Key Moment – On the 11th caution flag of the night, Kevin Harvick’s crew chief Rodney Childers called for a four tire pit stop with 29 cars on the lead lap. When stops were completed Harvick was in 12th position. A quick caution afterwards allowed Harvick to restart in the sixth position.
In a Nutshell – Jeff Gordon left Phoenix tremendously dejected over not advancing to the final four drivers eligible to win the Sprint Cup. The four-time champion set out at Homestead to prove that, were it not for a flat tire at the end of the Texas race, it would have been him hoisting the Cup. Gordon led all but 106 of the 267 laps that made up the Ford Ecoboost 400. Gordon even failed to prove his case at Homestead when his effort collapsed over the final nine laps. Gordon was not outside the top 4 all day until he stayed out when most of the field pitted on the 11th caution of the night. He pitted on the 12th caution of the night and was only able to make it back to 10th. In the end it was Kevin Harvick who took advantage of a late race four tire stop to drive past the other Chase contenders and score the win and the 2014 Sprint Cup title.
Dramatic Moment – On the penultimate caution of the night, Harvick restarted sixth and knifed his way to second quickly and then powered past Denny Hamlin to grab the lead and ultimately the 2014 series title.
What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler
While there was a debris caution with four laps to go, it was a legitimate caution with visible debris on the race course in the groove. Unfortunately it was one of the Ford grill inserts again for the third time in four races. Whoever thought those are a good idea needs to be beaten with one until they change their mind.
With the late caution Harvick was already in position and the restart didn’t really affect the outcome. Of the four finalists for the title, Harvick and Joey Logano had the strongest seasons and one of them took the title. Whether the one race playoff for a title is the way to crown a champion or not, it absolutely generated buzz within and without the racing community and it provided some of the most intense late season racing that has been seen in the history of the sport. Depending on what you want from your auto racing, it certainly delivered a pile of excitement.
After the race the No. 48 team was called to the NASCAR hauler to discuss an event that unfolded during the race. A loose wheel resulted in a vibration for the team. When that happens the threads on the lug studs can become damaged and it is customary for a team to add a spacer to the wheel in order for it to stop a little further out on the studs so that the lug nuts grab good threads. Chad Knaus asked to add a spacer and his pit official said no. Knaus did it anyway and that resulted in being summoned to the principal’s office. Robin Pemberton downplayed the incident and said there is no possibility of fines or punishment. He informed the media it is such a minute deal it isn’t worth discussing.
The No. 32 team was also called to the hauler after Black Koch was asked to pull off of the track late in the event and did not. The end result was the caution flag that led to the final restart of the night with three laps to go.
While this is certainly premature, Harvick’s championship all but insures he will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Every inactive driver ahead of Harvick on the list except Mark Martin and Bobby Isaac on the win list is in the Hall. Isaac is the only driver with a title who isn’t in and it is a safe bet that will be rectified during the next class election.
The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune
Tony Stewart has won a race every year that he has been in the Cup series since he came into the sport in 1999. In fact, every year except 2008 and 2013 he won more than one. Unfortunately for Stewart, his quest to continue the streak came up short when Stewart pulled into the garage after 182 laps on Sunday. Sadly the television coverage didn’t say anything about what happened to Stewart. Stewart’s failure is bittersweet thanks to his teammate and employee Kevin Harvick grabbing the series title.
Kyle Busch was running in the top 5 when the caution flag flew on lap 117. When the jack dropped on his pit stop and Busch tore out of his pit stall, the car suddenly went lifeless. A broken axle and rear gear rendered the No. 18 useless. The crew took him to the garage where they exchanged the rear gear and axle. It only took 24 laps but it crippled his hopes of a strong finish to end the season. He heads into the off-season with a 39th-place finish.
Joey Logano was in the middle of the hunt for the series title until the caution flag flew on lap 249. A botched pit stop put Logano deep in the field with just over a baker’s dozen laps to go. The car fell off of the jack and it took forever to get the car back up, dropping Logano to the end of the lead lap cars in 29th position. It was too deep of a hole for Logano to claw out of and ended up giving him a 16th place run which translated into a fourth place finish in the point standings.
The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune
Paul Menard made hard contact with the outside wall on lap 187 and came to the pits with a flat tire. Through determination and good pit strategy, he battled his way to a fourth place finish. Menard has always struggled in the last half of the season. Former crew chief Slugger Labbe continued to work at making Menard better in the late weeks of the season. Perhaps it is now finding success.
Jamie McMurray was in a similar boat to Menard. They made two tire calls on the penultimate caution flag that allowed them to make a charge over the final laps of the race. McMurray ended up chasing Menard to the checkered flag as the two of them came home in fourth and fifth.
Kevin Harvick is the 30th different champion of top series in NASCAR.
Harvick joins Bobby Labonte and Brad Keselowski as the only three drivers who have won the Nationwide and Cup titles in their career.
Harvick scored five victories in 2014. He also secured 14 top 5s and 20 top 10s. His eight poles during 2014 more than doubled his career total to 14.
Stewart-Haas Racing won the title in 2011 as well so they have taken two of the last four Cups.
Rodney Childers, like Harvick, has notched his first career Cup series title.
Childers is the 37th crew chief to grab a title.
Childers has led three drivers to eight career Cup wins: Harvick (5), David Reutimann (2) and Brian Vickers.
Harvick’s win was his 28th of his career in 502 starts. Harvick is now tied with Rex White for 25th on the all-time victory list.
Harvick’s win was his first ever at Homestead-Miami Speedway
Ryan Newman came home in second, .500 second behind Harvick. It is Newman’s only runner-up finish all seaon.
This is Newman’s only top 2 finish in his career at Homestead.
Brad Keselowski came home in third for his 15th top 3 run of the season.
This is Keselowski’s only career podium finish at Homestead.
Kyle Larson came home in 13th to win the Rookie of the Race.
Larson is the 2014 Rookie of the Year
Chevrolet won the manufacturer’s championship. This is Chevrolet’s 34th manufacturer’s title and twelfth in a row.
What’s the Points
The Chase for the Cup is complete. The first title has been awarded under the latest iteration of the Chase and Kevin Harvick has emerged victorious. Ryan Newman came home second ahead of Denny Hamlin. Joey Logano ended up the fourth best of the final four at Homestead so he ends the season in fourth place in points. Brad Keselowski was the best of the rest rounding out the top 5. The final standings for the 16 Chase contenders looks like this:
- Kevin Harvick 5043
- Ryan Newman 5042
- Denny Hamlin 5037
- Joey Logano 5028
- Brad Keselowski 2361
- Jeff Gordon 2348
- Matt Kenseth 2334
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2301
- Carl Edwards 2288
- Kyle Busch 2285
- Jimmie Johnson 2274
- Kurt Busch 2263
- AJ Allmendinger 2260
- Greg Biffle 2247
- Kasey Kahne 2234
- Aric Almirola 2195
Overall Rating(On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) – This section is about the race and only the race. Whatever you feel about the Chase does not impact what the race offered. While Homestead is not a D-shaped mile and a half, it is still an intermediate track. As a result, air is very important and that showed up again this weekend. There were some cars that could make passes, including Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick, who carved their way through traffic Mixing in 13 caution flags, all for incidents with cars or actual visible debris and the race gets four ice cold Cabana Boy Wheat Ales from Funky Buddha Brewery.
The Off-season. While the 10 weeks between next weekend and the Sprint Unlimited race in Daytona might seem like a long time, it is going to be packed with activity for the Cup teams. The series banquet will kick off the respite on Friday, Dec. 5, 2013: The Sprint Cup Awards Banquet will be on FoxSports1 at 9:00 p.m. ET. MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the awards show live.
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