In a Nutshell: It appeared Kevin Harvick was headed for yet another Busch Series victory on Saturday, but after leading 84 of the first 140 laps, a pit-road penalty cost him the race. After a tire was left out of the pit box, Harvick restarted at the back of the field and was never able to recover. With Harvick out of the equation, Jeff Burton charged to the front, dominating the last quarter of the race. Burton led 49 of the last 60 laps and held off a furious late-race charge by Mark Martin. Martin tried very hard to make a pass using the low groove, but by rim-riding around the top, Burton kept up enough momentum to keep the No. 5 car behind him. After wearing his tires down in the battle with Burton, Martin fell back into the clutches of Carl Edwards, swapping positions twice before Martin followed Burton to the checkered flag.
Matt Kenseth, Edwards and Stephen Leicht, in his last ride in Robert Yates Racing’s No. 90 Ford, rounded out the top-five finishers. Greg Biffle, Tony Raines, Bobby Hamilton Jr., Clint Bowyer and Marcos Ambrose completed the top 10.
Who Should Have Won: Harvick. Harvick was the car to beat for the first two-thirds of the race. However, he did begin to slip late in the event, and the pit-road penalty killed his chances for a victory. While Harvick was strong early on, Burton was the class of the field when it counted. He put his car out front on lap 141 and led all but nine of the last 60 laps.
Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race This Weekend
1) Can Edwards repeat and be the first Nationwide Series champion?
Edwards has already stated that he is going to try to defend his championship next year. The first half of the season was special, indeed; however, Edwards stumbled very badly down the stretch and was less than impressive in many races. If Edwards’s team doesn’t pick their program back up, he will be hard pressed to repeat as champion.
2) Is it really necessary for Carl Edwards to do a back flip after the race, before he gets his championship trophy?
After the race, but before he was presented the championship trophy for this year’s Busch Series championship, Edwards pulled his car in front of the stage, got out and did a back flip. While the back flip is his signature move after a victory, it seemed a bit much since he had clinched the championship two races ago and finished fourth at Homestead.
3) How much does the owners’ championship trophy cost?
After the race, Mike Helton presented the owners’ championship trophy to Richard Childress for the No. 29 team. The trophy looked like an aluminum Busch beer bottle with the plastic rings from a six-pack glued onto the side of it. I’m sure NASCAR paid a bunch of money for it, but you would sure think that they could come up with something a little bigger and a little shinier.
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle
The season is officially over, and the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing team is the owner points champion for 2007. By just taking the green flag Saturday night, the team secured the championship but they didn’t stop there. Not only did they accomplish that feat, but Burton also went on to win the race, putting the ultimate exclamation point on the season.
Although he clinched the Busch Series drivers’ championship two weeks ago at Texas, Edwards was officially handed the trophy at Homestead. While Edwards didn’t dominate in the second half of the season like he had in the first, he had enough of a points lead built up to coast home over the last few races. Despite not winning a race after the 15th race of the season in Nashville, no one even came close to dethroning Edwards.
Leicht was the highest finishing Busch Series regular in the Ford 300, coming home in fifth place. Leicht is still searching for a full-time ride for next season, and duplicating his second-highest finish of the season is certainly a good way to audition for the owners in the series. Over the last six races, Leicht’s lowest finish was 19th with two top-10 finishes and one top five.
Jason Leffler‘s 14th-place finish was enough to edge out Harvick by three points for third place in the final driver standings. Leffler was the highest-placing Busch regular in the points standings and gave Toyota their first Busch Series win back in July at ORP.
Buschwhackers in the race: 18
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 618 of 1,498
Buschwhackers finishing in the top 10: 7
Buschwhackers finishing in the top 10 YTD: 251 of 350
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 32 of 35
Buschwhackers ranked in the top 10 in Busch Series points standings: 6
“It really means a lot to me to win the last race of the Busch Series, I’m as excited as I can be to win the last race. I grew up wanting to be a Busch Grand National driver.” – Jeff Burton
“We gave it everything we had. I was proud to be racing with Jeff Burton and Matt Kenseth there at the end for it. I had a couple of runs on Jeff but didn’t get him clear” – Mark Martin
“I’m very pleased, obviously, to be a champion. I have to thank Jack (Roush, car owner) for the opportunities he’s given me throughout my career. I can’t wait to do it again next year, I’m just glad to be driving this racecar.” – Carl Edwards
Next up: The next race will be the Camping World 300 on Saturday, February 16, 2008 at Daytona International Speedway.