Saturday, November 22, 2014

Homestead Rewind and Champions Week Preview

Hey guys!

Homestead Miami Speedway  (Photo
It's official the season is over, and we have all three NASCAR Champions crowned.  The last race of the season was held in Homestead, Florida while the rest of the country was freezing cold last weekend.

Matt Crafton NASCAR Camping World Truck Champion 2014
The Camping World Truck Series held their 134 lap race Friday night.  Matt Crafton was the points leader entering the race and he only needed to finish 21st or better to clench the title while second place Ryan Blaney would have to do his best to win the race.   Kyle Larson started the race from the pole and it didn't take long until the first caution fell for John Wes Townley and Jeb Burton colliding on lap 4.

The Ford EcoBoost 200 restarted on lap 9.  Larson was still the leader and Matt Crafton restarted 3rd but immediately began falling back.  The next caution flew on lap 24 for Mason Mingus spinning.  Each of the teams were given an extra set of tires for the race due to the heavy tire wear.  The first pit stops of the night were during this caution.  All of the leaders stopped and Larson was the first truck off pit road.

The third caution of the night fell after a truck hit the turn 4 wall and the race restarted on lap 44 with Kyle Larson still leading and Kyle Busch second.  Ryan Blaney stayed toward the front of the field all night and Matt Crafton ran a safe race.  The fourth caution waved on lap 72 for a piece of debris
on the front stretch.  All the leaders stopped under this round of cautions and Ryan Blaney lost
Darrell Wallace Jr (left) wins EcoBoost 200, Kyle Busch (right)
wins 2014 Camping World Truck Series Owner's
several spots when he stalled his truck exiting his pit stall.   The race restarted on lap 76 with Kyle Larson the leader and Darrell (Bubba) Wallace Jr. in second.  The two battled for the lead for a few laps before Kyle Larson took the lead.  The next caution fell with 34 laps to go for another piece of debris and then another caution followed soon after for Tyler Reddick, Blaney's teammate, spinning.  The final restart took place with 20 laps remaining.  Darrell Wallace Jr., took the lead with his owner Kyle Busch in second.  When the checkers fell, Darrell Wallace Jr. won the race.  Kyle Busch had won the Owner's Championship in the 51 truck and Matt Crafton won his second Camping World Truck Championship.  Matt Crafton is the first back to back champion in Truck Series history.

The EcoBoost 300 for the Nationwide Series was held on Saturday night.  If you recall the series Champion had already been decided at Phoenix the weekend before; however, the Owner's Championship had not been decided.  The Owner's Championship was between the number 22 Penske car driven by Brad Keselowski this race and the number 54 Joe Gibbs Racing car driven by Kyle Busch.  The 22 was ahead in the points going into the race at Homestead.

Brad Keselowski started the race on the pole and the first caution fell on lap 31 for  Dylan Kwasniewski's flat right rear tire.  All the leaders took the opportunity to stop for fresh tires and fuel and Kyle Busch was the first off pit road.  Immediately following the restart Brad Keselowski began falling back with electrical problems.  The second caution fell for the number 40 stalling on an access
Chase Elliott Wins 2014 Nationwide Championship
road in the middle of turns 1 and 2.   Again all the leaders took the opportunity to stop and Kyle Busch won the race off pit road again.

Overall there were 11 cautions during the EcoBoost 300 for a total of 48 laps.  Matt Kenseth won the race with Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, and Chris Buscher rounding out the top 5.   Brad Keselowski finished 8th in the number 22 Hertz Ford to bring Rodger Penske the Nationwide Owner's Championship.  Of course Chase Elliott had already clenched the Nationwide Driver's Championship, but he finished 17th after causing the 10th caution of the race.

The final race of the season, the Ford EcoBoost 400, began Sunday afternoon.  Jeff Gordon won the pole for the race and Kurt Busch started second.  The first of the Championship contenders was Kevin Harvick who started 5th.   For this race there would be no bonus points for leading a lap or for leading the most laps, so the Champion would be the highest finisher of the four contenders.  Denny Hamlin started 8th, Joey Logano started 9th, and the final Championship contender Ryan Newman started 21st.

The first half of the race saw Harvick, Hamlin, and Logano all running at or near the front of the field.   Ryan Newman wasn't far behind them when the three previously mentioned drivers were running first, second, and third.  Jeff Gordon, who was eliminated from the Championship after Phoenix, ran at the front of the race as well.  Tire problems became an issue several times during the race when drivers like Marcos Ambrose, AJ Allmendinger, and Trevor Bayne hit the wall due to tire issues.

Through the race Hamlin proved he was a solid contender for the championship by battling for the lead with Jeff Gordon at lap 212 of the 267 lap race.  Surprisingly it took until 15 laps to go before the first contender suffered a mistake.  Joey Logano had come down pit road for a normal pitstop and when the team began changing the left side tires the jack broke leaving him in 29th position on the restart.  Under this same caution, Harvick took four tires, Newman took only two tires, and Hamlin stayed on the track to take the race lead.

On the restart Harvick powered by the cars in front of him.  By the time the 13th caution of the race fell Hamlin had fallen back to third behind Harvick and Newman.  When the checkered flag fell Kevin Harvick had won the race as well as the Championship while Logano had only been able to rally to 16th place after the disastrous pit stop.  Ryan Newman finished second in the race and in points and Denny Hamlin finished seventh in the race and third in points.

Kevin Harvick 2014 Sprint Cup Champion

What's next for racing you may ask.  The NASCAR Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series banquets were held this past Monday in Miami where Chase Elliott and Matt Crafton were honored.  Fox Sports 1 will air the banquet on Sunday November 23 at 7 PM.   The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase contenders, all sixteen of them, will be appearing in Las Vegas during Champion's week December 2-5.

NASCAR Champions Week 2014 will be in Las Vegas December 2-5
There will be a FanFest held on December 3 from 2-4 PM where the drivers will participate in a game show style competition.  Thursday will see the NMPA Myers Brothers Luncheon from 11 AM - 1:15 PM during which the most notable achievements of the year will be honored.  The Champion Crew Chief, Rodney Childers, will be honored.  You will be able to watch a live stream of the luncheon to see who is honored.   Following the Myers Brothers Luncheon there will be the NASCAR Victory Lap where each of the 16 contenders drive race cars around Las Vegas.   The lap will begin at 3:30 PM and the event can be watched on the NASCAR website.

Undoubtedly the most fun event of the week is held after the Victory Lap. NASCAR After The Lap will be held on Thursday December 4th at 5 PM.  All 16 of the drivers will be in attendance and typically it turns into a tell all.   This event has produced many laughs over the past few years so if you want to see Jeff Gordon dance you can see that here.  Below I have included the video of the event from 2012 when Brad Keselowski was the Champion just so you can get an idea of what you are in for.

You will be able to watch this year's event here.

Champions week will conclude with the banquet on Friday December 5th from 5 PM - 8:40 PM.  You can watch it live here or you can see it on Fox Sports 1 at 9 PM.  This is a star studded black tie event where drivers will be doing speeches and the Champions are honored.  Kyle Larson will be honored as the Rookie of the Year and the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award will be handed out.   

All focus will turn toward the 2015 Daytona 500 and the beginning of the 2015 season.  The Sprint Unlimited race will be held the weekend before the Daytona 500 on February 14. 

I hope you guys enjoy these posts as much as I do!  


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