By Sarah Tonsmeire
Last week’s race at Phoenix International Raceway fit right in with the unpredictable nature of this year’s NASCAR season. The season’s last race in the desert was one of the wettest races this season. Unfortunately, the rain led to somewhat of an anti-climatic ending to one of the most significant races of the season. With Phoenix being the final race in the final elimination round of the Chase, four out of eight drivers were eliminated following the conclusion of the race. The initial start of the race was postponed nearly seven hours, but when another downpour hit just after halfway, NASCAR wasted no time in calling the race official. Shortly after completing a pit stop, Dale Earnhardt Jr. crossed the finish line just as the final caution came out. When the race was shortened due to weather, he was declared the winner.
At the time, Kevin Harvick was in second, Kyle Busch was in fourth, and Martin Truex Jr. was in fourteenth. Those positions were just enough for these three drivers to join Jeff Gordon as the Final Four drivers chasing the Championship.
Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, and Carl Edwards were the four drivers who were eliminated from the Chase following Sunday’s race.
And then there was one. As we reflect on another season coming to an end, it has definitely been a year to remember. Never have we seen such raw and pure emotion from this class of drivers. Never have we seen a comeback story like that of Kyle Busch. We’ve spent the entire season reflecting on the successful career of one of NASCAR’s finest. All of the components of this season will soon be filed away, and Sunday evening, a new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion will have been crowned.
Heading into Homestead-Miami Speedway weekend, there is an increased level of engagement from NASCAR fans. Looking back at past years, there were times when, mathematically, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion had already been determined when heading into this weekend. That is no longer possible. With the new Chase format, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr. are eligible to win the Championship, and the determining formula is quite simple. No points are involved, just finishing position. The driver out of the final four, who crosses the finish line before the other three, will be crowned as the new champion. Expect to see a new level of competition this weekend.
In lieu of a Fast Five this weekend, take a look at the milestone career of Jeff Gordon. Throughout the years, Gordon has completed nearly 300,000 laps and led nearly 25,000 of those laps. He’s been crowned Champion four times, and among those championships he’s had 93 wins, 3 Daytona 500 wins, and has won at 24 different NASCAR tracks.
Sunday is a day to celebrate this incredible career of Jeff Gordon, as he closes the book on his career as a NASCAR driver.
This is going to be one race not to miss, and a great way to end another thrilling season.
Be sure to tune in Sunday at 3:00 on NBC.