Dale Jr. And Kenseth Say Goodbye In Their Own Way

Matt Kenseth

The crew in black and yellow fire suits went methodically about its business, check-listing last details before the beginning of the final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

A few feet away, the crew in the red and black fire suits was performing the same series of tasks, but a throng of onlookers and well-wishers pressed in at every movement.

It was a surreal scene, or rather scenes, both on Sunday and 14 years ago. But in each case, the careers and personas of NASCAR’s most popular driver and his understated friend and contemporary had intersected. In 2003, it was in the garage bays in the hours before Matt Kenseth finished off his first and only championship at NASCAR’s highest level. On Sunday, it was as he and Dale Earnhardt Jr. posed for a series of photographs for friends and family beside their cars staged in Turn 4 as they prepared to undertake their final races before retirement.

Earnhardt Jr. eventually broke from his gathering on Sunday, slinked under a rope and waited through a television interview to speak with Kenseth. He’d been “adamant” Kenseth said, that their cars be parked next to each other for their moments, and was particularly intrigued that they were both using versions of their early career paint schemes for their farewells. They shared a quip and a hug and then prepared to get on with the last vestiges of their careers. In keeping with their divergent personalities – Earnhardt Jr. – compelled to accommodate the scores who wanted to share in the moment with him – and Kenseth joined the field of cars to begin the start of the race, and NASCAR’s 14-time most popular driver slowly drove pit road to exchange handshakes with crewman from other teams waiting near the wall.

Earnhardt Jr. and Kenseth have always been different people seeking the same career goals, since they entered first the Busch Series [now XFINITY Series] and then Cup together, and it can be argued that Kenseth accomplished more. Both won the Daytona 500 twice, but Kenseth claimed the 2003 championship and contended for others more frequently than his friend, who finished a career-high second in the same season. Kenseth won 39 career Monster Energy Series races, Earnhardt Jr. 26. When Earnhardt Jr. won consecutive XFINITY titles in 1998 and 1999, Kenseth finished second, and third, respectively.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

But Earnhardt Jr. always was and always will be the focus. It was his birthright and burden.  Understated and wry, Kenseth saw up close the scrutiny and demands on his friend and wanted no part of them. He learned that early. In 2002, the bachelor Earnhardt Jr. hitched a ride with Kenseth and his wife, Katie, driving back from a race at Rockingham, when they cruised into a McDonald’s. Earnhardt Jr. was inundated. Kenseth and Katie walked to the front of the line. Demands came with such fame and Earnhardt Jr. came to accept them as his part of the bargain.

NASCAR legend dictates that Kenseth’s march to his championship for Roush Racing was so banal – after winning one race he entered the final 226 points ahead of Jimmie Johnson – that it prompted the series to institute the first version of what was then called the “Chase” in 2004. Earnhardt Jr. arrived in third place, 264 behind for Dale Earnhardt Inc. and still gathering momentum as the standard-bearer of the sport and a crossover marketing star just two years after his father and namesake perished on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. In keeping with the Budweiser sponsorship on his red No. 8 Chevrolet, the mood on the edge of his camp that November was festive bordering on hysterical. Such was the reason that security stations theater ropes several feet beyond the mouth of his garage bay so crewman could work and push through mobbing fans carrying gear back to their transporter. Kenseth’s crew went about its business unbothered.

Ultimately, their departures from the series were in keeping with the way they conducted their careers, or at least had them dictated to them. Returning this season after missing half of the 2016 season because of a recurrence of concussions, Earnhardt Jr. announced in April that he would discontinue full-time racing at the end of the season. A hashtagged farewell tour ensued, allowing his scores of fans and appreciative admirers to partake in his moment. Kenseth, who will be replaced next season at Joe Gibbs Racing by 21-year-old Erik Jones, refused to accept a lesser job and eventually accepted his career was over.

Earnhardt Jr. chugged a beer as a massive mob surrounded his rubber-clumped car and engaged in a long embrace with team owner Rick Hendrick after exiting the car following a 25th-place finish. Hendrick, whose son, Ricky, died with nine other Hendrick family members or employees in a 2004 plane crash, claimed Earnhardt Jr.’s helmet as a souvenir and slid away from the scene. He’d done the same in 2015 after four-time series champion Jeff Gordon’s last race as a full-time driver at Homestead and wouldn’t be without a token from someone he said he loves “like he’s flesh and blood.”

“I don’t want to get any more helmets,” Hendrick said, becoming emotional. “He and I have such a special relationship.  We were talking about it. Now we can go fishing. So, it’s unbelievable to see his driving career come to an end, but he’s excited about the next stage and I am too, We have a special bond, so we are going to do a lot of fun things together, and that’s a commitment we made this year, early on when he told me he thought it was time. I’ve turned the page now and we’re going to start planning the trip tomorrow morning.”

At the absolute end of pit road, in the quiet, Kenseth sipped on a sports drink and joked with crew chief Jason Ratcliff. It was fitting.

There is the feeling that their paths will cross again, as Earnhardt Jr. remains around the sport as an XFINITY Series team owner and NBC analyst. Kenseth, with three daughters younger than eight and another imminent said his life will become filled with recitals and sports events. In the near-term, he planned to “go up to Wisconsin and be cold.”

“That was fun,” he said of exiting alongside Earnhardt Jr., including taking a group photo with their teams on Friday. “We went for a bike ride when we were in Darlington and I told him this was going to be it, but I never really announced it just because I kind of knew by September, I pretty much had my mind was made up the way things were going and kind of knew it then. It’s kind of cool we came into Cup together and now we go out together.”

And in their own ways.

On a personal note:

What a really cool NASCAR ride the last 17 years have been with both of these excellent drivers.  Kenseth always has been a low keyed, dry witted race car driver that never really sought the limelight, but was eager to compete and win races at the highest level.  Dale Jr. had the awesome weight of NASCAR thrust on his shoulders to carry after his father’s untimely death.  But carry it he did with class and humility!

Gentlemen, thanks for allowing this person to ride shotgun in your race cars, to experience the thrill of victory and the agony defeat vicariously!  I am eternally grateful to you for your class, and humility!

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Michael McDowell Earns A Top 25 Finish At Homestead

Michael McDowell and Paul Menard
Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing (LFR) finished 24th in their final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

 The team had a phenomenal start to the weekend, finishing first and second practice eighth and 13th, respectively. McDowell finished the first round of qualifying 11th fasteston Friday, but had a slight mishap in the second round, securing a 23rd place starting spot for Sunday’s season finale race.

 At the start of the Ford EcoBoost 400, the field only made it to the sixth lap under green flag before the first caution came out for a blown engine. McDowell reported that the handling of his No. 95 Rohto® Jolt™ Chevrolet SS felt fine, but that he did not want to burn up his tires too quickly, as the fall-off at Homestead is significant. McDowell pitted for a new set during the first caution, while the majority of the leaders did not.

 McDowell made his first green flag pit stop on lap 40 and controlled the Lucky Dog position for a time. He then reported his No. 95 Rohto® Jolt™ Chevy was extremely tight handling but was able to finish the stage in 21st.

 Within the first 10 laps of the second stage, McDowell reported a very tight handling car and went down a second lap on lap 114. He made his second green flag pit stop on lap 132, before a caution came out just under 10 laps later, allowing McDowell to take the wave around and gain one lap back. He went on to finish the second stage in 22nd.

 McDowell pitted for tires and adjustments during the caution and was able to gain a spot on pit road to start the final stage in 21st and in position to race for the Lucky Dog spot. On lap 186, McDowell reported that he felt like one of his tires was beginning to go down. He made it just seven laps before the right front tire went completely flat, forcing the team to make an unscheduled green flag pit stop, which put them down a third lap.

 In an effort to not lose any more spots, Crew Chief, Jon Leonard told McDowell to save fuel, as they could make it until the end of the race without pitting. The rest of the field began their green flag pit stops, allowing McDowell to gain one lap back. As the fifth caution of the day came out on lap 229, the team was able to take the wave around to put McDowell down only one lap.

 McDowell restarted in 22nd as the field went green with 34 laps remaining. While he made it back up to 20th, McDowell ultimately ran out of fuel on the last lap, crossing the start / finish line in 24th.

 “Not the day we wanted,” said McDowell. “We went a few laps down there and got off sequence with strategy there. Cautions didn’t fall our way either. We struggled today just being tight, and we just lost the balance a little bit. We did all we could and got a Top-25 finish again. I’m looking forward to next year!”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Truex And FRR Is The Little Train That Did!

Martin Truex, Jr.
Martin Truex Jr. capped off a dream season with a tenacious late-race drive to capture the NASCAR Cup Series championship Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Truex, who led four times for 78 laps in his No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota, held off a hard-charging Kyle Busch while leading the final 51 laps. His margin of victory over Busch was 0.681 seconds. Truex needed to finish ahead of Busch and the two other Championship 4 drivers — Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski — to claim the season title.

The victory was the eighth of the season for Truex, who now owns 15 career Cup wins. Thirteen of those wins have been with the Denver, Colo.-based Furniture Row Racing team.

The 2017 season for Furniture Row Racing also saw the No. 78 team win the regular season championship and Erik Jones of the No. 77 team win Rookie of the Year.

Truex was no doubt deserving of the title. In the 10-playoff races he won four times and scored nine top fives. The only non top-five finish was 23rd at Talladega where he was involved in a multicar accident.  His overall playoff average finish was 4.3.  Take away the Talladega result, his average finish in the other nine races was 2.2.

When the white flag waved at Homestead Truex knew the championship was his, and when he crossed the finish line the emotion of the herculean moment left him speechless.

“I balled like a baby, I couldn’t talk,” said Truex. “I was a wreck thinking about all the tough days, the bad days, the times where I thought my career was over and times when I didn’t think anyone believed in me. But the people who mattered did — my fans, my family and then when I got with this team they resurrected my career and made me a champion.”

Truex added, “This means the world. (team owner) Barney Visser 11 years of working towards this goal. He couldn’t be here tonight and we’re all thinking of him. Definitely wish he could have been here. I know he’s probably as much in shock as I am. Jim Watson, Cole’s best friend (Jacob Damen) and Sherry. This one is for all of you!”

Truex, started the 267-lap race second. He had some handling issues early, but as the race wore on, his Toyota Camry found more grip in a lane he never ran in the past on the 1.5-mile oval.

“It’s the dumbest lane I’ve ever run here, but it worked, so I have to put it in the memory bank for later,” explained Truex. “Just all came together – it was meant to be. This whole year has been a dream year.

“We’ve got the best fans in the world and Toyota and TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and everybody that puts so much into this — Bass Pro Shops, Auto-Owners, WIX, 5-hour ENERGY, Furniture Row, Denver Mattress, the road crew and the guys back at the shop in Denver. The list goes on and on of people who help us do this and make it all possible. And Barney Visser back home had heart surgery last week and we’re missing him today. Thanks to everybody at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) for the chassis and cooperation and running one-two tonight was pretty awesome.”

According to crew chief Cole Pearn, the planning for Homestead started long before the championship race.

“We just focused on this race for a long time,” said Pearn. “We knew if we were going to be champions, we were going to have to get a lot better here. I can’t thank the number of hours that everybody put into this car and into this race. You know coming here and testing there are a lot of wives on our team who will be happy that this car made it and did what it did and it took every hour of it.

“We had to race three other great guys and the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) was really good. I think they were honestly a little better than us and Martin was able to dig down and get it done. I don’t really know how to comprehend it at this point. Just so so thrilled and be able to truly call ourselves champions is unbelievable.”

Truex and Furniture Row Racing will take center stage during Champion’s Week in Las Vegas, which will culminate with the NASCAR Awards Banquet at The Wynn on Thursday, Nov. 30.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Team Penske Recaps The Ford EcoBoost 400

Joey Logano

Track:                  Homestead-Miami Speedway

Race:                   Ford EcoBoost 400

Date:                   November 19, 2017

 

No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion – Brad Keselowski

Start: 5th

Finish: 7th

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 267/267

Laps Led: 1

Point Standings (behind leader): 4th

Recap: Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion team came into Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway as one of four teams that could end the night as the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) champions, but a seventh-place finish resulted in a fourth-place finish in the final series standings. A solid qualifying effort on Friday night saw Keselowski take the green flag from the fifth position, and a quick caution on lap five gave crew chief Paul Wolfe an opportunity to put four, fresh Goodyear tires on the Ford Fusion to gain track position on the other playoff teams that did not elect to pit. The strategy worked as Keselowski restarted from the 15th position on lap 10 but quickly drove into the second spot by lap 30. When teams all began making green flag pit stops around lap 40 this strategy placed the Miller Lite team on the same pit cycle as the other playoff teams, albeit with better track position. As a result, Keselowski will finish the first, 80-lap stage in the second position. The biggest handling issue on the day for Keselowski was looseness on corner entry and Wolfe made several air pressure and wedge adjustments to help his driver contend for the team’s second MENCS title. After starting the second, 80-lap stage from the second position after a solid pit stop by the Miller Lite crew, Keselowski settled into the top five and would remain there to finish fifth in the stage. The final, 107-lap stage would setup the run to the championship and Keselowski began this portion of the race from the seventh position. With his driver still dealing with a loose-handling condition on corner entry, Wolfe called for a short-pit on lap 198 that brought most of the other playoff competitors to pit road as well. The short pit placed Keselowski back inside the top five and he radioed to Wolfe that the handling was improving. Unfortunately the Miller Lite Ford was a bit off the pace to the other championship contenders over the final run and would cross the finish line in the seventh position, the team’s 21st top-10 finish in 2017.

Quote: “You know, it was a hard‑fought battle with a long night, but might not have gotten the result we wanted with the Miller Lite Ford Fusion. Of course the result you want is to win the race, win the championship, but the effort was phenomenal, and I was really proud of our group for everything they put into that, trying to be the best with this package. We weren’t quite best in class, but we ran up front.”

 

No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Fusion – Joey Logano

Start: 19th

Finish:  6th

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 267/267

Laps Led:  0

Point Standings (behind leader):  17th

 

Recap:  Joey Logano and the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Fusion started 18th and finished sixth in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the season finale for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.  Logano worked his way forward at the start of the event, battling a car that was tight on throttle and loose at corner exit. Fortunately, the race was slowed on the sixth lap for a single car incident. Crew chief Todd Gordon elected to bring the Shell-Pennzoil Ford to pit lane for a four tire stop with a wedge adjustment. As expected, the advantage from sticker tires allowed Logano to race from the 17th position to the top-five in six laps. The Shell-Pennzoil Ford ran inside the top-five, reaching the fourth position before pitting under green at lap 39. As the green flag stops cycled through, Logano returned to the running order in the fifth position. The adjustments made under the stop were in the right direction as Logano reported the Shell-Pennzoil Ford was tighter overall through the long green flag stretch to end the first stage. However, at the stage break, Logano reported that the car was too tight in the center of the corner, hurting entry and exit. Gordon elected to go back on the adjustments from the first stop slightly, as Logano went from fifth to ninth by the end of the stage. Logano restarted ninth and quickly moved to seventh in the opening lap of the second stage, the adjustments worked to give the driver more speed at the start of the run. The stage continued to run green, bringing Logano and the Shell-Pennzoil Ford back to pit road at lap 120 for a green flag adjustment. The team made an air pressure adjustment, continuing to look for corner entry security. Logano cycled out into the fifth position but then settle to seventh by lap 128. On lap 136, Logano reported the brakes were pulsating slightly, more like they were too cold versus a wear issue. Logano also reported the balance was the best it had been all race, letting Todd Gordon know he would continue asking for more entry security and center turn throughout the night. At the end of the second stage, Logano brought the Shell-Pennzoil Ford to pit road in the eighth position, quick pit work by the crew sent the team back to the track in the sixth position. With a great restart, Logano put the high line to use, moving the Shell-Pennzoil Ford to the fourth position. As the opening run to the final stage ran green, Logano settled into the sixth position, but reported that the car had started coming to him over the course of the run, saying he was only slightly loose on corner entry and exit. As darkness continued to set on Homestead-Miami Speedway, Logano continued to assert himself in the top-five. A lap 227 caution flag setup the Shell-Pennzoil crew for a potential final stop of the night. Todd Gordon again called for a piece of tape to be added to the nose, slight air pressure attempting to give Logano more security and center turn. A quick stop again gained the team a position leaving pit road, putting the Shell-Pennzoil Ford on the outside of the second row for the restart. Logano would settle into the third position after the restart, running lap times as fast as the two cars in front of him. As the run went on, Logano began losing rear grip hurting the car on corner exit. Logano would ultimately finish in the sixth position, caping of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

 

Quote  “That was a good night for the Shell-Pennzoil Ford team. We never quit through the whole year and we end it on a strong note. It is always important to have a good run at Homestead because you have the whole offseason to think about it. I wanted that top-five but just wasn’t quick enough up by the wall. I don’t know why our cars don’t go fast up against the wall. The 4 couldn’t do it either. Maybe it is something we are doing. I am not sure. Altogether, I am proud of getting a sixth place run out of a car that we thought we would struggle to finish 20th with. We made good changes and had something to race with and get to head off on a good note.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Harvick Caps Off The Season With A Fourth At Homestead

Kevin Harvick

Date: Nov. 19, 2017

Event: Ford EcoBoost 400 (Round 36 of 36)

Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Location: Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway (1.5-mile oval)

Format: 267 laps, broken into three stages (80 laps/80 laps/107 laps)

Start/Finish: 9th/4th (Running, completed 267 of 267 laps)

Point Standing: 3rd with 5,033 points

 

Champion: Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing (Toyota)

Race Winner: Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing (Chevrolet)

Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing (Chevrolet)

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-80)

● Kevin Harvick started ninth, finished fourth.

● Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion came to pit road under green-flag conditions on lap 38 for tires and fuel.

● Harvick entered the top-five on lap 47 and the top-three on lap 58.

● The No. 4 teampitted at the end of the stage for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 81-160):

● Started fourth, finished third.

 Harvick raced up to second at the start of Stage 2 and challenged Kyle Larson for the lead before falling back to third on lap 116.

● The Jimmy John’s Ford came to pit road under green-flag conditions on lap 122 for four tires, fuel and a small adjustment.

● The No. 4 team came to pit road under caution on lap 147 for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to correct a tight-handling car.

● The pit crew gained Harvick a position on pit road to restart in second on lap 150.

● The No. 4 team came to pit road at the conclusion of Stage 2 for four tires, fuel and several adjustments.

 

Final Stage Recap (Laps 161-267):

● Started fourth and finished fourth.

● The Jimmy John’s Ford suffered right-front fender damage from hitting debris on lap 180 while racing in fourth.

● The team came to pit road under green-flag conditions on lap 199 for four tires, fuel and an attempt to repair the fender. The No. 18 stayed out to attempt a different strategy, causing the Jimmy John’s Ford to briefly fall a lap down.

 Harvick raced his way back to the lead lap on lap 208, racing in the eighth position and advancing to second by lap 228.

● The team came to pit road under caution on lap 228 for tires, fuel and repairs and restarted second on lap 234.

● The Jimmy John’s Ford battled for the lead following the restart before falling back to fourth by the checkered flag.

 

Notes:

● Harvick scored his 14th top-five and 23rd top-10 finish of 2017.

● This was Harvick’s ninth top-five and 15th top-10 finish in 17 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Homestead.

● There were five caution periods for a total of 26 laps.

● Only 12 of the 39 drivers in the Ford EcoBoost 400 finished on the lead lap.

● In winning the Ford EcoBoost 400, Martin Truex Jr. captured the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship for the first time in his career, outdueling fellow 2017 Championship 4 contenders Kyle Busch, Harvick and Brad Keselowski. Truex is the 32nd different Cup Series champion.

 

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“We just got really loose and then got a hole in the nose and it started to get tight in. We got that fixed. We were pretty good on the next-to-last run, and we were just really loose on the last run. I want to thank everybody on my Jimmy John’s, Busch Ford for everything they’ve done. It was great to have a chance. We were in the mix all day. Didn’t quite have what we needed at the end. I want to thank Mobil 1, Hunt Brothers Pizza, Morton Building, Textron, everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing. Thank you guys for everything you did all year. We’ll be back.”

 

Give us a sense of what an accomplishment this year was.

“Well, I think when you look at it from the inside out and all the work that everybody went through, the preparation that we went through to get to these playoffs was second to none. It was a championship effort. Just came up a little bit short. Congratulations to Martin (Truex Jr.). Those guys have been the dominant car all year. To go win the race and make it happen at the end, they were able to get their car better and win the championship.”

 

Take us through the last stint.

“I was just really loose the whole last run. When it started to get dark we started to get tight in the corner, and then we got a hole in the nose. We got that fixed and just couldn’t quite get it where we needed to be to make good times. Some runs we fell off. Some runs we were tight on entry. There at the end we were just too loose.”

 

Next Up:

The 2018 season kicks off Feb. 10-18 with the traditional Speedweeks at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The 60th Daytona 500, the first points-paying race of the season, is scheduled for Feb. 18and will be broadcast live on FOX.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Blaney Caps Off His Wood Brothers Stint With A Ninth Place At Homestead

Ryan Blaney
Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team weren’t able to close their time together with a strong finish in the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway as they had hoped, but that was only a hiccup in what has been a remarkable 88-race run for the young driver and the sport’s oldest continuously operating race team.

The Wood Brothers and Blaney have scored a win at Pocono Raceway, poles at Kansas Speedway and Phoenix Raceway, eight top-five and 25 top-10 finishes, 49 lead-lap finishes, 317 laps led, four Stage wins, a 9-race playoff run this season and a ninth-place finish in the final 2017 points standings.

The three Blaney Years in Wood Brothers history, which were made possible by an alliance with Team Penske and support from Ford Motor Company and its Motorcraft and Quick Lane brands, have seen the team surge forward in on-track performance, gain fans off the track, raise money for charity and lay the groundwork for future success.

“We’ve enjoyed our time with Ryan, and we can’t say enough about what he and the crew have done to elevate our race team,” team co-owner Eddie Wood said. “They will always be a big part of our Wood Brothers racing family.”

Wood also thanked the fans who have stood by the team through the tough times of the past and the good times of late.

“We have some of the most loyal fans in the sport, and while we’ll all miss Ryan, I think they’ll like what they see going forward,” he said.

Despite the successes of recent seasons in races on intermediate tracks like Homestead-Miami Speedway, Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 was a disappointing outing for the No. 21 team.

After qualifying a solid 11th, Blaney faded early and was in 32nd place, two laps down after the first stage. Trapped that far behind the leaders, the team was never able to find the speed or employ a strategy to rejoin the lead lap and wound up in 29th place, three laps down.

“It wasn’t the day we wanted, and it wasn’t the day the Ford teams wanted, but congratulations to Martin Truex Jr. on the championship,” Wood said.

Now the focus for the Wood Brothers and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team turns to the 2018 campaign and the season-opening Daytona 500.

“We’re looking forward to the start of a new era, and we’ll go home and start getting ready to go to Daytona for the 500,” Wood said.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Clint Bowyer Finishes 12th At Homestead

Clint Bowyer
Date: Nov. 19, 2017

Event: Ford EcoBoost 400 (Round 36 of 36)

Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Location: Homestead-Miami Speedway(1.5-mile oval)

Format: 267 laps, broken into three stages (80 laps/80 laps/107 laps)

Start/Finish: 16th/12th (running, completed 267 of 267 laps)

Point Standing: 18th with 871 points

 

Race Winner: Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing(Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing (Chevrolet)

Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing (Chevrolet)

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-80):

● Clint Bowyer started 16th and finished 10th. He earned one race point.

● Told crew on the pace lap that he appreciated its hard work in 2017 and that he was proud to be on the team.

● Pitted during a lap-five caution and dropped to 20th.

● Bowyer used new and much faster tires to climb into 10th despite reporting his car was sliding sideways off the corners.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 81-160):

● Started 12th and finished 15th.

● Bowyer told his crew if it could tighten the car he would be able to go much faster.

● The adjustments plus the changing track conditions made the car harder to turn, slowing his progress.

● At lap 142,Bowyer put on used tires for the final 10-lap run, preferring to save new tires for later in the race. He dropped to 15th.

 

Stage 3 Recap (Laps 161-267):

● Started 15th and finished 18th.

● Bowyer told his crew on the opening lap of the final stage that the car took off the best it had all race.

● Bowyer pitted from 13th on lap 198 for fuel, tires and handling adjustments after telling the crew his car was “sideways off the corners.”

● Bowyer climbed as high as ninth with 45 laps remaining.

● A caution with 39 to go saw Bowyer pit from 10th for minor, front-end repairs after he said he hit a brake rotor on the track.

● Bowyer restarted the race in 10th with 34 laps to go, but handling issues kept him from climbing higher.

 

Notes:

●  Only 12 of the 39 drivers in the Ford Ecoboost 400 finished on the lead lap.

●  There were five caution periods for a total of 26 laps.

●  Martin Truex Jr., won the Ford EcoBoost 400 to score his 15th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory. It was his series-best eighth win of the season, but his first at Homestead. His margin of victory over second-place Kyle Busch was .681 of a second.

● In winning the Ford EcoBoost 400, Truex won the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship for the first time in his career, outdueling fellow Championship 4 contenders Kyle Busch, Harvick and Brad Keselowski. Truex is the 32nd different Cup Series champion.

 

Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 14 Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“Man, the track was a lot slicker than I expected when we started the race. We had a good car, but we were on knife edge all night. First we are too loose, and we made an adjustment and we’d be too tight. It’s hard to believe the year is over. I’m proud of all the people on the No. 14 team. They worked hard this season. We’ll enjoy the off-season and be ready to race again in Daytona.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Danica Had A Blown Tire And Wall Contact To End Her Day Early

Danica Patrick

Date: Nov. 19, 2017

Event: Ford EcoBoost 400 (Round 36 of 36)

Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Location: Homestead-Miami Speedway (1.5-mile oval)

Format: 267 laps, broken into three segments (80 laps/80 laps/107 laps)

Start/Finish: 25th/37th (Accident, completed 139 of 267 laps)

Point Standing: 28th (511 points)

 

Race Winner: Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing (Chevrolet)

Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing (Chevrolet)

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-80):

● Danica Patrick started 25th and finished 24th.

● The No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion team cracked the top-20 at lap 14. Patrick noted the car was “tight in the center” and lacked grip as she dropped back to the 25th position, so crew chief Billy Scott called for a wedge adjustment when the team pitted at lap 38.

● The adjustments help improve the car’s handling, and Patrick went from 26th to 24th in the final laps of the stage.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 81-160):

● Started 27th and finished 37th.

● Patrick raced her way up to the 18th position as the car’s handling continued to improve after additional adjustments by the team. She made contact with the outside wall with more than 20 laps to go in Stage 2 and noted smoke in the cockpit.

● The team checked for damage, and the following lap the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford made contact with the wall in turn two after cutting down a tire. The car sustained significant damage, which ended the team’s day with a 37th-place finish.

● Patrick was evaluated and released from the infield care center following the accident.

 

Notes:

● This was Patrick’s fifth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Homestead-Miami Speedway and her 190th career NASCAR Cup Series start.

● Patrick finished the season with 511 points, which put her 28th in the driver point standings.

● There were five caution periods for a total of 26 laps.

● Only 12 of the 39 drivers in the Ford EcoBoost 400 finished on the lead lap.

● Martin Truex Jr. won the Ford EcoBoost 400 to score his 15th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his eighth of the season and his first at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His margin of victory over second-place Kyle Busch was .681 of a second.

● With his victory in Sunday’s race, Truex Jr. also won the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series championship, the first of his career, outdueling fellow Championship 4 drivers Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski in the season finale.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Kurt Busch Has A Disappointing Finish At Homestead

Kurt Busch
Date: Nov. 19, 2017

Event: Ford EcoBoost 400 (Round 36 of 36)

Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Location: Homestead-Miami Speedway(1.5-mile oval)

Format: 267 laps, broken into three stages (80 laps/80 laps/107 laps)

Start/Finish: 8th/22nd (Running, completed 265 of 267 laps)

Point Standing: 14th with 2,217 points

 

Race Winner: Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing (Chevrolet)

Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing (Chevrolet)

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-80):

● Kurt Busch started eighth and finished seventh to score four stage points.

● Early in the run, Busch said his Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion was loose on the exit of each turn.

● On lap six, under caution, Busch pitted for four sticker tires and fuel while in ninth position.

● Busch restarted 14th after pitting.

● Busch was up to third with fresher tires and pitted under green on lap 41 for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment.

● On lap 50, Busch was fourth and reported his car was “a tick loose in.”

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 81-160):

● Busch started eighth and finished sixth to score five stage points.

● Busch pitted on lap 83 for four tires, fuel and a tire pressure adjustment.

● On lap 122, Busch was in seventh and pitted for four tires, fuel and a tire pressure adjustment.

● Busch reported shortly after the pit stop that his car was really tight in the center of the corner.

● On lap 145, while eighth, Busch pitted under caution for four tires, fuel and a tire pressure adjustment.

 

Stage 3 Recap (Laps 161-267):

● Busch started eighth and finished 22nd.

● On lap 162, Busch pitted for four tires, fuel and a bit of tape on the grill.

● Busch pitted on lap 198 for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. He was in eighth.

● On lap 227, Busch hit some debris and cut a tire, which forced him to pit. He lost two laps and finished a disappointing 22nd.

 

Notes:

● Busch finished the 2017 season with one win (Daytona 500), one pole (Texas II) and 15 top-10 finishes.

●  There were five caution periods for a total of 26 laps.

●  Only 12 of the 39 drivers in the Ford Ecoboost 400 finished on the lead lap.

●  Martin Truex Jr., won the Ford EcoBoost 400 to score his 15th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory. It was his series-best eighth win of the season, but his first at Homestead. His margin of victory over second-place Kyle Busch was .681 of a second.

● In winning the Ford EcoBoost 400, Truex won the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship for the first time in his career, outdueling fellow Championship 4 contenders Kyle Busch, Harvick and Brad Keselowski. Truex is the 32nd different Cup Series champion.

 

Next Up:

The 2018 season kicks off Feb. 10-18 with the traditional Speedweeks at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The 60th Daytona 500, the first points-paying race of the season, is scheduled for Feb. 18and will be broadcast live on FOX.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Martin Truex, Jr. Wins The Ford EcoBoost 400 And The Championship

Martin Truex, Jr.

 At the end of a riveting, breathtaking battle that had fans in the grandstands on their feet long after the checkered flag, Martin Truex Jr. held off Kyle Busch by .681 seconds at Homestead-Miami Speedway to win Sunday’s Ford Eco-Boost 400 and his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title.

In Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last race in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Truex—one of Earnhardt’s closest friends—kept Busch behind him during a 34-lap green-flag run to the finish.

“It’s just overwhelming,” a tearful Truex said in Victory Lane. “To think about all the rough days and bad days, the days that we couldn’t run 20th, to be here—I never thought this day would come, and to be here is so unbelievable.”

The victory was a timely gift for Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser, who is back home in Denver, Colo., recovering from a heart attack and subsequent bypass surgery. It was also a gift to Truex’s long-time girlfriend Sherry Pollex, who has been battling ovarian cancer.

“A lot of it was for her,” said Truex, who won for the first time at Homestead and the 15th time in his career. “A lot of it was for me. A lot of it was for this team – just, I don’t even know what to say. We just never gave up all day long. We didn’t have the best car. I don’t know how we won that thing. Never give up. Dig deep.”

The victory also was entirely appropriate. For the bulk of the season, Truex was the top driver in the series. Sunday’s victory was his eighth of the year, a series-best, and his seventh on 1.5-mile intermediate speedways. Truex had the No. 78 Toyota out front for 78 laps on Sunday, bringing his season total of laps led to a career-best 2,253, also tops in the series.

With an excellent long-run car, Busch slipped to fourth after the final restart on Lap 234 of 267 and needed nine laps to pass the stubborn No. 22 Ford of Joey Logano. Seven laps later, Busch slipped past fellow Championship 4 contender Kevin Harvick into second and set his sights on Truex.

Busch closed rapidly, but Truex found a line that allowed him to maintain an edge that shrank to as little as two car lengths. But Busch never could pull alongside his fellow Camry driver, and Truex inched away over the last four circuits.

“I told my guys we were going to dig deeper than we ever have today, and (with) 20 (laps) to go, I thought I was done – they were all better than me on the long run all day long,” Truex said. “I just found a way. I found a lane that I could use, and I found a lane that was blocking enough of their air that they couldn’t use it and just made it happen.

“I can’t believe it. I’ve wanted this since I was a little kid and just never give up. Just never give up on your dreams, no matter what happens and what kind of crap you go through. And thank you, Barney. I wish you were here, buddy.”

Kyle Larson finished third, closely trailing the championship battle after moving past Harvick for third on Lap 252. Harvick came home fourth, after debris from David Starr’s Chevrolet punched a hole in the nose of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.

“I was just really loose the whole last run,” Harvick said. “When it started to get dark, we started to get tight in the corner, and then we got a hole in the nose. We got that fixed and just couldn’t quite get it where we needed to be to make good times.

“Some runs we fell off. Some runs we were tight on entry. There at the end we were just too loose.”

Chase Elliott and Joey Logano ran fifth and sixth, respectively. Playoff driver Brad Keselowski finished sixth, ending the season fourth in the series standings.

Busch opted for a one-pit-stop strategy during the final stage of the race and appeared headed for the title until his brother, Kurt Busch, spun in Turn 4 on Lap 227 to bring out the fifth and final caution of the event and bunch the field for the restart on Lap 234.

“Yeah, it wasn’t quite what we wanted there at the end,” Busch said. “I thought we had a really great race car. Especially on the long runs, we were really, really good. Just came down to there at the end, not having enough tire when I got to the 78.

“So I just overused my stuff, and I knew I overused my stuff when I was running with the 22 (Logano) trying to get by him and just overworked everything, and got to the 4 (Harvick), got by him pretty quick. I tried to make sure that I could do that pretty quick so then I could have at least a little more tire life, but didn’t seem to pay me off any when I got to the 78.”

Notes: Earnhardt finished 25th in his final run in the No. 88 Chevy… Danica Patrick cut a tire and clobbered the Turn 2 wall on Lap 142 in her final trip in the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. She plans to race in the Cup series for the final time in the 2018 Daytona 500… Patrick also collected Kasey Kahne in her wreck. Kahne ran his final race for Hendrick Motorsports on Sunday and will move to the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet next season… Truex’s teammate, Erik Jones, was crowned Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the series after finishing 21st. Jones will take Matt Kenseth’s place in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs racing Toyota next season. Kenseth finished eighth Sunday in his final ride in the car.

Check out the unofficial results of the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!