans.

      But this was no ordinary fan engagement. Those asking Harvick about everything from the final laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway to the now-notorious shove of Brad Keselowski at Texas Motor Speedway were clad not in the livery of their favorite drivers, but in camouflage.

      The recently crowned NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion came to Nellis Air Force Base to express his appreciation for those who serve, with his words often interrupted by the near-deafening roar of jets taking off from a nearby runway.

      "It's really hard to be able to show the appreciation that you have for it as much as you need to, because you really can't ever get to the point of appreciating it enough," Harvick said after he and crew chief Rodney Childers interacted with the crowd. "As you go to different places and you've seen other countries and how things operate, you really appreciate being from the United States and living the life that we live.

      "We're very fortunate, but it takes a lot of sacrifice from a lot of individuals to make that happen. So any time you can do an event like this and say thanks and just be part of the activities, it's definitely worth the time to do that."

      Ever since he won the championship by a half-second over Ryan Newman in the season finale at Homestead, Harvick has been the focus of a whirlwind media blitz that has included appearances on such TV staples as "Late Show with David Letterman" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

      What resonated most, however, was an appearance at his hometown high school in Bakersfield, California, on Monday, where Harvick addressed an appreciative crowd of 960 students.

      "That's still by far the coolest thing I've gotten to do so far," Harvick said. "All the TV shows and all that stuff is just -- I shouldn't say part of the job, because that's really neat, too, to be a part of that -- but to go back and go to your hometown and go to your high school and be able to speak to the kids and hopefully be an influence to them in their life.

      "We've done a lot of work at the high school over the past several years, really trying to have a positive impact on the kids and their situations, whether it be with the sports teams or just talking to them in general.

      "We've put a lot of effort into the school. So to be able to take that trophy back and show them, 'You can be rich, you can be poor, but if you put your mind to what you're doing and have a goal and follow your dream, you can accomplish it, because I have proof of it.'

      "I grew up right where they all grew up and accomplished what we've accomplished. It's good to be able to have the ability to have an influence on people's lives."

      For Harvick, the most difficult thing about the nonstop schedule and constant attention is that he hasn't been able to share the experience with his team members, whom he hasn't seen since Nov. 16 at Homestead.

      "I got out of the car and did an interview and went up on stage and took all the pictures, and that's the only time I've seen my whole team," Harvick said. "The rest of it has just been part of the process of getting to championship week and the banquet and everything.

      "But I'm most excited about seeing my guys and talking to 'em and having dinner with 'em and being able to really start to take it all in and just talk about everything that was done."

  • Tuesday, December 2, 2014
    IndyCar to eliminate standing starts
    By The Sports Xchange

    IndyCar will scrap standing starts next season.

    • IndyCar president of competition Derrick Walker acknowledged Tuesday that fans liked the standing starts, but there were too many issues that led to inconsistencies.

      Walker also said none of the four venues to stage races with standing starts last season had the space required to safety to make it work.

      "There is some development needed with the launch," Walker said. "We know the fans enjoy it, and we love it, too."

      Walker did not rule out standing starts in the future. They were first used at Toronto in 2013.

      In other rule changes for 2015, IndyCar will double points awarded for the Indianapolis 500 and the season-ending race at Sonoma Raceway in an attempt to set up a dramatic finish.

      "The best trend with multiple cars racing for the championship was weighting it for the final race and the Indy 500, which is a special race deserving of double points," Walker said.

  • Monday, November 17, 2014
    Harvick's first Sprint Cup title a total team effort
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Seth Livingstone, NASCAR News Wire

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Kevin Harvick walked into his post-race press conference munching a slice of pepperoni pizza. He ended it with 2-year-old son Keelan on his lap and walked out of the room with a bottle of his sponsor's beer in his hand.

      All pretty normal stuff.

      But the 2014 season, to which Harvick applied his exclamation mark Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, was anything but. It was special and quite remarkable for the team, its owners and its driver.

      Moreover it was about the combined family that Stewart-Haas Racing had become in the last year, bringing in new faces like Harvick and Kurt Busch and talented behind-the-scenes people like eager-to-achieve crew chief Rodney Childers.

      It's a family that has experienced rough times. Co-owner Tony Stewart, a three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, had personally weathered the darkest season of his career, sitting out three races after his sprint car struck and killed a fellow driver in Upstate New York and failing to win a race for the first time in his career. This week, the spector of domestic abuse allegations hovered around Kurt Busch.

      None of that could, however, deter or diminish the accomplishment of the Stewart-Haas family as it related to Harvick's phenomenal season or virtually flawless performance to hold off Ryan Newman for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title in Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400.

      "I'm just glad tonight turned out," Stewart said. "You know, the rest of it's history. We've talked about it over and over. I'm more excited about what this organization and what this group of people has done together. You know, there are a lot of things I would love to change about the last 18 months of my life, but tonight is not one of them."

      Harvick agreed on every count.

      "For me, personally, there's nothing better than to see your friends smile," he said. "I know (Tony's) been through a lot this year but very rarely have we talked about those situations. He's my friend and I want to see him happy. "

      Stewart noted that sometimes change can be a good thing and change is what put Harvick in the No. 4 Chevrolet.

      Although finishing third in points three out of the last four previous seasons, Harvick had become stale after 13 years at Richard Childress Racing where he won 23 Sprint Cup races and six poles. This year alone he won five Cup races -- including the final two -- and eight poles.

      "I just wasn't excited about going to work," Harvick said, reflecting on his move. "I'd known Kurt and Danica and to be part of building something--it really changed my life. Really, (having) my son started that. In evaluation it was (wife) Delana and I looking at things and saying, 'What's going to make us happy?' Because, in the end, if you're not happy, nothing is going to work like it should.

      "I don't think I've ever been happier in my whole life than I have been this year--from a personal and professional standpoint. You see all the things that you have around you and you're lucky. Honestly, I have no idea how much money I make. I love showing up to work. I love coming to the race track and I love what I do."

      Harvick was convinced that Stewart and co-owner Gene Haas were serious about building a winner from the ground up--which the Harvick team literally did, with new equipment, cars and personnel.

      "As I look at the decision to come here, I keep coming back to the people and the resources that you have available to you," Harvick said. "Tony was pretty adamant that we could race for wins and championships. I think, for me, that was really what it was all about."

      Harvick said it wasn't just his Stewart-Haas family, but the extended family that helped him settle in during championship week at Homestead. More than once he mentioned the support he received from Jimmie Johnson. The six-time premier champion drives for Hendrick Motorsports, which supplies engines and chassis to Stewart-Haas.

      When it came to actually winning the race, everything just sort of fell into place for Harvick, who led 54 laps including the final eight once he utilized fresh tires to get by Denny Hamlin.

      "I have no idea how I got the lead--no clue," said Harvick of the closing laps, after Childers' decision to take four tires left the No. 4 Chevrolet sitting 12th on a restart with less than 10 laps to race. It was as deep in the field as Harvick had been all race."

      It came as little surprise to Harvick that Childers had made the call for fresh rubber, even as Hamlin stayed on the track and Ryan Newman--a close friend and driver he replaced at SHS--gained an on-track advantage by taking right sides only.

      "I can drive the car, but these guys have made some bold decisions, whether it be on the pit box tonight, changing the pit crew (prior to the Chase) or whatever it might be," Harvick said. "I believe in life that sometimes you have to make bold decisions. Sometimes they work out."

  • Sunday, November 16, 2014
    NASCAR notebook: Pit problem ruins Logano's run
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Joey Logano sat on pit road in his No. 22 Team Penske Ford for what seemed an eternity, as his crewman tried in vain to get a jack under the left side of the car.

      After a superb run in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, a performance in which he had two victories and accumulated more points than any other title competitor through nine Chase races, Logano's hopes for a title disappeared with the catastrophic mistake on pit road.

      On Lap 249 of 267 in Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 Championship 4 Round race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Logano brought his car to pit road for the money stop. After routine work on the right side of the No. 22 Ford, the car slipped off the jack as the team prepared to change tires on the left side.

      Logano's crew frantically tried to lift the car high enough to slide the jack under the left side but lost precious seconds in the process. When the stop was finally completed, Logano was 29th in the running order, with his hope of a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship all but gone.

      Logano described his emotions as he sat in the car--and waited.

      "I was pretty pissed off, if that is an emotion," Logano said.

      Logano advanced to 16th place by the end of the race, but with Kevin Harvick winning the race and the series title, and with Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin finishing second and seventh, respectively, Logano was credited with fourth in the final Sprint Cup standings.

      "I didn't say it was over," Logano said of his attitude after the disastrous pit stop. "We didn't give up. At that point, I was trying to pass as many cars as we could and really hoped those guys (the other three championship contenders) wrecked each other. That's all I had going for me at that point.

      "When you're that far back, 24th or 25th, you can't make that up with 12 (laps) to go, or whatever it was. It's just too hard to make that up. All you can do is try. It was an amazing opportunity to be here, and it would be dumb to give up. You keep trying, and hopefully something happens. We put ourselves in that boat to have to be able to pull that out. It was too hard."

      MUCH ADO ABOUT A WHEEL SPACER

      NASCAR summoned Jimmie Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus, to the sanctioning body's transporter after the race to discuss what NASCAR termed a "failure to obey a NASCAR directive" during Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

      But after the race, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition and Racing Development Robin Pemberton said the issue was a small matter and had been put to rest.

      With Johnson having driven a stint with a loose wheel, Knaus told his crew to put a spacer on the wheel in question, without first asking a NASCAR official for permission. Over the official's objections, the No. 48 crew put the spacer on the wheel, earning the summons to the hauler.

      "We just had a discussion on pit road between our official and Chad, and really it was just to discuss it, what they tried to do, and that's it, really," Pemberton said. "It was really not a big deal. We were just trying to clarify what went on, that's all."

      Pemberton said no penalties would be forthcoming.

      "No, it's so far under that it's ridiculous," Pemberton said. "We're good."

      News that Knaus had been called to the hauler spread quickly on social media, but Johnson had a brisk reply for those questioning Knaus' motives.

      "FYI: CK put a wheel spacer on because of a loose wheel," Johnson posted on his Twitter account. "That destroys the threads on the studs & won't let the wheel tighten up #ChillHaters"

      MAN AT WORK

      Marcos Ambrose raced his last race as a full-time NASCAR driver on Sunday at Homestead, and his night went the way most of the rest of his 2014 season had--with difficulty.

      One of the top road course racers ever to drive a stock car, Ambrose fought an ill-handling No. 9 Ford and overcame contact with the wall to finish 27th, on the lead lap.

      Ambrose will return to his native Australia, where he'll drive a V8 Supercar for a team fielded by Roger Penkse.

      "It's been the story of our year, just fighting and gouging and trying all the way to the very end," Ambrose said after the race. "I finished all the laps here tonight and finished 23rd in points, so we'll take it. It wore me out.

      "I'm just tired, to be honest with you. I'm feeling the effects of a hot night here in Miami. The car was handling rough and I was fighting it, but that's what makes NASCAR so great. I'm going to miss it, no doubt about it. It's bittersweet for me, but I've got a lot to look forward to and a lot to be thankful for."

  • Sunday, November 16, 2014
    Newman comes up just short in quest for first title
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Seth Livingstone, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Without a victory this season, Ryan Newman couldn't really point fingers at anyone when his heroic quest for a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship came up one position short Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. But, in a tongue-in-cheek way, he did manage to point the fickle finger of blame at--of all people--Jeff Gordon.

      "I was thinking, when I got out of the car, that our tables really turned when Gordon didn't win Phoenix (last week)," Newman said. "If Gordon had won, then (Kevin) Harvick would have been out (of the final four). So, I blame all this on Jeff Gordon."

      Newman was, of course, kidding, understanding the irony that Gordon was the odd man out after finishing second to Harvick at Phoenix--and only after Newman used an aggressive last-lap strategy to move up one position.

      Furthermore, at Homestead, it was Gordon who elected to pit from the lead in the final 10 laps, giving the 36-year-old Richard Childress Racing driver his best shot at the title.

      Not only that--his best shot at a victory this season for the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet.

      "They say you've got to lose one before you win one. I'm ready to win one now," said Newman, whose team produced arguably its best effort of the 2014 season in Sunday's finale.

      "We weren't victorious, so we didn't win many battles, but we sure came close to winning the war. ... I drove my heart out, no doubt about that."

      If not for Harvick's flawless effort, Newman would have had the racing world buzzing with the question: How just is it to crown a champion who did not win a race all season?

      It's still a question to ponder, but not one that Newman needed to dwell upon Sunday night as he lauded his team's efforts.

      "To come from where we came this year was amazing," said Newman, in his first season with RCR. "We started the season at Daytona getting spun out in the last five laps and ended up running for a championship. For me, this is the first real championship I've been in position to lose -- the first time I've really had a shot at anything.

      "It says a lot about the organization. It says a lot about how quick we grew. (Crew chief) Luke Lambert and all the guys did an awesome job -- the whole RCR/ECR group. It's been a whole lot of fun."

      Qualifying 21st, Newman fought an uphill fight throughout the race but clawed his way to fifth in the running order by Lap 72. Newman's car proved to be excellent on fresh tires but drifted back to the pack late in long runs.

      "We fought back hard," Newman said. "We were one spot short and probably (had) one caution too many for us. But that's the way it happens. That's part of racing. Kevin and those guys did a good job of putting themselves in position and had the better tires in the end. It paid off for them."

      Lambert made a potentially decisive move when a crash involving Blake Koch and J.J. Yeley brought out a caution with 11 laps to go. Lambert took right side tires only, sending Newman out alongside title contender Denny Hamlin, now on the front row but on older tires.

      Newman, however, didn't get the restart he had hoped and Harvick, restarting sixth on fresh tires, capitalized by sweeping to the lead within a lap. Harvick then managed to hold off Newman on one final restart with three laps to go.

      "Luke made a great call on that two-tire stop," Newman said. "When Jeff pitted and gave us the front row, that caught me by surprise.

      "We were in a good spot. Restarts haven't been our strong suit with the package we run, but I was happy with the situation I was in. In the end, I was the one guy with a shot at (catching Harvick). You live for that moment and drive hard and we just didn't have quite enough."

      Newman, who raced his way into the Championship Round with a last-lap nudge of Kyle Larson at Phoenix a week ago, contemplated a similar scenario as he raced alongside Harvick late in the race. He resisted the urge.

      "I thought about hauling it in there, wide open under Kevin, but that wasn't the right thing to do," Newman said. "I wouldn't have wanted him to do that to me. ... If we were close enough on the last lap it might have been a different game. But I wasn't. I slipped off of Turn 4 coming to the white (flag) and it was pretty much over."

      Newman, who has accumulated 17 victories and 51 Coors Light Poles during his Sprint Cup career, said that his Championship 4 Round experience will prepare him and his team at RCR for next season.

      "We made a lot of adjustments on the race car today," he said. "There's a lot to be said about that. The guys did an awesome job. I'm proud of everyone. Hopefully we can have more fun and be one spot better next year."

  • Sunday, November 16, 2014
    Harvick wins at Homestead to secure first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- The fastest driver doesn't always win a race -- or a championship -- but on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Kevin Harvick did both.

      Driving a No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet that has been the class of the field for most of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Harvick won Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at the 1.5-mile intermediate track and claimed his first premier series championship after a three-lap drag race against underdog title contender Ryan Newman.

      Harvick was so wrapped up in the championship battle that the victory in the race didn't register right away.

      "I forgot we won the race -- how about that?" Harvick chuckled. "I think this Chase is about the best thing that has happened to this sport over the last decade. This is probably going to shorten the drivers' careers, because it's been so stressful, but I want to thank every single fan for sticking with this sport, and to the industry for working to get it right."

      After the 13th caution slowed the field on Lap 32, the result of debris dripping from the No. 32 Ford of Blake Koch, Harvick led the field to green on Lap 265 of 267 with Newman beside him.

      Newman stayed to the inside of Harvick's car through the first corner, but Harvick, on four fresh tires to Newman's two, cleared the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet and pulled away to a half-second victory.

      Under NASCAR's new elimination format for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the driver who won five times, including Sunday, and led 2,137 laps throughout the season beat the driver who was winless with 41 laps led by a single point.

      In his first season with SHR, Harvick won for the first time at Homestead and for the 28th time in his career. With the highest finisher among the Championship 4 contenders assured of the title, Denny Hamlin came home seventh, and Joey Logano ran 16th after a disastrous late-race pit stop.

      Harvick's crew chief, Rodney Childers, made a critical call to bring Harvick to pit road for four tires under caution on Lap 249. With three cars staying on the track and eight others taking right-side tires only, Harvick restarted 12th, but two quick cautions fell his way.

      Harvick made up six positions almost immediately and restarted sixth after the 12th caution for an accident involving Koch and J.J. Yeley on Lap 254.

      "I knew I needed to get a bunch of (positions)," Harvick said. "I was fortunate to start on the outside. The seas kind of parted there as I came off of Turn 2 and was about to get four or five of them; I don't really know, but it was time to go for broke at that particular point.

      "When the next caution came out, we were fortunate enough again to line up on the outside (for the restart on Lap 259). That was pretty much what we needed-to get the run on the outside down the backstretch."

      On the final restart against Harvick, Newman said he contemplated the sort of all-or-nothing move he had used a week earlier against Kyle Larson to edge Jeff Gordon by one point for the final position in the Championship 4 Round.

      But Newman quickly thought better of the idea.

      "In the end, I just got down underneath him and he was close enough to me, took some of the air away from me," Newman said. "I could have kept it wide open and washed up into him, and it wasn't the right move. It wasn't what I would have wanted him to do to me.

      "If we were close enough on the last lap, it might have been a different game, but I wasn't. I slipped off of Turn 4 coming to the white, and at that point it was pretty much over. I really was hoping he would slip a tire, blow a motor, something like that. That was our only hope. All those things go through your mind, but I had a pretty good run and cut down to the bottom and just ran out of racetrack, ran out of room, and he had the air-he had the line."

      Hamlin, who forewent a pit stop on Lap 249 when most of the other lead-lap cars came to pit road, restarted in the lead on Lap 259, with Newman second and Harvick sixth, but Hamlin's No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota quickly fell victim to cars on superior tires.

      By the time NASCAR called the 13th caution on Lap 262, Hamlin had dropped to third behind Harvick and Newman, and he fell back to seventh in the final three-lap run.

      "For me, there's not one thing I would have done different," Hamlin said. "I mean, we brought a car that was capable of winning. I just don't know how to express it enough. Sometimes breaks go your way; sometimes they don't. They just didn't go our way.

      "There's not much else we could have done with the strategy that we played with the cautions that came out. I wouldn't do a thing different. I think we overachieved greatly by being here, and we haven't had the speed to compete for race wins all year, and we did today, on the race that really mattered. Just came up short."

      Logano's first flirtation with a title came to an inglorious end when the No. 22 Team Penske Ford fell off the jack as the crew was changing left-side tires under caution on Lap 249. Last out of the pits, Logano restarted 29th on Lap 253 and could recover only to 16th by the checkered flag.

      "It's hard to be proud right now after coming home wherever we finished in this race," said Logano, who gets credit for fourth in the championship standings despite winning five races. "I don't even know what that is. I don't even care.

      "You don't get shots at championships often. Hopefully we get another next year. This car had a lot of wins and a lot of top fives, and it doesn't mean a thing."

      Gordon, the Coors Light Polesitter, led 161 laps, but came to pit road for tires on Lap 256 and wasn't a factor the rest of the way, finishing 10th.

      Notes: Kyle Larson finished 13th and was the runaway winner of the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award after an outstanding freshman season... Marcos Ambrose finished 27th in his final race for Richard Petty Motorsports before returning to his native Australia to race V8 Supercars for owner Roger Penske... The victim of an early accident, Carl Edwards ran 34th in his final trip in the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford before moving to Joe Gibbs Racing next season. It was also the last race as a crew chief for Edwards' veteran pit boss, Jimmy Fennig... Chevrolet won its 12th straight manufacturers' championship and 38th overall.

      NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race - Ford EcoBoost 400

      Homestead-Miami Speedway

      Homestead, Florida

      Sunday, November 16, 2014

      1. (5) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 267, $346498.

      2. (21) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 267, $244450.

      3. (4) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 267, $231758.

      4. (16) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 267, $172664.

      5. (19) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 267, $165239.

      6. (3) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 267, $160151.

      7. (8) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 267, $108315.

      8. (6) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 267, $127481.

      9. (12) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 267, $135001.

      10. (1) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 267, $143626.

      11. (2) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 267, $82340.

      12. (23) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 267, $96640.

      13. (27) Kyle Larson #, Chevrolet, 267, $109085.

      14. (11) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 267, $88890.

      15. (14) Justin Allgaier #, Chevrolet, 267, $108523.

      16. (9) Joey Logano, Ford, 267, $116356.

      17. (10) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 267, $107873.

      18. (32) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 267, $87665.

      19. (18) Aric Almirola, Ford, 267, $116276.

      20. (29) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 267, $104373.

      21. (38) Michael McDowell, Ford, 267, $75290.

      22. (22) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 267, $114265.

      23. (13) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 267, $110215.

      24. (36) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 267, $91998.

      25. (24) Austin Dillon #, Chevrolet, 267, $123751.

      26. (42) Cole Whitt #, Toyota, 267, $77290.

      27. (17) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 267, $103335.

      28. (30) Brian Scott(i), Chevrolet, 267, $85448.

      29. (33) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 267, $76590.

      30. (31) David Ragan, Ford, 267, $94912.

      31. (35) David Gilliland, Ford, 267, $81165.

      32. (37) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 267, $72940.

      33. (41) Alex Bowman #, Toyota, 264, $72740.

      34. (15) Carl Edwards, Ford, 263, $91540.

      35. (39) Michael Annett #, Chevrolet, 263, $72340.

      36. (43) Brett Moffitt, Toyota, 262, $80115.

      37. (34) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, Accident, 254, $71888.

      38. (40) Blake Koch(i), Ford, Accident, 254, $66730.

      39. (7) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 246, $110571.

      40. (25) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, Accident, 235, $58730.

      41. (20) Greg Biffle, Ford, 220, $99305.

      42. (26) Trevor Bayne(i), Ford, Accident, 204, $50730.

      43. (28) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, Accident, 182, $81388.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 122.28 mph.

      Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 16 Mins, 31 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.500 Seconds.

      Caution Flags: 13 for 52 laps.

      Lead Changes: 18 among 5 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: J. Gordon 1-12; B. Koch(i) 13; Kurt Busch 14; K. Harvick 15-25; J. Gordon 26-63; D. Hamlin 64-65; J. Gordon 66-120; K. Harvick 121; J. Gordon 122-123; K. Harvick 124-157; J. Gordon 158-159; D. Hamlin 160; J. Gordon 161-165; D. Hamlin 166-195; J. Gordon 196-212; D. Hamlin 213-222; J. Gordon 223-252; D. Hamlin 253-259; K. Harvick 260-267.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): J. Gordon 8 times for 161 laps; K. Harvick 4 times for 54 laps; D. Hamlin 5 times for 50 laps; Kurt Busch 1 time for 1 lap; B. Koch(i) 1 time for 1 lap.

      Top 16 in Points: K. Harvick - 5,043; R. Newman - 5,042; D. Hamlin - 5,037; J. Logano - 5,028; B. Keselowski - 2,361; J. Gordon - 2,348; M. Kenseth - 2,334; D. Earnhardt Jr. - 2,301; C. Edwards - 2,288; Kyle Busch - 2,285; J. Johnson - 2,274; Kurt Busch - 2,263; A. Allmendinger - 2,260; G. Biffle - 2,247; K. Kahne - 2,234; A. Almirola - 2,195.

  • Sunday, November 16, 2014
    Harvick's win quiets calls for Chase tweaks
    By The Sports Xchange

    HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- The 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup worked out just as NASCAR hoped when the new playoff format was rolled out for this season.

    • Under a formula that was touted to put more emphasis on winning, Kevin Harvick claimed his first series championship by winning the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday.

      "I don't think there's any doubt about the level of competition that is up, which has our fans excited, and it has the interest level of the sport as a result of that higher, and that's precisely what we want to achieve," NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France said.

      The championship came down Harvick and Ryan Newman in the closing laps of the Homestead race. That pair finished first and second, respectively, in the race and the season-ending standings.

      Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano were the other two championship contenders remaining in the Chase that began with 16 drivers 10 races ago. All but Newman started the Homestead race in the top 10, and for much of the day, all four ran in or just outside the top five.

      As the Chase progressed from round to round, with four drivers eliminated every three races, winless driver Newman kept his championship hopes alive by squeaking through on points. With Newman's continuing run, critics of the Chase pointed at the possibility of a winless driver claiming the Sprint Cup, something that has never happened in NASCAR Cup level history.

      France emphasized that while wins are important, consistency also needs to count for something in the championship system.

      "Well, I think it's accomplished -- naturally you would expect me to think that it accomplished all of our goals, probably exceeded them, in the balance between winning and consistency," France said. "We always know in auto racing there needs to be both, but we felt strongly that by emphasizing winning on the track, we might not have had that balanced correctly. We do now. We think that that's in a really good place."

      Harvick's win of the race and, as a result, the championship silenced those critics, at least for the time being. Harvick won a total of five races on the season, winning twice during the 26-race regular season and three times in the 10-race Chase. His final three victories came in the final six races of the season.

      Throughout the Homestead-Miami Speedway race weekend, ideas for Chase tweaks were tossed around. Those with new concepts included NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett and four-time champion Jeff Gordon.

      "I proposed something to NASCAR and maybe I've said this to a number of y'all before," Jarrett said. "My solution to the situation, and we'll use this year. Ryan Newman's here, but (under my proposal), the only way he could become the champion is if he wins this race. Otherwise, the other three are the ones racing for the championship, to finish ahead of each other."

      Gordon's idea didn't remedy the possibility of a winless champion. Instead, Gordon wished for a distinct points system for the Chasers, separate from other drivers in the postseason.

      "I would say that the one thing that I thought about -- and this would not have moved me to the final round, but I think it's the right thing to do -- and that's you have a separate points system just for the 16 and then for the eight, or the 12 and then the eight," Gordon said. "I just think there's so many factors with all the other competitors out there that you should be racing those guys. You should be racing them in points, not necessarily racing them and all the other competitors out there. I think you've earned that right."

  • Sunday, November 16, 2014
    Harvick captures Sprint Cup with win in Miami
    By The Sports Xchange

    HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Kevin Harvick claimed his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup title by earning his 29th career series win Sunday in the Ford EcoBoost 400 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

    • "Well, I just really don't know what to even say about how much I appreciate this," Harvick said. "Everybody on this Budweiser, Jimmy Johns, Outback team, Stewart-Haas Racing, Gene Haas, Tony Stewart, for everything that they put into this team."

      Fellow Chase for the Sprint Cup competitor Ryan Newman finished second, while Brad Keselowski, Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray finished third through fifth.

      The other two title contenders, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano, finished seventh and 16th, respectively.

      "Execution was our strong point all year, and we just didn't do it tonight," Logano said. "For that reason, we finished fourth (in the Chase) after, I think, we scored the most points this whole Chase."

      Harvick became the 30th driver to win a NASCAR series championship and the first under the new format.

      "It's been an amazing year," Newman said moments after the race ended. "They say you've got to lose one before you win one. I'm ready to win one now."

      Harvick restarted in 12th with just under 20 laps to go after taking four tires. Jeff Gordon and Hamlin stayed out to restart on the front row, and Hamlin took the lead on the restart.

      "Championship effort," Hamlin said. "It wasn't for a lack of trying. I thought we had a better car than those guys, just I had a bad restart and lost position to the 4 (Harvick) and Darian (Grubb, crew chief) made the decision to leave us out there on tires, trying to do something to get that track position back that I lost on the restart and it just didn't work out for us."

      Newman was also in the top five after taking only two tires, while Logano was mired outside the top 20 after his car fell off its jack on pit road.

      "It came down to a pit call and I thought, 'Man, we are in big trouble here,'" Harvick said. "Rodney Childers (crew chief) and all these guys that have put together these teams have just done and amazing job."

      The yellow flag waved two additional times. On a restart with nine laps to go, Harvick lined up seventh and then quickly moved up to second when the race returned to green. After a final caution with six laps to go, Harvick, Newman and Hamlin restarted first through third with Logano still outside the top 20.

      "I was just going to hold the pedal down and hope for the best," Harvick said of his strategy on the final restart. "I knew our car was fast."

      Gordon dominated the early part of the race after starting on the pole, only temporarily giving up leads to Harvick and Hamlin.

      Harvick, Hamlin, and Logano all started the race inside the top 10, while Newman started midpack in 21st. Harvick, Hamlin and Logano ran inside or just outside the top five most of the race. Newman worked his way into the top 10 by lap 60 and then into the top five by lap 77. Like his championship rivals, Newman ran in or near the top five for most of the remainder of the race.

      Harvick took the lead from Gordon soon after a restart on lap 127. However, when the yellow flag waved about 30 laps later, Gordon got off pit road first to restart with the lead.

      When the yellow flag waved again a few laps later, for the sixth time in the race, Gordon restarted with the lead again but lost the top spot to Hamlin. Other title contenders also got by Gordon, as Logano moved into second and Harvick third, but after a few laps of green-flag racing, Gordon got back up to second.

      Gordon retook the lead by getting off pit road first during the seventh caution of the race to restart up front with 69 laps to go. During the yellow flag, Logano endured a slow stop to restart in the back of the top 10. Newman restarted eighth. Hamlin and Harvick, meanwhile, restarted second and third, respectively, behind Gordon.

      Hamlin gained the lead again on a restart just inside 60 laps to go, but Gordon got off pit road first to move back in front during a yellow flag on lap 220. During the same caution, Newman got back into the top five. For the first time in the race, Logano fell outside the top 10, restarting 11th after his team dropped a lugnut during his pit stop.

      NOTES: Roger Penske, owner of Joey Logano's No. 22 car, entered Homestead-Miami with a chance to become the first motorsport team owner to win a Verizon IndyCar championship and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in the same year, with Will Power claiming the IndyCar title. He came close to the feat in 2012 with a Sprint Cup championship with driver Brad Keselowski but fell short with Power in the IndyCar season finale. ... The Ford EcoBoost 400 was the final NASCAR race for Marcos Ambrose, who is returning to his native Australia to race V8 Supercars for Penske. The race is also expected to be the last for crew chiefs Jimmy Fennig (Carl Edwards) and Steve Letarte (Dale Earnhardt Jr.). Fennig is expected to retire, and Letarte is moving to the NBC Sports broadcast booth. ... Denny Hamlin won the 2013 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, his second victory at the track. He was the only previous winner at Homestead among the four championship contenders. ... Joey Logano headed into Homestead with the highest average Chase race finish at 5.3. ... Ryan Newman was the only winless driver among the four Chasers. No driver has won a NASCAR Cup championship without at least one race win. ... Tony Stewart's steak of 15 consecutive seasons with at least one win ended when he took his car to the garage because of an overheating issue in the final third of the race.

  • Saturday, November 15, 2014
    Kenseth holds off Larson; Penske wins owner's title
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed for The Sports Xchange

      HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Charging away from a pack of pursuers on the final restart, Matt Kenseth scored his first NASCAR Nationwide Series win since October of last year in Saturday's Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

      Chase Elliott, who had clinched the driver's championship last Saturday in Phoenix, finished 17th after scraping the outside wall late in the race. Brad Keselowski delivered the Nationwide Series owner's championship to Roger Penske with an eighth-place result in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford.

      In a mere formality, Elliott also received Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, making the him the first driver to win both a rookie title and a series championship in the same year in any of NASCAR's top three national series.

      At age 18, Elliott also is the youngest national touring series champion in NASCAR history.

      After losing the lead to Kyle Larson after a restart on Lap 199 of a scheduled 200, Kenseth got a second chance when NASCAR threw the 11th caution of the race for a multicar wreck behind the leader moments before Larson was to take the white flag signaling the final lap, which would have made him a winner under the caution.

      Instead, Kenseth pulled ahead from the outside lane after a restart on Lap 205 and took the checkered flag on the sixth lap of overtime. Kyle Busch won a drag race to the finish line to take the runner-up spot from Larson, who held third.

      Ryan Blaney and rookie Chris Buescher completed the top five.

      Kenseth won for Joe Gibbs Racing in the final outing with the company for crew chief Kevin Kidd, who moves to Roush Fenway Racing next year as director of competition in the Sprint Cup Series.

      "It's been a long time since I won a race in anything, so just happy for Kevin," Kenseth said. "Happy to send him off with a win here. That was pretty cool. Kyle got around me on that second-to-last restart, but when he chose the bottom there, and I had Kyle (Busch) behind me, I knew we had a shot.

      "I just had to do a better job than I did the time before, so luckily, we got that one last chance to redeem ourselves."

      Larson, who led 111 laps, spun his tires slightly on the final restart, allowing Kenseth to take the advantage.

      "I had good restarts up there until the last 50 laps or so," Larson said. "Then I finally got a good one underneath Matt (on Lap 199) and was able to get to the lead… I was about 15 feet short of the win. Then we got the yellow, and I thought the 12 (Blaney) had been getting really good restarts, so I wanted to start in front of him (in the bottom lane).

      "Spun my tires a little bit, and the 20 (Kenseth) was hanging there. I was side-drafting down the frontstretch, and he was able to swerve at me and get me shaken off him. That spun my tires into (Turn) 1, and got me sideways. I was three-wide there, and that was all the 20 needed to win."

      Penske won the owner's championship with five different drivers taking turns in the No. 22 Ford: Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Michael McDowell and Alex Tagliani. The championship was the fourth for Penske in the last five years (2010 Nationwide driver's title with Keselowski, 2012 Sprint Cup title with Keselowski and back-to-back NNS owner's championships).

      "Everyone did so much to make this happen, and obviously it didn't come down until the last lap there until we knew we had it," Penske said. "Two years in a row, I think we had four championships here over the last few years, and that's really important to us as we go forward."

      NASCAR Nationwide Series Race -- Ford EcoBoost 300

      Homestead-Miami Speedway

      Homestead, Florida

      Saturday, November 15, 2014

      1. (3) Matt Kenseth(i), Toyota, 206, $77375.

      2. (6) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 206, $58825.

      3. (2) Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, 206, $53725.

      4. (5) Ryan Blaney(i), Ford, 206, $37700.

      5. (10) Chris Buescher #, Ford, 206, $39025.

      6. (15) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 206, $31475.

      7. (21) Ty Dillon #, Chevrolet, 206, $27725.

      8. (1) Brad Keselowski(i), Ford, 206, $25750.

      9. (4) Elliott Sadler, Toyota, 206, $27160.

      10. (7) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, 206, $27550.

      11. (13) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 206, $25425.

      12. (31) Paul Menard(i), Chevrolet, 206, $18825.

      13. (20) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 206, $24675.

      14. (25) Ross Chastain(i), Toyota, 206, $24565.

      15. (30) TJ Bell(i), Dodge, 206, $25055.

      16. (17) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 206, $24295.

      17. (14) Chase Elliott #, Chevrolet, 206, $24110.

      18. (24) James Buescher, Toyota, 206, $24175.

      19. (9) Dylan Kwasniewski #, Chevrolet, 206, $23965.

      20. (19) Dakoda Armstrong #, Ford, 206, $24405.

      21. (28) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 206, $23595.

      22. (22) Blake Koch, Toyota, 206, $23481.

      23. (18) Mike Bliss, Toyota, 206, $23345.

      24. (35) Jake Crum(i), Chevrolet, 206, $17235.

      25. (12) Josh Berry, Chevrolet, 206, $23575.

      26. (27) Eric McClure, Toyota, 206, $22965.

      27. (11) Ryan Reed #, Ford, 206, $22855.

      28. (33) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 206, $16735.

      29. (8) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 205, $22785.

      30. (29) David Starr, Chevrolet, 205, $22775.

      31. (40) Tanner Berryhill #, Toyota, 204, $22345.

      32. (37) Carlos Contreras, Chevrolet, 203, $22235.

      33. (26) John Wes Townley(i), Toyota, 201, $16195.

      34. (39) Milka Duno, Toyota, 201, $22134.

      35. (23) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, Engine, 190, $22084.

      36. (32) Ryan Sieg #, Chevrolet, Suspension, 179, $20645.

      37. (16) Corey LaJoie(i), Ford, Accident, 116, $20575.

      38. (36) Matt DiBenedetto, Chevrolet, Transmission, 57, $20540.

      39. (38) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, Engine, 54, $20250.

      40. (34) Jeff Green, Toyota, Vibration, 3, $14215.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 115.442 mph.

      Time of Race: 02 Hrs, 40 Mins, 36 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.713 Seconds.

      Caution Flags: 11 for 48 laps.

      Lead Changes: 16 among 10 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: B. Keselowski(i) 1-5; K. Larson(i) 6-36; J. Clements 37; K. Busch(i) 38-39; K. Larson(i) 40-75; K. Busch(i) 76-78; K. Larson(i) 79-95; R. Blaney(i) 96-119; T. Bayne 120-122; K. Larson(i) 123-144; B. Koch 145; C. Elliott # 146; M. Kenseth(i) 147-172; P. Menard(i) 173-175; M. Kenseth(i) 176-198; K. Larson(i) 199-203; M. Kenseth(i) 204-206.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Larson(i) 5 times for 111 laps; M. Kenseth(i) 3 times for 52 laps; R. Blaney(i) 1 time for 24 laps; K. Busch(i) 2 times for 5 laps; B. Keselowski(i) 1 time for 5 laps; P. Menard(i) 1 time for 3 laps; T. Bayne 1 time for 3 laps; C. Elliott # 1 time for 1 lap; B. Koch 1 time for 1 lap; J. Clements 1 time for 1 lap.

      Top 10 in Points: C. Elliott # - 1,213; R. Smith - 1,171; E. Sadler - 1,154; B. Scott - 1,154; T. Dillon # - 1,148; T. Bayne - 1,086; C. Buescher # - 1,014; B. Gaughan - 954; R. Reed # - 889; J. Buescher - 868.

  • Saturday, November 15, 2014
    Notebook: Harvick struggles to get handle on speedy car
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- The fastest car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this season asserted its superiority immediately in Saturday's first practice at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

      Driving the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet that has carried him to four victories and 2,083 laps led this year, Kevin Harvick jumped to the top of the speed chart as soon as the noon practice began—and stayed there.

      Running 175.069 mph in race trim, Harvick was .007 seconds faster than Jeff Gordon (175.029 mph).

      No one else posted a lap within a 10th of a second of Harvick in preparation for Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET on ESPN), the race that will decide the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship among four drivers -- Harvick, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman.

      In final practice, Harvick was eighth fastest in his first run but cut it short because of issues with the handling of his car. An adjustment didn't help.

      "We've got to do something different," Harvick radioed to crew chief Rodney Childers with roughly 28 minutes left in the 50-minute session. "Bringing it to you."

      Harvick returned to the garage, climbed out of his car and studied the data on a computer perched above the team's tool box.

      Childers made additional adjustments and put new tires on Harvick's car for the final practice run. Afterwards, Harvick gave his verdict.

      "Too loose on exit," Harvick said. "I got my rhythm down in (Turns) 3 and 4 pretty good. Good on entry and in the center (of the corners). Loose late center and exit on both ends."

      Harvick ended the session where he began, in eighth, with a top speed of 173.099 mph. Of the Championship 4, Logano was quickest, seventh on the speed chart at 173.127 mph but significantly off leader Jimmie Johnson's 175.200.

      "Yeah, we struggled getting the balance right," Harvick said after the session. "And I don't think we've really hit it exactly where we need it to be yet.

      "So, we'll go back through the stuff that everybody did on our cars and definitely try to improve for tomorrow."

      THE VALUE OF WINNING

      In NASCAR's Championship 4, the four drivers competing for the Sprint Cup championship on Sunday, all three manufacturers are represented -- Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota -- as well as four different engine builders: Hendrick Motorsports (Kevin Harvick), Earnhardt Childress Racing Engines (Ryan Newman), Roush-Yates Engines (Joey Logano) and Toyota Racing Development (Denny Hamlin).

      In the Homestead-Miami Speedway media center on Saturday, executives representing each of the car makers shared their perspectives on the value of one of their drivers winning the title on Sunday.

      Ford's success this season, with 14 victories in 35 Cup races, already has spurred interest in the brand, according to Jamie Allison, director of Ford Racing.

      "We have generated 570,000 leads yet this year, up 60 percent from a year ago," Allison said. "We track sales, match to leads generated from on track activation, and our sales are up 90 percent versus a year ago. These are gigantic swings in engagement, gigantic swings in fan affinity, and it translates all the way down from awareness down to conservation to shopping to intention to buy. So success on the track translates into fan consideration and purchase intention.

      "At the end of the day, we are here because of our fans, our fans of Ford, and what we race on the track increasing with relevance to what's being shown in the showroom as well as what's in people’s driveway --there's that direct correlation. Whoever said: 'Win on Sunday, sell on Monday,' it's absolutely true, because we're seeing it in the evidence of the data that we have."

      Jim Campbell, Chevrolet vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports, says the manufacturer starts each season with the same objectives.

      "For Chevrolet, that's one of our goals every year is to help our teams win a driver's championship and collectively giving our teams the best opportunity to win enough races for us to win the manufacturer's championship," Campbell said.

      "We have two opportunities out of the four (on Sunday), and if you look over the past number of years, eight of the last nine driver's champions have been Chevrolet drivers. We do see a lift in opinion, and when you get a lift of opinion on a brand, great things happen. Customers put you on their shopping list more quickly. It's a fact. So that's big."

      On Sunday, Hamlin could become the first driver to deliver a championship to Toyota in NASCAR's premier series.

      "For Toyota, it would simply be historic and unprecedented," said David Wilson, president and general manager of Toyota Racing Development USA. "We're still the new guys, so to speak, in the series. This is our ... celebrating our 10th anniversary in NASCAR in their national series. We've won championships, multiple championships in the Camping World Truck Series, in the Nationwide Series.

      "Cup, the Sprint Cup Series, that box hasn't been checked yet, so for Toyota it would be huge. It would be significant, I think, for the sport. It would be huge for TRD. Certainly Toyota, our engagement model is a little bit different than my colleagues' and I have 250 people that work their butts off, and they have for years and years, so it would be very emotional."

      SHORT STROKES

      In Saturday's first practice session, Ryan Newman's No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet ran over debris on the track and dislodged the bead blower (the fan that cools the edge of the tire that sits on the wheel).

      Repairing the problem and changing the splitter, which had sustained slight damage, cost Newman approximately 10 minutes of practice time.

      "We caught something on the splitter and it came underneath the car and took out one of the fans which made a pretty good racket," Newman said. “That's why I slowed down and came in. I didn't know what it was.

      "If it were the race, I would have kept going, but it never popped the tire or anything, it just made a racket. I could hear something metal bouncing off of the frame rails and the bars and the chassis so I knew that we hit something or something happened. Brought it in and the guys assessed it and figured out what it was."

      Newman nevertheless was 12th fastest in Saturday's first session, an improvement in race trim over his 21st-place starting position. Newman also was 12th fastest in final practice…

      Championship 4 driver Joey Logano was rim-riding throughout Happy Hour and brushed the wall with the right rear corner of his No. 22 Team Penske Ford. The damage was cosmetic, and Logano soon returned to the track…

      NASCAR isn't likely to make a penalty determination about the rear suspension parts confiscated from the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. until Tuesday at the earliest.

      The car failed Sprint Cup pre-qualifying inspection on Friday…

      QUOTES OF THE DAY

      "Mind games don't make that car go any faster." -- Denny Hamlin, when asked whether Kevin Harvick was trying to get into the heads of Championship 4 competitors Joey Logano and Ryan Newman.

      Asked what he would do to prepare for Sunday's championship race, Kevin Harvick said: "Eat!"

  • Saturday, November 15, 2014
    Ford hoping to cap off season with crown
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Seth Livingstone

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- By far the oldest of the three manufacturers competing for NASCAR's biggest prize, the 111-year-old Ford Motor Company is banking on one of the sport's youngest stars, not just this weekend, but going forward.

      Joey Logano, a 24-year-old from Middletown, Conn., carries Ford's hopes for its first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship since Kurt Busch took home the trophy in 2004 into Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET on ESPN).

      "That would be an exclamation point for us to celebrate a Ford champion," said Jamie Allison, director of Ford Racing, which goes through great effort and expense to maintain the naming rights to Ford Championship Weekend and the title-determining events at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "We're capping off a phenomenal season with 14 wins, our most since 2005."

      Even so, Allison knows that to a certain extent, Championship Weekend is likely to be bittersweet for Ford which bids adieu to two of its biggest stars this weekend.

      Carl Edwards, who'll drive a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015, will be in his final race for Roush Fenway Racing. Marcos Ambrose, returning to his native Australia after nine years in the U.S., is driving his final event for Richard Petty Motorsports.

      Logano came through Saturday's practice sessions unscathed. Posting the fastest lap among the four title contenders during Happy Hour, the Team Penske hopeful appeared confident in his No. 22 Ford Fusion machine.

      "I feel we are in pretty good shape," Logano said. "We were still seventh on the board, but we didn't quite have the takeoff speed we need, so we'll try to find a little bit there. I feel like the long runs are where our Shell Pennzoil Ford is really fast. Maybe we are a few little adjustments away from being the fastest car, but I already feel like we are a top-three car right now."

      Logano believes that whoever prevails on in Sunday's race will need to be able to run at the top and the bottom of the mile-and-a-half oval.

      "The top is still the preferred (line) but you've got to be able to move around a little bit and I feel like our car can do that," Logano said. "Toward the end of the practice we were able to make (the bottom groove) work a little better."

      No matter what happens on Sunday, it appears that Logano and his Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski, who have combined for 11 Sprint Cup wins this season, will be Ford's standard bearers for the foreseeable future.

      "At Ford we're a family company and that permeates everything we do," Allison said. "Whenever you have a member of the family pursuing other options, it leaves a void, personally with team members as well as professionally in terms of fan outreach. It's personalities that people want to follow.

      "Obviously, with Marcos, he's stepping out of one Ford to another Ford (racing for Roger Penske and Dick Johnson) in another part of the world and we wish him the best. Carl Edwards is someone we hold in the highest regard. He's the winningest (current) Ford driver. He's been part of many of our outreach (efforts) to our fans and nothing will ever take that away."

      Edwards, a winner in both 2008 and 2010 at Homestead-Miami Speedway would like nothing more than to reprise those winning efforts in his Ford finale.

      "It's Ford Championship Week and I want to get a win for Jack Roush, (crew chief) Jimmy Fennig and all my guys," said Edwards, eliminated from Chase title contention after finishing 15th at Phoenix. "I want to give the performance to finish the season the way that everyone deserves."

      Fennig, retiring from his crew chief responsibilities, was the last Ford crew chief to win a Sprint Cup title when he was with Busch in 2004.

      "One thing Jimmy Fennig and I agreed on," said Edwards late in Friday's practice, "we're not going to leave anything on the table. If we go down and fail, it's only because we're trying everything."

      Twice a runner-up for the Sprint Cup championship (2008, 2011), Edwards has spent his entire Cup career at Roush Fenway, racking up 23 victories, including nine in 2008. He also collected 38 Nationwide and six Camping World Truck Series victories and brought Jack Roush a then-Busch Series title in 2007.

      Ambrose, 29, was a V8 Supercars champion in Australia (2003-04) before coming to the U.S. He raced Sprint Cup cars for Wood Brothers, Tad Geschickter, Michael Waltrip and JTG Daugherty before joining forces with Richard Petty Motorsports, for whom he won twice at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

      "RPM has been so gracious with my departure," said Ambrose, who expects his family to be permanently resettled in Australia by mid-December. "Sometimes when you end a chapter like this it can get a bit sticky at the end, but RPM has been fantastic. Everyone is really pleased for me and thrilled for what I've been able to contribute. It's just great to be held in that regard."

      Ambrose also won five road course events on the Nationwide circuit. But if he heads home with any regret, it's that he did not win on a NASCAR oval.

      "I've got some unfinished business in NASCAR, which I wish I could have ticked the box on," he said. "Obviously, winning a race on the ovals is tough. I wanted to make the Chase -- and we came close -- but couldn't quite make it. So, there are some pieces to the puzzle that I'm missing. But, in general, I'm just thrilled to have experienced it and (for) my family to enjoy what America is."

      Ambrose, who has 18 top-five finishes in Sprint Cup, said his most memorable moment was sharing a Victory Lane celebration with Richard Petty. "Winning a race is great," he said, "but sharing it with The King was pretty special -- just an amazing thing."

      Trevor Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner, will also be driving his final Sprint Cup race for Wood Brothers on Sunday. But he's not leaving Ford -- simply shifting over to Roush Fenway, where he will be behind the wheel of the No. 6 Fusion on a full-time assignment next season.

  • Saturday, November 15, 2014
    Q&A: NASCAR championship-contending auto manufacturers
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Seth Livingstone

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Each of NASCAR's three manufacturers is convinced that it has a driver who can win it all on Sunday, when performance in the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on ESPN) will determine the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.

      Saturday afternoon at Homestead, each manufacturer's top racing executive explained what separates their brand's driver(s) from the pack and why that driver is so likely to bring the title their way.

      J. David Wilson, president and general manager of Toyota Racing Development on Denny Hamlin: "Denny is comfortable and confident -- quietly confident I would say. The fact that he has won here twice in the past five years and the fact that he's the reigning Homestead (race) champion gives him just what he needs to do the job on Sunday. He's been here before."

      Jim Campbell, General Motors vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports on Kevin Harvick: "Kevin Harvick is focused. He's mentally tough. He's a leader from the cockpit of the car and when I think about the last time Stewart-Haas won the championship with Tony (Stewart) in 2011, Tony was focused, mentally tough and led from the cockpit."

      Campbell on Ryan Newman: "Ryan Newman just keeps coming -- just keeps getting stronger race after race. That team has gotten in great rhythm and stronger every single week. They have momentum. They haven't won a race yet (this year) but they're charging."

      Jamie Allison, director of Ford Racing, on Joey Logano: "It's Todd (crew chief Gordon). It's Penske. It's Ford. When you put that ensemble together, this has been an absolute standout season: Five wins for Joey, six wins for Brad (teammate Keselowski), 11 wins for Penske. Now, with Joey in the final race, he's laser-focused. Joey Logano, when he came to the sport, he was billed as a phenom. Indeed, he is that now. He's got the talent and, with the team around him, he's driven to succeed."

  • Saturday, November 15, 2014
    Crafton first to claim back-to-back Truck titles
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Seth Livingstone

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- After becoming the first driver to ever win consecutive NASCAR Camping World Truck Series titles, Matt Crafton could talk about making history.

      "Definitely an awesome feeling," Crafton said after joining Ron Hornaday Jr., Todd Bodine and Jack Sprague as the only drivers to win the NCWTS title more than once. "To be on the list with those guys is unreal. To say that I've done it back-to-back and no one has done that, it's such a good, good feeling."

      But Crafton, sitting between crew chief (Carl) Junior Joiner and ThorSport Racing general manager David Pepper, wasn't about to take all the credit.

      "To say I made history is definitely very, very cool. But it's all about the guys that are behind me. Without them, I'm just an average race car driver at best."

      Completing his 14th full season, Crafton, 38, has run his entire NCWTS career for Sandusky, Ohio-based ThorSport and owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson.

      "The very first time I sat down with Duke at the end of 2000 he told me going to run this like a business," Crafton recalled. "He said, 'We're going to make it better and better each year, but I'm not going to outspend myself or go away in two or three years. I'm going to be an owner who will be around for the long haul. If you want to stick it out with me, we'll win races and win championships.'"

      Stick it out, Crafton did. He didn't win a race until 2008, finished no higher than fifth in the point standings until 2009 and didn't win two races in a season until this year when he triumphed at Martinsville and Texas. Friday night was his 14th top five in 22 races.

      "That's what makes it so much sweeter to be where we are today," Crafton said. "We didn't have all the resources and all the tools that we have today. I'd say (Duke) has been a man of his word -- as has Rhonda -- since the day I met him."

      Crafton said that after winning his first title a year ago, he promised Joiner the team would lead more laps and win more races in 2014.

      "We led 10 more laps and won two races," he said. "We had the capability to win more if we didn't have bad luck in the middle part of the season. It's a damn shame, because I feel we should have won at least five races, without a doubt."

      But Crafton is hardly complaining.

      "I think I'm the luckiest man on earth," he said. "I'm getting paid to do what I love. I'm getting paid to drive a race car."

      Crafton entered Friday's EcoBoost 200 with a relatively comfortable 25-point lead on Ryan Blaney. He knew that a finish of 21st or better in the 36-truck field would get the job done.

      He finished ninth, good enough to finish 21 points ahead of Blaney, who persevered for a fifth-place finish despite finishing the race with vise-grips replacing his broken shifter.

      He also raced cautiously throughout the first half of the race, maintaining a low line to keep a safe distance from the wall while maintaining his spot within the top 10.

      Any hope Blaney had virtually disintegrated during the fourth caution period of the race. The 20-year-old, who had been running second for much of the early going, suffered that shifter problem and dropped all the way to 15th on the restart.

      "That was one of the worst trucks we've had all year," Blaney said. "I can't believe we (managed to) finish fifth. That was tough."

      Larson led 96 of the first 100 laps and ended up chasing Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Bubba Wallace to the finish line in the closing laps. Wallace, driving the No. 54 Tundra, was thrilled to finally “beat the boss.”

      Kyle Busch Motorsports captured its third NCWTS owner's championship in five seasons (second consecutively). Erik Jones made 12 starts and Busch drove 10 races in the No. 51 Toyota Tundra, which edged ThorSport and Crafton for the owner’s title by 24 points.

      "It's a great milestone for us," said Busch, who is ineligible to race for the driver's championship because he is a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitor. "It's what we can race for. We've had a lot of people come to KBM to work who have stayed a long time. Some move on to other things. That's really what the Truck Series is all about: a proving ground and a growing series."

      Wallace's victory gave KBM 14 wins for the season and provided Toyota with 18, tying Chevrolet’s 2010 mark for most wins in a season.

      Ben Kennedy was named NCWTS Sunoco Rookie of the Year, despite settling for 17th in his No. 31 Chevrolet.

      "We weren't really all that great tonight," Kennedy said, "but it pays off for the whole season we put together. It's a testament to this team and how hard the guys at Turner Scott Motorsports worked. When we were on, we were really on -- up there with the top dogs. When we were off, we struggled a little bit, but we worked hard and we worked together to make the most out of each position and each lap."

      Kennedy held off Tyler Reddick (sixth in his No. 19 Ford on Friday) for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, based in part on each team's 14 best finishes of the season.

  • Saturday, November 15, 2014
    Wallace wins at Homestead; Crafton claims another Truck title
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed for The Sports Xchange

      HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- After breathtaking three-wide racing during the final 20-lap green-flag run, Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. held off hard-charging Keystone Light Polesitter Kyle Larson to win Friday night's Ford EcoBoost 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

      Behind the wild battle for the victory, Matt Crafton ran ninth and won an unprecedented second straight series title with room to spare—by 21 points.

      Timothy Peters came home third, followed by Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney, runner-up to Crafton for the series championship. Busch won the NCWTS owner's championship in the No. 51 Toyota he drove on Friday night.

      "Toward the end, battling the two Kyles -- the (Sprint) Cup stars -- it was tough," Wallace said. "But I didn't get too excited, didn't get too down. I kept a cool head and stayed patient and was able to come out on top."

      Wallace won his fourth race of the season and fifth of his career in his final ride in the No. 54 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota, as the organization picked up its 14th victory in 22 races. Signed to Joe Gibbs Racing, Wallace is expected to move up to the NASCAR Nationwide Series next year.

      "It is going to be sad to see him go," Busch said, "but we've got another great shoe that's going to be able to fit into that role really, really good with Erik Jones. It's not that I'm saying good-bye, but I'm wishing him the best next year in what he gets to do, and I'm excited about his growth and opportunity to move up to the Nationwide Series."

      Wallace said he hopes to get plans for 2015 settled soon.

      "I wish things were finalized," Wallace said. "We're continuing to work hard to find my future plans. For me, I'm just going to go play some golf while I'm down here in Miami and enjoy this win, enjoy the offseason.

      "But as far as plans, we're continuing to work hard."

      As he closed on Wallace in the final laps, Larson said he contemplated trying the same sort of banzai move Ryan Newman had used on Larson on the final lap of last Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix, where Newman secured the final spot in Sunday's Championship Round at Homestead by a single point.

      "I thought about it -- very quickly," Larson said. "But I figured that would definitely be the wrong thing to do, especially in a truck race where I'm just kind of out there to have fun, and Bubba's out there to try to gain points, or whatever, and get the win."

      Blaney's waning championship hopes suffered a blow when his shifter broke, causing him to stall his No. 29 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford exiting his pit stall on Lap 72. Blaney dropped to 14th for the subsequent restart on Lap 76 and quickly worked his way up to ninth, three positions behind Crafton in the running order.

      By then, only 21 trucks remained on the lead lap, providing Crafton with a comfortable margin of error, given that Crafton entered the race needing a finish of 21st or better to claim the series title.

      Using vise-grips to control the broken shifter, Blaney was fourth off pit road for a restart on Lap 104, after the fifth caution of the night. His hard-fought top five wasn't enough to overcome the 25-point lead Crafton held entering the race.

      During that same pit stop, Larson fell from first to third on pit road, after having led 96 laps to that point.

      Wallace grabbed the lead from Busch on Lap 119 of 134 and held it the rest of the way, as Larson charged into second place and closed the gap to .294 seconds at the finish.

      NOTE: Ben Kennedy won the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the series. Kennedy and Tyler Reddick tied in the rookie standings, with Kennedy winning the title because of his higher position in driver championship points.

      NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race - Ford EcoBoost 200

      Homestead-Miami Speedway

      Homestead, Florida

      Friday, November 14, 2014

      1. (8) Darrell Wallace Jr., Toyota, 134, $42095.

      2. (1) Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, 134, $27735.

      3. (15) Timothy Peters, Toyota, 134, $21326.

      4. (5) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 134, $16200.

      5. (2) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 134, $16675.

      6. (4) Tyler Reddick #, Ford, 134, $16450.

      7. (7) Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 134, $13000.

      8. (14) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, 134, $15050.

      9. (6) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 134, $15850.

      10. (17) Johnny Sauter, Toyota, 134, $15925.

      11. (3) Ross Chastain, Toyota, 134, $14550.

      12. (13) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 134, $14375.

      13. (9) Jeb Burton, Toyota, 134, $14250.

      14. (16) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, 134, $14150.

      15. (22) German Quiroga, Toyota, 134, $14875.

      16. (18) Mason Mitchell, Ford, 134, $11675.

      17. (11) Ben Kennedy #, Chevrolet, 134, $13825.

      18. (10) Bryan Silas, Chevrolet, 134, $13725.

      19. (20) Tayler Malsam, Chevrolet, 134, $13625.

      20. (26) Austin Hill, Ford, 134, $11880.

      21. (24) Matt Tifft, Chevrolet, 134, $11050.

      22. (27) Justin Jennings, Chevrolet, 134, $13050.

      23. (19) Joey Coulter, Chevrolet, 133, $12925.

      24. (25) Tyler Young #, Chevrolet, 133, $12625.

      25. (28) Kyle Martel, Chevrolet, 131, $10325.

      26. (32) Todd Peck, Chevrolet, 131, $10975.

      27. (33) Derek White, Chevrolet, 130, $9775.

      28. (21) Ray Black Jr., Chevrolet, 130, $10575.

      29. (23) Mason Mingus #, Chevrolet, 130, $9350.

      30. (31) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, 129, $9150.

      31. (30) Wendell Chavous, Chevrolet, Electrical, 114, $8600.

      32. (29) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, Clutch, 58, $8575.

      33. (36) Scott Stenzel, Chevrolet, Electrical, 11, $8550.

      34. (35) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 7, $8525.

      35. (12) John Wes Townley, Toyota, Accident, 6, $8495.

      36. (34) Caleb Roark, Chevrolet, Vibration, 5, $8410.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 113.791 mph.

      Time of Race: 01 Hrs, 45 Mins, 59 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.293 Seconds.

      Caution Flags: 7 for 28 laps.

      Lead Changes: 13 among 5 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: K. Larson(i) 1-25; J. Cobb 26; K. Larson(i) 27-42; K. Busch(i) 43; K. Larson(i) 44-74; D. Wallace Jr. 75; K. Larson(i) 76; D. Wallace Jr. 77; K. Larson(i) 78-100; B. Silas 101; K. Busch(i) 102; D. Wallace Jr. 103-114; K. Busch(i) 115-118; D. Wallace Jr. 119-134.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Larson(i) 5 times for 96 laps; D. Wallace Jr. 4 times for 30 laps; K. Busch(i) 3 times for 6 laps; B. Silas 1 time for 1 lap; J. Cobb 1 time for 1 lap.

      Top 10 in Points: M. Crafton - 833; R. Blaney - 812; D. Wallace Jr. - 799; J. Sauter - 773; T. Peters - 746; G. Quiroga - 683; J. Coulter - 680; J. Burton - 679; B. Kennedy # - 679; B. Silas - 548.

  • Friday, November 14, 2014
    Championship 4 drivers remain confident following qualifying
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Seth Livingstone

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed for The Sports Xchange

      HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Defending race champion Denny Hamlin says he knew he had the car to win last year's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway—and he did.

      Asked how "close" his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota is this weekend to the car he had a year ago, Hamlin demonstrated he had his sense of humor if not quite the same speed.

      "Last year's winning car is scrapped somewhere, so it's pretty far away," said Hamlin after qualifying for Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET on ESPN).

      "We don't have that all-out speed. That we haven't had all year. But we're very encouraged by what we've seen so far. We'll figure it out on Saturday. Our expectations are to win the race. I think we're fully capable of doing that."

      Hamlin, whose only win in 2014 came in the 10th race of the season at Talladega, will start eighth on Sunday. He'll roll off three positions behind Kevin Harvick and one spot ahead of Joey Logano, Sprint Cup title contenders who reached the 12-car final round of Friday's qualifying session.

      The fourth contender, Ryan Newman, failed to make the final round. Although Newman's Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet will start 21st, he remains undeterred.

      "A buddy of mine once said, ‘it's not where you start, it's where you stop' and we've got half of (the field) beat to start," Newman said. "We've got 267 laps to beat the other half on Sunday."

      Of the four drivers vying for the championship, Harvick clearly had the fastest car on Friday. He was second to Brad Keselowski in practice, second again to Keselowski's track record (181.238 mph) in the first round of qualifying, and fifth at 179.946 when the field was set.

      "Everything went according, pretty much, to what we wanted to do," said Harvick, fresh off last week's victory in his Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet at Phoenix. "I know we can get the car better (Saturday) in race trim and now we have a good spot to start. All and all, we have a lot to look at and a lot of resources to pull from.

      "I just want consistency from my car and enough tape on the window so I can see going into Turn 1."

      Joey Logano was happy to advance through the first two rounds of qualifying in his Team Penske Ford.

      "I felt like we unloaded in race trim and had good speed in our car," Logano said. "We switched over to qualifying trim and the speed didn't transfer. We were third in the first round (of qualifying) and that surprised the heck out of me."

      None of the four finalists came close to challenging Coors Light pole-sitter Jeff Gordon, who delivered the 200th all-time pole for Hendrick Motorsports.

      But Harvick will have a Hendrick engine under the hood.

      Harvick said it will be important to have a car than can excel on the bottom of the track, then move to the top as the race goes on.

      "This is going to be a race where you go through some changing conditions," Harvick said. "The top is treacherous. It's six inches away from you at all times in order to run as fast as you need to. That's hard to do during the daytime.

      "I think you have to be aggressive. I think everybody is going to be aggressive. (But) I think you also have to be smart about where you put your car and who you're around."

  • Friday, November 14, 2014
    Gordon wins Homestead pole; Harvick leads Chase qualifiers
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Jeff Gordon edged Kurt Busch for the top starting spot in Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on ESPN) as three of the four contenders in the Championship Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup qualified in the top nine during Friday's time trials.

      In the third and final round of the knockout qualifying session, Gordon covered the 1.5-mile distance at 180.747 mph, narrowly beating Busch (180.632 mph) for the top spot on the grid.

      Championship favorite Kevin Harvick (179.946 mph) will start fifth, with fellow contenders Denny Hamlin (179.348 mph) and Joey Logano (179.259 mph) eighth and ninth, respectively. Ryan Newman (178.241 mph), the fourth driver eligible for the championship, failed to advance to the final round and will start 21st.

      Matt Kenseth (180.294 mph) and Brad Keselowski (179.994 mph), both eliminated from the Chase last Sunday at Phoenix, qualified third and fourth, respectively, for the Sprint Cup title race.

      In the 25-minute first qualifying round, Keselowski set a track record at 181.238 mph, breaking the mark of 181.111 mph established by Jamie McMurray in 2003. No driver has won a Sprint Cup race at Homestead from the pole since Busch accomplished the feat in 2002.

      Gordon, eliminated from the Chase by one point last Sunday, moved toward the top of the track for his pole-winning run.

      "The bottom just wasn't the perfect place for us to run," Gordon explained. "I could feel the tires going away, and then we needed to move up. So when we saw some of those guys running fast laps a little bit higher up, I was looking forward to making that last lap.

      "The guys made some great adjustments. We unfortunately had a tire going down on the left front, so I don't know if that helped us or hurt us, but it was pretty nice to get that pole. That's awesome."

      Gordon's pole -- his first at Homestead, his third of the season and the 77th of his career -- also was the 200th for Hendrick Motorsports.

      "To be the 200th pole for Hendrick Motorsports is really cool," Gordon said. "I think the way we're looking at this weekend is we want to close out the season the absolute best we can. It's been a tremendous season. The No. 24 team has been incredible this year.

      "We're disappointed that we aren't in this thing for the championship, but that's not going to stop us from trying to go out to win the pole and win the race."

      For Harvick, the most gratifying thing about Friday's qualifying session was beating the three other championship contenders -- not to mention earning a top-five starting position.

      "This is going to be a race that you are going to go through some changing conditions," Harvick said. "Today was really about trying to get a solid starting spot. And we were able to do that.

      "Just really proud of my guys. We had a really good day today. Just got to keep doing what we have to do and see where it all falls on Sunday."

  • Friday, November 14, 2014
    Larson holds no grudge toward Newman for Phoenix move
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Seth Livingstone

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Kyle Larson says it took him about 10 minutes to get over his displeasure with Ryan Newman after last week's final-lap incident at Phoenix International Raceway.

      "No, I didn't want to kick his butt," said Larson, standing in front of his hauler and standing on the cusp of wrapping up his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year season.

      "He called me on Tuesday and it was fine. I was upset for 10 minutes, then over it. I understood the situation and what was at stake for Ryan. I get over things pretty quickly."

      On the line was Newman's ability to reach The Championship 4 and advance to Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on ESPN) with the chance for his first Sprint Cup title.

      By nudging Larson into the wall, Newman was able to move up one position and finish in 11th place, just enough to bump Jeff Gordon from the quest for the championship.

      "I think there are a lot of people out here that would probably have done the same thing," Larson said after Friday afternoon's practice session.

      Asked if he would have considered the same thing, Larson replied, "It's hard to really say until you're in that position. I got a ton of criticism a couple years ago -- even probably worse -- at a late model race."

      Larson said he hopes he's not a driver to alter the course of Sunday's championship by making contact with a contender.

      "I don't want to get into any of them," he said. "I got into Ty (Dillon) a couple years ago when he was going for the Truck championship and I felt horrible after that, so I don't want to go through that again. None of (the Championship 4) have won a championship. I know how much it means to them."

      Driving for Chip Ganassi Racing, Larson, with 17 top-10 finishes, has unofficially locked up Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors by virtue of being the top-finishing rookie in 25 of this season's 35 Sprint Cup races. Austin Dillon has been the first rookie in the other 10.

      "It feels awesome," Larson said before claiming the pole for Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (8 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1).

      "I think everybody kind of picked Austin Dillon as the favorite going into the year and I don't blame them. He's accomplished so much in his NASCAR career and dirt car career before that. I've only been in stock cars for a couple years. It's nice to prove some of the doubters wrong.

      "It's (also) nice to see how many people who've won Rookie of the Year who've gone on to win Sprint Cup championships. We've challenged for a handful of wins. I think my patience has gotten better as the season went on. I think this season has been pretty successful, other than missing the Chase. I think we’ll get into the Chase next year."

      JARRETT IMPRESSED

      Dale Jarrett, NASCAR's 1999 Sprint Cup champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer, was impressed with what Ryan Newman did on the final lap at Phoenix -- and that was before the contact that put Kyle Larson into the wall.

      "I was more impressed with how he kept himself in position to even be in that position," Jarrett said, "because he was at a huge disadvantage with the tires he was on versus the people he was racing around.

      "I've (long) said that man is the best in a two-tire situation or some kind of strategy. The way he drives the wheels off the car is better than anybody else out there. In that situation, I'll put him up against just about anybody."

      Rusty Wallace, the 1989 premier series champ and NASCAR Hall of Famer, said he's not surprised that Newman and Richard Childress Racing are in position to win a title despite not winning a race this season.

      "Richard Childress Racing (became) masters at winning championships (because) they knew how to adapt to whatever it took to get the job done," Wallace said. "That's one thing Childress, I think, has got up his sleeve coming into this weekend. Maybe they haven't won, but they know how to figure it out."

      DON’T OVERLOOK THE NON-CHASERS

      NASCAR's eventual champion won't necessarily need to win Sunday's race, he simply must finish ahead of the other three contenders. And potential spoilers abound at Homestead-Miami Speedway, including Joey Logano's shop mate at Team Penske, Brad Keselowski, who posted the fastest lap in Friday's practice session (179.004 mph).

      Consider that Carl Edwards is the career leader in laps at the 1.5-mile track (560) and easily owns the best average finish at 6.6. He has seven top-10 finishes in 10 career starts, including wins in 2008 and 2011.

      Only Edwards (6.6) and Kevin Harvick (8.1) have a better average finish than Martin Truex Jr. at 9.2, whose driver rating trails only Edwards in the last nine Sprint Cup races at Homestead.

      Six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has had season-finale races in which he did not have to go all out for victory. Though Homestead is one of four current tracks at which Johnson has yet to win, he does have eight top-10 finishes in 13 starts.

      His Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon has 11 top-10 finishes in 15 starts, including a victory in 2012.

      Greg Biffle dominated in Miami, winning three consecutive races from 2004 to 2006 -- before permitting then teammate Matt Kenseth to have a shot at victory lane in 2007. Kasey Kahne has the best average starting position at Homestead (8.3), although his average finish is a comparatively miserable 15.2.