For one final time this season, the boys of NASCAR’s Cup Series fire the engines for the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to race four hundred miles to see who will be crowned the champion. It has been an incredible season, and now four of the best drivers to ever do it will have a shot at the trophy.
Denny Hamlin started on the pole, but it was Kevin Harvick with the fast start. He jumped out front and quickly moved away from the field. Martin Truex Jr. was able to move past Hamlin into the second-place position, and he quickly tracked down Harvick in the lead. On lap 21, Truex Jr. made the pass on Harvick as Harvick was losing some long-run speed.
On lap 36, green-flag stops began to filter through. Harvick and Kyle Busch both came down first with Hamlin and Truex Jr. following on the next lap. Truex Jr. cycled back into the lead with now a four-second lead over the field. Truex Jr. continued to increase his lead as the rest of stage one ran green. With no one contending for the lead, Truex Jr. easily won the first stage of the race.
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – It was Kyle Busch’s championship evening at Homestead-Miami Speedway Sunday, but it also had a distinctive feel of being a J.D. Gibbs’ kind of achievement.
Team owner Joe Gibbs’ oldest son J.D. was president of the Joe Gibbs Racing team and an omnipresent positive vibe in the NASCAR garage for more than a decade. Typically smiling and joking, but also ultra-competitive, the team won four previous Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championships under his leadership and won hearts because of his enduring positive spirit.
J.D. Gibbs passed away on January 11 at the age of 49 after a valiant and lengthy fight against degenerative neurological disease. His passing and its effect on the 2019 season has been simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-strengthening.
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Denny Hamlin won when he had to, seizing victory Nov. 10 at ISM Raceway in Phoenix to earn an 11th-hour ticket into Sunday’s Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Despite his best efforts, Hamlin couldn’t duplicate the feat accomplished in 2014 by Kevin Harvick, who won the last two races of the season to claim his only Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship to date.
Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 started in daylight, and Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota didn’t respond. For the first two stages of the race, Hamlin, for the most part, was fourth among the four title contenders. After sunset, when Hamlin’s Camry came to life, an extra pit stop to remove tape from the grille—a measure to counteract a potential overheating issue—proved more than Hamlin could overcome.
The Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway often is decided by a short run to the finish. That’s was part of the game plan developed by driver Kevin Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers.
Unfortunately for the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team, the entire third stage was run without caution, and the final 101-lap green-flag run prevented Harvick from using the short-run speed built into his Ford.
Starting second at the beginning of the race, Harvick streaked ahead of polesitter Denny Hamlin and led the first 20 laps before eventual race runner-up Martin Truex Jr. ran him down. After a restart on Lap 13, Harvick again went to the point and stayed out front for 13 laps but couldn’t hold the position.
After finishing 12th in his final run in the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, Hemric was crowned Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Next year, however, Hemric won’t be driving in the Cup series, having been replaced in his RCR ride by two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Tyler Reddick. Hemric will compete in 21 races for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series in 2020.
“Yeah, I’m really pumped up starting right to getting to work on that deal,” Hemric said after the Ford EcoBoost 400. “It’s kind of a breath of fresh air knowing I’ve got the opportunity to go back and… having runs like tonight make me go into the offseason knowing I can compete and race at this level.”
Hemric finished 25th in the final standings in his first season at NASCAR’s top level.
“It’s the little things when you have a season like we’ve had that get you over that emotional hump,” he said. “I mean, I passed a seven-time champion (Jimmie Johnson) on the last lap of a 60 lap run at Homestead. Those are little victories you find in the light at the end of the tunnel in years like this.”